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Simply Solo Spotlight: Happiness Defined

February 7, 2012

Happy Tuesday! Today’s guest post is written by Halen Gori of Enduramoments, a blog about Halen’s children, endurance training and her transition to a “me” instead of being part of a “we.”

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Happiness Defined

What is happiness? Can it be defined, or is it a different feeling for everyone? Happiness is elusive. Happiness is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow … does it exist so you believe, or do you believe therefore it exists? I don’t claim to know for sure, but I know what happiness is NOT.

Let me start at the beginning. That way my journey will make sense to you. This year has been the most difficult of my entire life, and I have kids, so I know difficult! New Year’s Eve, while the rest of the world celebrated, I went to bed early because I didn’t want to give 2011 the satisfaction of even getting a goodbye. I called out a “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” and awoke to a new year. Hopefully a new year + a new life = happiness!!

dog who died

Halen's beloved greyhound Doc who passed away this past August

2011 brought a dump truck load of smelly cow manure crashing down on me. I lost my job, lost my dog, lost a loved friend (luckily not to death) and lost my husband. I shouldn’t say I lost him, because I know where he is. He’s living in our old house with our two young girls. Maybe I should say I gained an ex. Either way, I am no longer married. All in the quest to find happiness. Did I find it? I’m going to make you read the whole post before enlightening you. To do otherwise would just be bad marketing!

I was married for 11 years, but with my ex for 13. I can barely remember last week, so a lot of the memories over the last 13 years are caught in cobwebs in the back of my brain closet. There are a few specific moments that became clear as my ex and I went through couples counseling. At the time, these events were easily explained away. One such memory is very vivid. The second day of our honeymoon, I sat on one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii and cried. At the time, I really and truly believed that I was homesick. Wrong answer. I was sad. Sad the wedding party was over, sad that my family all went home, sad because I was supposed to be celebrating something I didn’t feel. I was in Hawaii! Hawaii is for lovers, but I didn’t feel (or act) like a lover. I was a tourist! Room service, champagne, strawberries … NO WAY! I want to go explore!

As the years went by and babies popped out, I felt heavier and heavier. I kept trying to shove away the blanket that was weighing me down. I rationalized to myself that marriage isn’t always great; there are ups and downs and all that crap. Isn’t this what marriage was supposed to be? How the hell would I know? I’ve never been married before! This feeling would come and go, interrupted by events, kids, family. But like bad street food, it kept coming back up.

I finally decided it was time for a change. Hearts were broken (his), fingers were pointed (at me) and even the dog would get upset when we would have an emotional discussion (he hadn’t died yet). We took space for a while to let things settle before deciding on couple’s therapy. I was hopeful. I went to see Crazy A (our therapist’s nickname due to her crazy but completely wonderful, free-spirited personality) and had a goal from the get-go. I wanted to love my husband. Correction, I wanted to be IN LOVE with my wonderful, kind and amazing husband. Weeks and weeks went by; things seemed to improve and I would think, YES!! Then, NO!! Then, maybe?? Am I happy? Possibly. I hope so!

marathon run

Halen in May 2011 after she ran the Key Bank Vermont City Marathon and succeeded in qualifying for the Boston Marathon

Then things fell apart. All the hard work, talking, exercises … I felt no different. How silly! Crazy A may have been crazy, she may have been a genius, but she wasn’t capable of magic. No therapist can make you, teach you, or convince you to love someone if you just don’t. Once we both realized this and I moved out, I felt that weight gently lift. Slowly but surely, peeking out into the light and blinking from the brightness, was happiness. It showed itself just a little at first and eventually more and more. We became friends. We hung out, me and happiness, BFFs. It’s been a long journey, but happiness comes to stay with me for about two weeks at a time. It disappears every once in a while for a day or so, but always returns. Actually, once a month for about three days, happiness gets bound and gagged and thrown in the basement, but thankfully it doesn’t hold a grudge.

child playing in leaves, fall folliage

Halen's oldest daughter

How do I know it is happiness I’m feeling? Well, I don’t do drugs, so it’s not that. Things look different through happiness. The sun seems brighter; I notice and smile at little things, like the mom and her toddler in the coffee shop, or a duck sliding around on the frozen pond. Things like hearing a donkey hee-haw in real life or smelling my children’s hair make me feel warm and sunny inside. Getting out of bed and not dreading the day, having the “today just feels like a good day,” feeling seems like happiness.

