Finding happiness

I’ve been in bed for a day and a half.

My yearly – is it hay-fever, is it a cold and now, is it covid – started a few days after I returned. Admittedly, antihistamines did seem to take the edge off but I know if I had started them in February, it probably wouldn’t have hit me so bad. As it is, I have ended up with a mild chest infection and coldsores all over my nose. I was out of condition before I left- no wonder now that I am run down.

So when my children finally went to their Dad’s on Sunday, I succumbed to it and basically stayed in bed until about an hour ago.

Am I unwell? Yes. Could I have have got up and motivated myself? Theoretically, yes. But I was heart-weary and head-weary and body-weary so I didn’t.

I’ve read, and read and read. This is what I used to do, long ago before the responsibilities of being a single mother kicked in. I guess now, it’s only like binge-watching Netflix. So I don’t feel guilty at all. Every cough and snuffle has given me permission. In those books, everything else disappears. And for someone whose head constantly feels like it’s at war with fighting thoughts and emotions and ideas, it feels like bliss to just read.

I still can’t find my happiness.

I’m not stupid, WordPress. One of my biggest fears is being seen as foolish. I’ve heard myself enough times to know that. My hard won intelligence is all I have. I’m not beautiful. I’m not sexy. I’m not socially skilled and surrounded by countless friends. No. I’m average. I’m overweight. I’m alone.

I had a very honest conversation with my mum last week. I’d been writing a post for here, sorting through my thoughts about the future – before I’d allowed realisation to fully take over. I’d considered what my mum had done all those years ago: her new life now, and how we were all bitter about it.

I’m not bitter anymore. Who are we to dictate the life she wants? We have our own lives. Her relationship with her partner is what matters. We will always be here, waiting for her, if she needs us. But finally, I understood, and I wanted her to know.

We talked about the house too and how it feels like a noose around my neck. I’ve never, truly, been able to enjoy this house. For years, my half-family’s jealousy has tainted it, as they have then tainted any relationship I now have with my Dad’s family. I am well and truly the black sheep. And then are all the memories of my Dad. They’re everywhere. And for so long, I couldn’t even stand being out in the garden because of them.

What I’ve realised, lying in my bed in between devouring pages of my book, is why I’ve felt lost for (at least) the past 4 years. Why I still feel lost now.

I made a decision as a child which carried me for 30 years. I decided that I was going to work hard and I was going to care for my parents. I promised myself that I would look after them as they got old and that they wouldn’t have to worry any more. I’d seen their struggles after my Dad’s heart attack. I’d seen their struggles as arthritis crippled my mum. No more.

And you know what? I did it. I worked hard throughout school and college and university. I chose a career that financially made sense, not because it was where my passions lay. A career which would pay off all my student loans and that would give me a lump sum of money after a few years. At every stage of my teaching career, I have said that this would not be my job for the rest of my life. Regardless, I proved myself time and time again. I advanced in my career. I relished in the praise and pride of my family, for the only thing I could do to be noticed positively – advance in my career. Because its the only thing that I was ever noticed for. 

And so, I bought my parents’ house and saved them from debt. I cared for my father until the second he died. I relished in the pride of my family at ‘how well I had done’ and pushed and pushed myself to prove how good I was. I wasn’t accepted by my dad’s family, so I would fight for their respect in a different way.

I did what I thought I should. I got married. I pushed for that marriage too, for acceptance, even though I knew he wasn’t right for me. For a small moment, I had it all. I felt success. I’d bought my parent’s home and was supporting them financially. I had a husband and a career. I had my babies. But that feeling of success was fleeting. I wasn’t happy in my marriage. I wasn’t happy in my work. And whilst I pushed and strived in an attempt to find that happiness, to work for it, I never truly got there as such.

When I had my breakdown, my burnout, seven months before my Dad died, I think I knew. Everything I had worked for was coming to an end. My Dad was dying and no amount of hard work would save him. I’d reached the pinnacle of my career, as far as I wanted to go. And as much as I was succeeding, I was failing too. Because it didn’t matter any more. I had felt my dad’s pride, I’d achieved it. But it couldn’t save him or me.

I’d achieved everything I had set out to do. And when my dad died, I was lost. Nothing has mattered since. Not the house, not my job. I know my evil half-family expected me to pull out this treasure trove of money that I had hidden and renovate the house to unknown splendour when Dad died. There was no money. My money was spent on my family. And once Dad died, this house became just that. A house. A house of memories.

When Dad died, my purpose died. My fight died. I’d had his pride. I’d cared for him. I’d proved myself to him, time and time again. I was a good daughter. I won. Finally, after years of being hated, after years of being the outsider, after years of watching my dad choose my warped and tragic half sister, every time, I’d proved my love to my dad. I was there, every step of the way. I wasn’t a bad person. I didn’t deserve to be so hated and despised. Hated for being born. Hated for being another wedge between his first family and him: the first born. In those final years of his life, I was there for him. I cared for him. I kept my promise.

When he died, nothing mattered any more. My job, the money, my house. For a while, supporting my sisters and my children was my focus. I’ve done that. And they’ve supported me. I no longer feel the need to support them as I once did – we’ve become more equal now as their lives have fallen into place and as mine has come crashing down.

Wildcard said to me, only a month ago, that he couldn’t understand why I tried to be so perfect all the time. I just needed to be myself.

It’s hard to be yourself when you feel like no-one likes you.

It’s hard to be yourself when you’ve strived for so long to be something else, just to gain the love and respect you crave.

It’s hard to be yourself when you don’t know who that is any more.

I’m following the same pattern. I’m fighting for his love and his respect and him. I’m trying to be the best I can be, all the time, so that I don’t have to live with rejection from yet another source.

I want someone to see the good in me. Not because I’ve fought for it. Not because of what it will do for them. But because they can see the person I truly am.

I’m fighting for his love. I’m pushing for his acceptance and commitment because I don’t want to be alone. He is my life.

But I want someone to fight for me. Not too late, like so many have done before. But now.

I can’t plan my life going forward, because I don’t know if he is going to be in it.

Maybe he has his own promises to keep, that’s is why he won’t talk of the future.

All I know, is that I clung to that ring, my ring, in the hope that he was fighting for me. He’s since told me that it ‘was a game’, not serious. That he would propose to me, not with my own ring, but that he will do it properly with the one that he buys. And whilst I love that sentiment, can wish for nothing better, I don’t hold the hope that it will ever happen.

I don’t know when I’m going back. I don’t know if he will ever propose or if he will continue to make excuses. I know that he is still hiding me, his little secret. I know that I am the one pushing the engagement, again. Pushing for acceptance. Pushing to belong. When I’m there, I feel like I belong but the fear that I’m fooling myself overrides any real enjoyment I have.

Problem this time, is I don’t know what else I can do. I can’t make myself younger or more beautiful. I’ve lost weight and gained weight and neither have made a difference because I know I can’t have the body he probably wants me to have. I have no idea what to fight for or strive for to make him want me because I think deep down, I know I can never be that.

And that is why I can’t find my happiness.

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