Lately, I have been very depressed. I’m burned out on school, can’t find a job. My kid and my cousin won’t talk to me, etc…etc… (Yes, I am starting to sound like a scratchy, old, sad country western song.)

A series of events has set me back and every time I think I am happy enough to start writing again, something new happens, something that pulls that rug out from under me, stomps on my heart and throws what’s left under the bus. Oddly enough, this has given me a chance to re-evaluate what happiness means.

What does happiness mean? Is it landing the perfect job or significant other? Is it driving the best car, or being wealthy enough to own two, is it having a big house? Or maybe it’s making other people miserable so you don’t have to see your own faults. I mean, Hey! If you’re a big asshole in their eyes, that MUST mean they’re that much less of an asshole when they look in the mirror. Right? Maybe it’s pointing out everyone else’s faults, and then you can really feel better about yourself! Happiness can be turning your back on someone who loves you, unconditionally just so you don’t have to forgive them, that might make you feel happy… Or, how about driving a wedge between two people, with your superior knowledge and rabid jealousy, just so you can have them all to yourself… will this make you happy? And for some, having a bunch of children that get all A’s in school, excel in sports and play five different instruments is happiness. Hell, I don’t know. What I do know is that this is not what happiness is to me.

I am far from perfect, but I try to be a good person. When I was little, I spent an abnormal amount of time with my truly bizarre Puerto Rican grandmother and overweight, polio riddled aunt. When I was with them, I was the happiest. I always had food to eat when I came home from school (rice and beans of course!) and a place to lay my head when I was tired ( My aunt’s hefty boobs made the best pillow!) I had a bike to ride and a field full of kids to play with. When my grandmother was mad at me, she would lovingly call me every name in the book, except mine. (I’m not kidding either. I was Blessing, Dolore, Becky, Danny, Denni and Coño Carajo! and then eventually that would whittle down to ai mierda and finally Michella) Which was essentially every name of all of my other cousins minus one or two, I was never afraid of her unless she got the spoon or took her shoe off, which she rarely did with me.

My grandmother was happiness. And, I loved her. She taught me important things like how to sew and make Puerto Rican food. She told me stories and read me bible verses, trying her hardest to make sure that no matter where I went or what I did, I would be able to find happiness, or at least make some. And then there were the other, more useful things like, “Blood is thicker than water,” and you should NEVER choose friends over family, but if you do, make sure they are someone you can tell your darkest secrets to. Never have more than you can carry on your back, you never know when you may find yourself on the move. Having too many things weighs a soul down.”Follow the Golden Rule,” and if you can, all of the Ten Commandments. “God loves you even when you don’t love yourself.” “Because you are a woman you will have to work harder than any man.” (And after she would say this, she would look at me, grab me with her pointy dagger fingers and say, “Annnnd you, Michella, will have to work the hardest!” and then slam me into her pointy boobs and give me a hug while praying.) My favorites, of course, were, “Say Please and Thank You and ALWAYS wear clean underwear.” Grandma Maya was a wise woman.

As I grew older and wiser myself, I realized that what made me happy, quite possibly, pissed others off. Why? Who knows? I’m certainly not judging anyone for their Happiness Quotient, why should what makes me happy be judged?? I don’t steal. I’m not a junky. I’ve never been in rehab or AA. I’m not hurting anyone by speaking my mind and standing up for what I believe is right, and yes, sometimes it is the world according to Michelle. Why shouldn’t it be? No one else is paying for my sins or my rent. I used to find happiness in complex things. Making others happy. Trying to fit in, even when I knew I didn’t. Trying not to be argumentative, even when I knew there was wrong information being delivered. Owning a nice home, car and all the crap that comes with it. Making sure my child had all of the crap he wanted. Marrying, divorcing, dating the right men, all because they had money, no money, an education, no education and on and on. I don’t fit in any of those molds. None of those things make me happy any longer. Now, I long for simplicity.

The things that made me happy as a child, should make me just as happy now. I don’t care if I don’t fit in with your ideals, and honestly, I don’t care if you fit in with mine, this is not what made me care about you in the first place. My needs are simple. Be there. Trust me. Know that I am doing what is best for me at this moment. And know that I will be there for you at your time of need.

While I finish my education, support me with love and a good laugh once in a while, this is some tough shit man! Call me up and YOU apologize for expecting me to be like YOU or HER or HIM or THEM. I am not. If I have hurt your feelings or insulted your moral ethics in some way, I certainly didn’t mean to, and well,  maybe when passing judgments, we all need to take a look in the mirror and see where we may have lost our way. I am who I am, and this makes me happy. Quit worrying about what I am doing wrong and look at all the things in my  life I have done right. And most of all, quit judging me.

Happiness is not finite. It is what we make it. The things that make me happy today are the little things. Helping people. Smiling. School, even when it’s kicking my ass. My tiny quiet apartment. Rice and beans. Holding hands. Having a glass of wine with a friend. Being quiet. Hiking. Singing to old 80’s songs. Making mistakes. (And I am going to keep making mistakes, it’s how I learn, even at this age, what works for me.) Allow me to be happy the way I know how. Let me be me, and you be you, or so the song goes. All I want is a simple life. To be loved and be able to love back. Is this too much to ask for?

Oh, and a pair of clean underwear…