Halens youngest daughter

Watching my children and really seeing them for the first time, their beauty, their innocence, their distinct personalities and the amazing way they change a little bit every day. I need to touch them constantly. These are all things that went unnoticed or unrecognized before.

Before, I survived, now, I LIVE. I dream big and go for it. I found that rebellious spirit I once had that when told “you can’t do that,” responds with, “watch me.” I am more present in my relationships with people. I care about their lives and do what I can to help. I am finally the friend I’ve always wanted to be, less judgmental and more accepting. I dove into running and a triathlon with new energy. I went back to school to pursue a different degree that would allow my constantly running, creative, full-of-big-ideas machine to get some use.

I still have flaws. I still get sad. I still miss people I don’t see anymore (and of course, the dog). I still have healing to do. If I compare where I am now with where I was two years ago, I think I now know what happiness is and I think it’s here to stay.

How has your journey taught you what true happiness feels like?

Copyright 2012. Simply Solo blog by Catherine Gryp. All Rights Reserved.

37 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2012 9:30 am

    Halen, sweet LAH-ORD, you managed to sum up happiness, motherhood, and life in one post. I think it was a mighty brave thing for you to choose joy even when it made you feel like the bad guy. Great post 🙂

    • Halen permalink
      February 8, 2012 8:19 am

      Thank you! It’s a never ending journey isn’t it? sometimes easy, sometimes hard. I appreciate your comments.

  2. February 7, 2012 10:05 am

    perhaps i am not old enough to judge something like this, but i know that it was beautiful. and that u went through so much and put it into words so well is surely commendable. it was a great read.:)

    • February 8, 2012 8:21 am

      Age is relative. It’s wisdom and experience. Thank you so much. It’s been a long journey for sure!

  3. February 7, 2012 11:54 am

    When I first started reading your blog, I had this feeling I might not like you. After all, leaving everything behind because your were unhappy sounded like someone who didn’t realize what they had and was ungrateful.
    Fortunately, I read through the rest of the blog, and by the end, I was on your side and understood how you felt.
    Happiness should be a priority in everyone’s life. Settling for a life because it’s expected of us so we can fit into society is no life worth living. When we find happiness, we can be happy around the people in our lives.
    Congratulations for finding your happiness and for sharing your story.

    • February 8, 2012 8:24 am

      Thank you Mark, for your honesty. I even agree with you if that makes sense. I wasn’t sure I liked myself for making the choices that I did but once I realized how my relationships and outlook on life improved I knew I had made the right choice.

  4. February 7, 2012 12:13 pm

    I can really relate to what you have been through and are going through. I too ended my marriage because I couldn’t make myself be “in love” with my husband. It’s been hard but it feels so wonderful to feel back among the living and not just existing. I have found who I am again and in the long run I think it has been the best decision I’ve made in years, not just for me but for my family as well.

    • February 8, 2012 8:26 am

      Cheers to us! There are so many people out there just existing in relationships that don’t give them anything close to what they need. I have heard from so many people like yourself and from my married friends who continue to stay married even though it’s unfulfilling. Thank you and welcome to life!

  5. February 7, 2012 3:36 pm

    Your story is inspiring! I can relate so well to you. I was married for4 18 years when I finally packed it in. It was the most difficult decision of my life. Certainly alot fingers were pointing in my direction since I was the “one who left”. Like you, I still feel sad about some of the losses I endured but the brightness on the horizon always reminds me, it was meant to be. Thank you for sharing your story to inspire all of us and those of us “stuck”.

    • February 8, 2012 8:29 am

      Wow, 18 years! Funny how time just slips by… it’s hard to know much else after you’ve been with the same person for 13+ years (for me). What a brave decision you made. Thank you for reading.

  6. February 8, 2012 4:45 am

    Hitting rock bottom and climbing up can be exhilarating. Once you hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up and it can only get better. Good for you for taking it one day at a time. The universe only gives you things you can handle, and you definitely are handling it well. You’ll do great. Keep it up. (Love that you’re an endurance athlete btw!)

