Monday, May 3, 2010

Family: My Happiness Project

♫. . . we are a happy family! ♫

Forty years ago we started an experiment in happiness. A family is the perfect laboratory for testing philosophies on religion, education, health, relationships, finances . . . actually every philosophy is tested in a family. Living right in the Mother 'hood, I could observe, analyze and evaluate what creates joy.

My first discovery: being married is much more than getting married. There were lots of crazy ideas about love floating around in 1969. "Love means never having to say you're sorry" turned out to be a bad one. I thought love meant being patient with Dee until he realized I was right. That wasn't any good either. My experiment in happiness has taught me about marriage.

I think sex keeps a newly married couple in a state of frenzy long enough for them to start developing some relationship skills (communication, empathy, understanding, and patience) to add to the romance of it all. It takes some humility to realize you need those qualities, and some effort to gain them.

With practice, good relationship skills can mature into dependability, responsibility, trust and commitment; eventually the goal is charity, or pure love. The miracle is not falling in love, it's staying in love. Like Neil Diamond sings, "Love is not about you, it's not about me. Love is all about we."

Psychiatrists, therapists, ministers, teachers—think of all the experts who are trying to figure out marriage. A blessing of my happiness project is that I have studied it in depth and I'm beginning to get it.

Kids were the natural result of the frenzied years. We wanted them, but we weren't sure why. They turned out to be a combination of adorable, frustrating, entertaining, challenging and always there. That was the hardest part of living in the 'hood: the constancy. Love took on a whole new dimension, with no place to hide from anxiety, worry and stress. Crisis management and split-second decisions became daily events. There was no escaping it, so I learned to cope.

Again, think of all the seminars, discussion groups and drills designed to prepare folks to deal with emergencies. I gained those skills on the job. I can think fast, multi-task, create calm from chaos, and take charge. It's a blessing to know I would be a leader in difficult circumstances.

The blessing I cherish most is the relationship with our kids. Besides loving them, I like them. They're funny, smart, kind, caring, helpful, creative . . . they're my best friends. People ask all the time what we did to raise such a great group. I always answer that they came good. But there was some work involved: I read a zillion books on kids and tried all the trendy theories.

In the end, though, we subscribed to the best child-raising philosophy around. The scriptures
"And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness."
Nephi 5:27 (Book of Mormon)

So we looked into it. King Benjamin's advice became our standard:
"And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they fight and quarrel one with another . . . But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another."
—Mosiah 4:14-15

Our other motto was:
"And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord."
—Doctrine and Covenants 68:28
I've had a lifelong Happiness Project.
And, I have to say, it's worked.


Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...

I agree with both this post and the one before that we have to learn on the job. One thing I had to learn was to trust our judgment as a couple to do the right thing by our kids and our family. I made myself nuts reading all those books the first time I was a mom--I put so much pressure on myself to do the "right" thing without thinking about what that right thing was for my family. The second time I just read my SON and did what it seemed he was telling me he needed. It worked out both ways, but we were much less stressed about trying to be right by the second one. :)

Can't wait to read the rest of this week's posts.

Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...

Ew. I just read my comment, and could I have used the word "right" any more than I did? It's late here and I'm distracted. But you get what I'm saying. :)

Christie said...

Beautiful, Oma. Every word of this rings so true.

kenju said...

"I thought love meant being patient with Dee until he realized I was right."

WHAT?? You mean that isn't they way to do it? Who knew?!! It's my way, and with mr. kenju, it has never failed.....LOL

Diane said...

I used to think I put up with certain things my husband did. Now I'm just thankful he puts up with me as much as he does! I love when love's perspective truly turns to "us" and "we" instead of just joining "me" and "him".

I enjoyed reading your past posts - written before I knew you or your blog.

KREW said...

Thanks for this post. One of those scriptures/mottos is going to find it's way onto my kitchen wall. We all need to be reminded every once in a while.

Alisha Stamper | Photographer said...

oooh! i read this post before the other one, both are great, btw, but i especially relate, currently, to the constancy thing. there ISN'T anyplace to hide from the worry, or anxiety, and as they get older i notice i have more of "myself" back, but those are still just glimpses.

Ms Fish said...

I absolutely love your application of the scriptures. makes me think about them in a different light. And I love the idea of the Happiness project! Brilliant.