My Happiness… It’s Not All Trauma All of the Time

In response to a Laura Davis weekly writing prompt.

He stopped me for a moment to point out the heron. It stood like a sculpture in the shallow water. But it was the duck nearby that caught my eye flailing in the water. V__6137And the way he bent down to lift a blue jay feather from the path and then waved it in front of my dog’s nose.

Ella smelled it and walked along to sniff leaves, grass, squirrels and other dogs.

“I wouldn’t come here,” I said, “If not for you.”

Even though the path is only two miles from my front door.

At home I would have stayed, stuck on Facebook, making dinner, going to my own patch of yard or beach to let the dog out.

Sometimes I am stuck in my head and habits and tiredness.

A date isn’t only the promise of romance but a move out into the world to say –

I will leave where I am and meet you there. I will go from this space and inhabit somewhere new.

We kissed under the blue sky and stopped.

I was chatting a lot and almost missed the sky.


And the kiss.

How can I keep my doors open so the world can get in more deeply?

Get quiet. That’s one way.

We talked about learning a new language.

“I would,” I said, “love to learn Spanish. Together. Not literally in the same room but at the same time.”

I imagined us walking that same path saying the Spanish word for Heron, for sky, for duck and even for dog or blue jay feather.

Or love.

He said children who are bi-lingual have greater empathy and we puzzled over why. He had listened to a BBC episode just that day.

“Do they have to pretend to be other people or go outside their comfort zone?” I asked.

“It’s perspective,” he said. “They know so early there’s more than one word for everything.”

But how did that translate exactly into empathy? And does it mean those who struggle with one language struggle with empathy too? Or learn it more slowly or painfully and then maybe have even more?

Dating makes me try on new eyes and thoughts.

Dating helps me see and interact the world in ways that have not yet occurred to me or are even contrary to habits and preferences I’ve not always updated.

But not just dating a man.

Dates with the world. Nature. Animals. Trees.

Making art.

Relating. Connecting. Being with others. Love and loving.

Even strangers.

I want to know the way the world lives in others.

I want to see how others try on hopes, dance with joy and tap out sorrow.

I want to admire the poem hearts and painting thoughts and moving movements.

There are so many ways and styles of belts, scarves and experiences to tighten, loosen and acquire.

I’m still learning what makes me happy. I’m still learning to let sorrow spill. I’m trying not to worry that my tears will spill or stain or spoil others and be unasked for tattoos inflicted on those who love me.

I need to learn to trust grief even can be dried by the sun or sipped by something or someone thirsty and craving that brand of moisture sustenance.

“This was the perfect weekend,” I said. “It was blissfully boring. And meaningful. And practical too.” A perfect storm for me.

We had melted into an afternoon of doing nothing if nothing is sitting and holding hands and watching a hummingbird circle a hanging plant.

We’d got a mattress at Ikea. He helped me move it up and get the old one out and then surprised me.

“You will let me pay for this,” he said after we’d been prone in five or six beds sampling size and firmness and were in the aisles face to face.

“It’s self-interest too,” he said. “I’ll be on that mattress too.”

He smiled.

I smiled.


We smiled.

Flirty while we agreed the old mattress was awful.

It is older than my tween.

Times two.

Getting a new mattress felt wonderful.

“It met me half way,” I said after the first night of sleep. I marveled at the way it cushioned, supported, held and nurtured me.

Honestly, life can exhaust me a lot. All the figuring, strategy, logistics and handling everything. It kept me sleeping in laziness for about a decade longer than necessary even though the metal coil springs were getting ready to dig into me.

You think I’d rest more with the tiredness and all. But I don’t. Because there seems to be a never ending list of shit to do.

Yet in one day with the tools from his car he sawed my box spring in half. I helped clipped the wires with the garden tools to get it down my narrow stairs.

“They are happy tears. I can do things alone but it’s so much easier not to have to.”

Or, as my daughter said before she started grade school, “I can do it myself. With help.”

Few things ever said are more brilliant.


I tried to argue the mattress bill.

“You give me things I can’t repay,” he said.

I believed him.


It is true. We are back and forth in different ways that aren’t tit for tat.

We squeezed hands.

It was strange not to be the one driving, paying, planning. I rested in how wonderful that rest and support felt.

It’s not that others haven’t loved me. They have.

Sometimes I couldn’t take it in or let go of the reigns. Sometimes it’s knowing that to help me they’d have to take on a burden too heavy and sometimes my kindness is not letting them.

Or so I have thought and think.

“You suck at help,” he said.

“You’re not much better.”

We both meant it too.

Let’s learn, I thought, that can be our Spanish, the next language we practice together.

“I’m not looking for the next adventure, triumph, goal or thing.” I want to savor, sink in and settle into moments and people and things I already have.

“I want a whole and simple life and the smarts and ability to feel it.”

I loved Oliver Sacks and have listened to and read the memories and tributes of those who loved and interviewed him.

I hadn’t known he was gay and that his mother had rejected his sexuality with cruelty. Or that he’d been so lonely and without love for decades and decades. Is that, in part, what made him so sensitive and inquisitive about other people?

I heard Sacks found love at the end of his life.

Happiness doesn’t have to happen only early or in every day for a life to be beautiful, meaningful and worthwhile.

Isn’t love in the end, before death, triumphant though? It is.

Happiness isn’t a spot on the globe I need to stare or chart or pine for and at. It’s right there. It sneaks in and up and appears most often when I can get out of my head and open my eyes and let it in.

Sometimes I don’t see what’s at my feet or in my neighborhood.

My happiness. It can be these talks on a Tuesday, on a path in a park before the mosquitoes get too bad and the sun goes down too soon.

My happiness. My happiness. My happiness.

What’s your happiness?

You Matter Mantras

  • Trauma sucks. You don't.
  • Write to express not to impress.
  • It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
  • Breathing isn't optional.

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