11: Happiness — A Study in Contrasts

11: Happiness — A Study in Contrasts

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Happiness — A Study in Contrasts

Happiness and sadness run parallel to each other. When one takes a rest, the other one tends to take up the slack.

~Hazelmarie “Mattie” Elliott

In the early morning hours, I like to sit at the bay window in my kitchen and watch as the first rays of sunshine creep across the field behind my home. I love the contrast between the shadows and the startlingly clear patches of sunlight. It seems as if the sunshine is made brighter and clearer because of the stark difference between the light and dark.

Sitting there, I can’t help but reflect that the same is true in my own life. Those times when I have been most happy have usually occurred after a trial or challenge experienced by me or a member of my family.

When my son, who has fragile X syndrome, was young, he was unable to tie his own shoelaces. No matter how hard he tried, the laces would always slide away like Jell-O through a baby’s fist.

I feverishly sought alternatives. We created our own set of flexible laces from sewing elastic. These would allow us to stretch back the tongue of his shoe and then slide in his foot. But young boys lead adventurous lives. Puddles of mud, piles of snow and backyard sand often left the laces dirty, limp and stretched out of shape, needing frequent replacement.

When shoes with Velcro tabs came onto the market, I celebrated. Here was our answer! This sticky wonder solved our dilemma — that is until shoes with Velcro lost their coolness and were not produced for a time.

While other mothers were worrying about what college their sons would attend one day or whether they would find a nice girl to marry, I was worried about my son’s shoelaces. My recurring nightmare was seeing my son as a fifty-year-old man still unable to form the necessary bows, his shoelaces flapping behind him as he walked. Irrational? Yes. But the mind and heart of a mother with children with special needs is not always a rational thing.

And then, finally, one day, when my son was seventeen, I heard the front door bang as he came running into the house. On his face, he wore an ear-to-ear triumphant grin. “I did it,” he said.

“Did what,” I asked.

“I tied my shoes.”

We cried, rejoiced, and applauded with joy as he tied his laces over and over for us. Looking back, I can see that the joy of that moment was magnified because of his earlier struggles.

Happiness doesn’t always fall casually into our lives. It isn’t something that can be purchased at a store. Quite often it is experienced the most profoundly when it follows challenging experiences. I believe that true happiness, and its even purer form, joy, is found in simple blessings — sometimes something as simple as tying a pair of shoelaces.

~Jeannie Lancaster

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