  7. February 8, 2012 8:32 am

    Thank you, very sweet! Sometimes, I’ve questioned that whole, “universe only gives you what you can handle” idea! In my opinion, it’s been too much but I’m still here so I guess it wasn’t 🙂 The athlete part has been the one thing that gets me through the bad times. At least I have an outlet for those negative feelings!

  8. February 8, 2012 11:23 am

    I know you want people to support what you’re saying, but are you sure that the problem had anything to do with your husband? It sounds like you were suffering from depression and instead of working on yourself, you left your family.

    I know what it’s like when parents divorce. I’m fine with it now, but I must tell you that your priority HAS to be, not an option, HAS to be your kids, not you. It’s not age-appropriate for them to be concerned with your happiness.

    You know that rationalisation you did where you told yourself that marriage isn’t always great? I’ve seen that! I’ve seen people make it through marriages where it was crap for years at a time because of medical and emotional issues (never abuse or cheating) that their partner had. It’s possible to survive it.

    In my opinion, once you’ve said your marriage vows, you’re saying “I’ll be with you forever unless once of us becomes abusive or cheats.” Why is this so difficult for people?

    • February 8, 2012 2:11 pm

      My children were actually the reason I decided not to stay. They deserve a mother who is able to be present and fully invested in their well-being and while I was living a life that was not meeting my emotional needs, I could not do that. Depressed? I’m sure I was. That definitely had an effect on the kids in the form of irritation, anger, frustration, exhaustion and disconnection. I have over 10 years experience and education in child development and the treatment of mental health in children and families and the effects of maternal depression on children is well documented. So, while I understand the pain from going through what was probably a terribly emotional time during your parents’ divorce, I am also a child of divorce, I would never advocate for staying in a marriage for the kids.

      We only get one life, I don’t want to regret the way I’ve lived it. I also don’t want to deprive my daughters of an appropriate role model of what love and mature relationships should be. I don’t want them to think marriage/love is just existing alongside someone as a friend, without affection and connection. When kids don’t have an internalized expectation of what love it and how people in love should treat each other, searching for “love” within sexual experiences or abusive relationships becomes a greater risk.

      Thank you for your honesty. I appreciate the chance to explain in more detail, my choices. I hope that someday you can appreciate what must have been a torturous decision for your parents to have to make and come to appreciate them for the brave individuals that they are and hard work they had to do to move forward.

      • February 8, 2012 2:32 pm

        As stated in my comment, I’ve already moved past my parents divorce. I know they had to divorce because neither one wanted to work on the relationship. They wanted to be happy above all else. I don’t hold that against them; they made the only decision they were emotionally capable of making and I thank them for it. If it wasn’t for them, I might not be so determined to make my marriage succeed.

        You can attempt to justify your decision, but only your kids will know the long term ramifications of your choice. If they’re like me and other children of divorced parents with whom I’m familiar, I expect they will grow up well adjusted people who understand that you made the only decision you were capable of making, which was to leave, intent on yourself and your own happiness.

        I also understand you made the only decision you were capable of making, but I’ll still call you on the fact that there were other options available.

        You might also want to see my recent blog post which better explains my opinion, including that marriage is meant to make one holy, not happy.

        • February 8, 2012 10:01 pm

          I am curious to hear what other options you would suggest to someone in this situation. I think couples counseling/therapy is an obvious option. Are there other avenues you feel deserve exploring prior to making a decison to split?

        • February 8, 2012 10:10 pm

          Don’t split up unless someone is being abused or cheated on.

          Take your wedding vows seriously and focus on the “we” of the family instead of just “you.”

          I don’t acknowledge no fault divorce so I won’t be getting one. I have good role models. Until I have spend everyday for a year taking care of someone dying of cancer, I won’t think I’ve done enough in my marriage.

    • this girl permalink
      February 8, 2012 3:53 pm

      I agree with you WestSideSingleton. The covenant of marriage seems to mean nothing to most people these days. No one said that the life and love you share was going to be easy. Love and marriage like life in general is not easy. It doesn’t just wait around until you have time for it. It needs care to withstand time. People give up way too easy. Does no one care about the precious vows one take?

