Charlie Brown makes is seem so easy. In “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”, he sings, in the closing song, Happiness, “Happiness is morning and evening, day time and night time too. For happiness is anyone and anything at all, that’s loved by you.”
Nice sentiment. Warm and fuzzy. Sort of like Snoopy. Not.
Happiness seems like the most elusive and the most mysterious of emotions. It’s so beyond our ken, so close, seemingly at our fingertips and yet so hard to achieve in modern day life. We deny it – for ourselves and often beyond, in our lives as family members and partners, in the workplace and the greater community.
Akiva is a happy person. When it’s my morning with him – Ira and I used to have an equitable split that we now share with our lovely p/t caregiver, Indu – I schlepp myself out of bed with a groan at 6AM. I go to bed much to late to get up at that hour. As I shuffle into Akiva’s room, invariably I find him already sitting up in bed, raring to go, usually singing or chatting about something that’s on his mind – a song, a story, a dream fragment? It’s hard to know sometimes. He’s 16 for chrissakes, I think – when will he sleep late and be surly?
Never, it seems. Whatever he’s got should be bottled, in the words of a fellow traveler, Mickey Green, mom to 3. Her middle, Joe, was featured in Ira’s guest post, Joe is Typing. Joe, who has CP and has been living in a rehab/hospital like facility for the past year is a happy person, shockingly content for a guy in his late 20’s, who’s been dealing with increasingly fragile health – he’s on a respirator – such that he can’t currently be moved back home or return to the supported living situation he shared with a few friends. Joe is a rabid Rangers and Giants fan – he does his best to look past the complications of the four walls that currently limit him, more it would seem than the underlying physical disabilities that have marked his life since infancy.
Invariably, when we consider people with disabilities, we imagine limited lives, limited understanding and limited opportunities at happiness. Now, I’m not saying that people with disabilities don’t have limits on their work and social lives based on arbitrary rules set into place by a world that doesn’t always appreciate what people with disabilities can do. And I’m not saying that people with disabilities aren’t seen as unattractive or sexually stunted or imperfectly formed because of genetic issues and other ‘deformities.’ Sadly, they do have those limits to their successful integration and to their real acceptance into the greater community. And yet, I know many people with disabilities who are happy. Content. Willing to let their lives unfold in unexpected and different ways that most do not validate as ‘normal’ or ideal. Hmm…
We claim to love happiness, right? We yearn for the first smiles of an infant, those heart-melting, wide toothless smiles of joy that yield to the grins of toddlerhood and the gap-toothed smiles of childhood. When our children get older and struggle, seemingly to lose their joie de vivre, we’re saddened, worried if we’ll ever see those easy happy faces of their younger years.