"My happiness is so great at this moment I wish I could die...because in the midst of happiness grows a seeds of unhappiness. Happiness consumes itself like a flame. It can't burn forever; sooner or later it must die. And that knowledge destroys the joy for me, right at its peak."
from A Dream Play by August Strindberg
When I first read this play in college, I thought it was so depressing... and yet so wise. Or maybe just insightful, because the older I get, the more this is how I subconsciously think. When I am the most happiest, I am the most aware of how happy I am - of how grateful I am for the people and things in my life, of how blessed I am - but also the most aware I am of how fragile those things are, and how quickly they can be taken away.
It's been three years this month that my friend died suddenly, brutally. This week, I got news that a dear man who has greatly influenced our oldest daughter, died Sunday morning. Another beautiful, amazing woman who taught my youngest daughter in pre-school and attended Bible study with me was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer. Another mother I adore got word that her daughter has not long to live.
It was a rough weekend.
And in their pain I am acutely aware of my own happiness - of my family, my kids that are my whole world and my husband who is the love of my life, the every breath I take. My parents who make aging look easy and graceful. My friends who stick by me through everything, who encourage me and love me. My opportunity to go to school, to write. The feeling of being healthy and pain-free. The pile of presents under the Christmas tree.
In the store today I saw an elderly couple shopping together, lovingly bickering over cuts of meat and loaves of bread, and my heart broke for the incredible woman who just lost her husband this Sunday and now faces a future that does not involve growing old with him. And the thought of the possibility of not growing old with my own husband makes my heart clench.
There is a part of me that thinks this is ridiculous of me - to spoil joy with sorrow that isn't even real. And yet, another part of me thinks this is how it should be - how it must be. To not be aware of how every day is not a given, every tomorrow is not destined, is to not fully appreciate how miraculous life is. It's not really that I am letting loss taint my happiness, so much as great happiness comes at the price of acknowledging the possibility of loss.
That's my philosophizing for the week. This is the kind of thing my mind rumbles around when I stop writing. Too much living in the real world and not enough in the imaginary one, I suppose.