The 16 year old girl in my life has a catchphrase that has become more of a catchphrase for her than ever before:
“Oh! That makes me happy!”
She says this every time something piques that feeling of glee in her soul…the moment she feels a giggle or a grin beginning deep in her belly. It can be about anything that produces euphoria for her. Guess what? I love it. I love that she has so many things–simple things–that make her happy. Most of the time I find myself laughing and agreeing with her. I also adore that she is much like me. Before she ever was, I had many years of things that made me happy and I spent much time reveling in those simple things. I continue to find new things, albeit more quietly than she, and I try to feather my physical and mental nest with those small joys.
With our most recent traditional summer family trip to Bear Lake, I was reminded of one of my own “Oh-that-makes-me-happy” moments. Honestly, it wasn’t until this year that I realized it had been 7 years since that initial experience and I still revisit it every time we make the Bear Lake pilgrimage.
After the birth of my 4th baby I first met depression head on. I didn’t seem to bounce back after his arrival as I had with the other three. There were dark days and nights of pure physical survival and though I was being cared for by my midwives and diligently taking medication, I was in a mental and emotional fog. Those who have taken antidepressants may recognize what I am saying. The medication smoothes out the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs and creates a steady, numbing fog. Well, for me, anyway.
When baby was 7 weeks old, we headed to Bear Lake with my husband’s family. The cabin we stay at is situated in the foothills above the lake, among the sagebrush and grass. We spend our time visiting, eating, playing, sleeping (ha ha) and watching movies and often we travel the winding dirt roads back and forth to the lake and into town for shopping. It was driving down the dirt road that I first noticed it…a single red poppy, blossoming off of the side of the road amidst the weeds and sage. It’s head would nod at me on its graceful stem as we drove by, almost acknowledging me. Oh! It made me happy! I couldn’t explain why–perhaps it was because I felt something when I saw it there. It wasn’t particularly beautiful but it was vivid and it was alive. I looked for it every time we passed. It was a sweet little bright spot among the dull greens, grays and browns of both the mountainside and my life.
One afternoon as we traveled by, I was looking forward to the poppy and instead I found a woman with a big, round butt, bent over, picking it. She was picking the lone poppy that had somehow found its way to the mountainside and had survived long enough to bloom. Her butt was to the road, head aimed downhill, mooning everyone that travelled by as she took that red flower. I was half tempted to open the car door as we drove by, stick my foot out and kick her squarely in the ass and down the hillside. Who did she think she was, picking my poppy? That When she picked that flower, it felt like she plucked a piece of me, too. It was small, but it was something. I had grown attached to it. She was picking my happiness, damn her. How dare she? And plus, why was she wearing stretch pants? Oy vey. It’s always the women with the more than ample derrieres that wear the stretch pants, even though every freaking law in the universe points to the fact that they shouldn’t do it. At least they weren’t flesh-colored. Anyway, with that—with the bigger than the moon butt in the stretch pants mocking me straight to my face—the poppy was gone.
I’ve never forgotten it. It wasn’t until this year that I consciously realized I remember that poppy at the bend in the dirt road every time we travel pass, STILL. I found myself sharing the story with my 16-year-old girl and she kind of semi rolled her eyes at me and didn’t get it.
“She PICKED my POPPY.” I said to her, uber-emphasizing the “p” sound in both ‘picked’ and ‘poppy’. “You don’t just go around picking people’s poppies!” She didn’t get it. But I got it. She told me to get over it. I wasn’t about to relinquish myself to this poppy injustice.
As the memory percolated inside my head, it made more sense. “You don’t just go around picking people’s poppies!” No, we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t pick the happiness of others, no matter what form it comes in. We should cultivate the happiness of others and tend to it instead of carelessly plucking whatever we want, when we want. Everyone has poppies. Everyone has things that make them happy and brighten and lift their lives. Everyone has experiences that are poppies or belongings that are poppies or ideas or wishes or hopes that are poppies. Whether the poppies are tangible or not makes no difference. What makes the difference is that they are left alone to help that particular individual flourish and feel and be. It is with the realization of our happy times and happy things that experiences and memories are built. Do you know what experiences and memories build? Lives. They build lives. I have no right to take another’s building blocks away. No matter how good they might look in the vase on my coffee table.
Shouldn’t we be builders? Shouldn’t we be the ones who help construct and preserve? Mothering my children has been a great opportunity for me to protect and tend to my children’s happiness. Shouldn’t I do that to my brothers and sisters as well? My neighbors? My community? I cannot justify my own selfishness, especially if it comes at the price of another. This isn’t to say that I have never done it, because I know I have. I have simply come to the awful realization that I am as guilty as the bubble-butt in the stretch pants. Now I know. We should be sewing poppies, not picking them. If we could sew more happiness in this hardened world we live in and give more than we ever take, maybe it wouldn’t be so hardened. We shouldn’t pluck other’s poppies. We should preserve them so they can go on to proliferate happiness and success. Let’s vow to sew happiness.
Sometimes, we unwittingly pick our own poppies. We devalue the things we love because we compare them to what others have *or* we pay more heed to what others think than to what really matters to us. There are many reasons we might pick our own poppies, but it doesn’t make it okay to pick them even if they belong to us. Let’s not be guilty like the stretch pants pickers of the world are. Let us be kinder to who we truly are and can become by leaving the poppies and enjoying–no–relishing them. Relish the hell out of them.
To those of you who may think that this post could have been written without the swears, I have this to say: don’t go picking my poppies.