A Moment of Clarity

For her book, Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness, Ariel Gore interviewed hundreds of women about their experiences of and beliefs about happiness. In the end, she found that the happy women weren’t connected by any particular life circumstances. “The women who reported being the happiest,” Gore writes, “were the women who had the self-esteem, the basic resources, and the courage to question—and often reject—the scripts for female happiness they had been handed . . . The women who were happy weren’t the ones who seemed to get stuck in rebellion and postmodern commitment phobia, but rather those who were able to take it further—to write new scripts for themselves. In the spirit of curiosity and experimentation, they had freed themselves from the past and were willing to commit to new paths and new visions. The women who were happy were optimists, but they weren’t perfectionists.”

I enjoy blazing my own trail through life and remaining ever observant of the not-so-constructive patterns I may be unconsciously repeating, but I’d always felt most keenly the alienation this brings. It’s sometimes socially challenging to be the woman doing all of these odd things, like birthing at home, homeschooling, nursing past X months/years, even just not watching TV. But if Gore is right, this tendency of mine to buck the norm is potentially my secret to deep and lasting happiness. The key, then, would be letting go of the fear that lurks around being disobedient to cultural expectations and instead embracing the freedom of living authentically and imperfectly.

Gore quotes authors Hib Chickena and Kika Kat from their book Off the Map:

“This is what it means to be an adventurer in our day: to give up the creature comforts of the mind, to realize possiblities of imagination. Because everything around us says no you cannot do this, you cannot live without that, nothing is useful unless it is in service to money, to gain, to stability. The adventurer gives in to the tides of chaos, trusts the world to support her—and in doing so turns her back on the fear and obedience she has been taught. She rejects the indoctrination of impossibility. My adventure is a struggle for freedom.”

Ahh…happiness is feeling the click as disparate ideas fall into place to form a coherent picture. It’s kind of like one of those magic eye pictures.

(Can you tell I’m not as excited about Self Care as I am about mindfulness? I’m still eating my greens and taking walks and avoiding sugar and alcohol. It’s just not as fun and profound as shifts in perception.)

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