      • February 8, 2012 9:30 pm

        Apparently not. Too many people are sacrificing long term success in relationships, both romantic and family, in favour of short term !happiness!

      • February 8, 2012 10:18 pm

        I definitely agree that the true meaning behind marriage in our society has been put on the back burner in favor of the act and process around getting married. I think young people feel undo pressure to get married and view themselves as a failure if they aren’t. This seems to lead to people settling for marrying the wrong person, or rushing into marriage with someone else for the sake of being married.

        I don’t think enough emphasis is being placed on the importance of finding the right person and taking time to make sure marriage to that person is right before rushing to have a wedding and all the accompanying perks. Marriage isn’t meant to be entered into with the thought that it can just be ended if it doesn’t work out.

        That being said, if you are happily married, with the understanding that it takes work and every day is not rosy, but in general you are happy/satisfied/proud/comforted and feel loved and get to love within your marriage then it would be difficult to understand the position of someone in a marriage without all those things. I don’t think a long term relationship that lacks love, affection, comfort, respect etc could possibly be called “successful”. If one is married for 10 years and is not experiencing any of those things despite all the hard work in trying, is there never a point at which 2 people are just not right for each other? How at age 21, 25 are you supposed to know with absolute certainty who you will be and what you will need when you are 40, 50 and older? That is not possible and as time passes not all couples are able to grow together despite exhausting all avenues to achieve success.

        I also argue that the happiness found by ending a marriage between two people who were not a good fit for one another, is temporary. There is a lot of pain and hurt that goes along with ending a marriage, it’s difficult and takes a long time to come to terms with. If one is successful in healing and ends up living a more satisfied, fullfilling life that hardly seems to fall in the catagory of “short term”.

        • February 8, 2012 10:37 pm

          Oh, but it is short term. Sacrificing marr

        • February 8, 2012 10:37 pm

          Oh, but it is short term. Sacrificing marrIage for the rest of your life in favour of personal happiness now is sacr

        • February 8, 2012 10:38 pm

          Oh, but it is short term. Sacrificing marrIage for the rest of your life in favour of personal happiness now is sacrificing long term success for short term happiness.

          You clearly don’t agree but I believe marriage is for life, short of something terrible happening.

        • February 8, 2012 10:42 pm

          Note to self: stop typing on iPhone.

  9. February 8, 2012 1:24 pm

    “Before I survived now I live”
    I’ve said similiar, “I want to live not just exist.” Five months out of the 11 year marriage (no kids), still can’t decide if I’m brave or nuts. And I gotta say that I believe WestSide subscribes to a ticky tacky mentality that doesn’t fit down the throats of everyone. So glad sent me your way.

    • February 8, 2012 2:35 pm

      I understand that my opinion is not shared by everyone. However, I will still express it. Isn’t it great that writing allows people will differing opinions to share their thoughts?

      • February 8, 2012 2:54 pm

        Sharing and judging differ greatly

        Your responses are argumentative and irrelevant seeing how the divorce has already taken place. Therefore, your tone and purpose of your post is merely to promote you own righteousness. Ask yourself: “How am I helping Halen now?” Then, apologize. God is watching!

        • February 8, 2012 3:10 pm

          Everyone is judging her; they’re just judging her positively.

          In terms of being arguementative and irrelevent, how is telling her she made the right choice more relevant then telling her she made the wrong choice?

          I know I’m not righteous, and I’m not trying to seem as though I am. I just want to emulate women I know who are happy now after sticking it out after marriage got difficult.

          If I ever posted on my blog that I had made a certain decision and others disagreed, I would appreciate it because it might make me rethink my decision or feel more comfortable with it.

    • February 8, 2012 10:45 pm

      S.W. May thank you for your comments. My ex actually said to me a few weeks ago that he is thankful I did what I did. He had been thinking that if I was not the one to bring the lack of satisfaction/happiness in the relationship to light that he was not sure he would have had the guts to and who knows how many more years would have gone by with us both being in a relationship that didn’t meet either of our needs. Chances are, if one person is unhappy, the other is as well.

  10. 2NewBeginnings permalink
    February 8, 2012 3:39 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I have two daughters and made the decision to end my marriage due to some of the same reasons. At first I thought, am I being selfish…afterall I was not a child of divorce. But, you know what????? I tried everything to make my marriage work, I gave up A LOT for that marriage, but I finally came to the realization that my girls needed to grow up knowing what love was really about. I believe in putting kids first, but when there is nothing left of your sanity or self to give because you have done everything to make something work, then how does that benefit the children? They didn’t need to grow up seeing two parents fight constantly or a mommy who cried herself to sleep every night. By ending my marriage, I was actually putting them first because I was saying that they deserved a mommy that was free, a mommy that could give 100% of herself, not some overwhelmed, beaten down, cry yourself to sleep Mommy who didn’t have much left to give to anyone, much less to her kids. So, don’t ever be ashamed of your decisions to better yourself so you could be a better you and a better Mom to your girls. I KNOW I am a good a mom, I am there 100% for my children, and they are much happier girls now and I know as they grow up, it will be a better life for all involved. Seeing a smile on my girls face and know that I’m smiling back…is priceless.

    • February 8, 2012 10:26 pm

      Absolutely! I VIVIDLY remember my mother crying at the kitchen table one day. I don’t remember why exactly but the fact that I remember it really makes me stop to think about what impact my state of mind has on my children. I can actually have FUN with them now? My youngest occasionally asks me (out of the blue), “mommy are you happy?” I usually respond by asking her, “what do you think?” She usually responds with, “I think you’re happy”. Enough said.

  11. Nick H. permalink
    February 8, 2012 8:52 pm

    I feel very conflicted when reading this post. First, I feel like you abandoned your kids and then used a convenient excuse, [they deserve a better mom]. Second, I feel like you ran away from your husband when you knew, probably before you said “I do”, that you didn’t want to marry him. However, I completely agree that overall personal happiness is a priority. You can’t give everything you have to someone or your family if you don’t look in the mirror and love what you see. My opinion probably doesn’t matter, but I simply couldn’t abandon my children in order to find inner peace. You say things like “babies started popping out”. That is quite insensitive especially when speaking about your own children. If my mother referred to my birth as a baby popping out, I would feel like dirt. It makes me wonder if you were ever in to this at all. Which actually makes me tend to agree with your decision. You weren’t fit to be a mother. Like I said, I am very conflicted with how to feel. I will say this: you have a lot of courage to do what you did knowing how it makes you look. Knowing how you have to explain all of this one day to your adult children and they may not like what they hear. I hope you have found what you are looking for. Good luck to you.

    • February 8, 2012 10:42 pm

      Thank you Nick, in a way you are right. When I look back, I probably should not have gotten married but at the time, I did not have that awareness. I was young, I was in a time of transition, my husband was (still is) a wonderful, caring, outgoing person. I remember having the thought that he was marrying material and truly one of the “good ones”. I do use the argument however, that as we age and grow to understand ourselves and our needs more fully, it is possible to look back and have a greater understand of why we made certain choices with a wisdom that was not present at the time.

      As far as the children go, I aplogize if my wording conveyed that I do not cherish every moment and memory with those babies. That phrase, “babies popping out” is just that. A phrase. Maybe it would be more appropriate to say I labored for over 12 hours, gave every ounce of everything had into delivering those precious angels and afterwards I sobbed and held them to my chest. Maybe that seems too self-indulgent but that is a more realistic description of their birth. My children understand my sense of humor and by using the words I did, it does not in any way lessen the importance of their existence. Also, they are far from abandoned. I live a mile away, see them almost every day, am involved in their lives just as much as I was before but am NOW more appreciative of every moment I spend with them as well as more capable of showing them the overwhelming love I feel for them every moment of every day.

      Now I can look in the mirror and love that I see someone who loves those children fiercly and who can appreciate the little things they do/say whereas before, those would have gone unnoticed.

  12. February 10, 2012 2:29 pm

    Inspiring post. reminds me of something a recently divorced friend of mine said, “A good mother is a happy mother.”

    I am glad you followed your heart, and shared your story here.

    • February 10, 2012 4:47 pm

      i believe that as well. Thank you for reading!


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