I woke up at 6 AM today -- on a Saturday, mind you -- sweating from a bad dream.
It was the kind of dream that's so bad you don't want to say it out loud, for fear you may completely jinx the person in the dream or yourself. But I think sometimes if you say it out loud, you get rid of it, so here goes: In my dream, my Uncle Bobby died.
I guess you first have to understand Uncle Bobby. He's a one-of-a-kind. He's the single, hip, lives-in-NYC uncle who's always telling you about the latest jazz club or Vietnamese sandwich shop he discovered. Best part is he'll describe it with the enthusiasm of a tourist even though he's lived in the big apple for 50+ years. And he's always eager to spend time with his 5 girl nieces, all of us in our 20s who completely adore him.
Uncle Bobby's been on my mind since Yom Kippur, when we went to temple services together (our annual tradition since I moved to the city 4 years ago). Between services, he told me all about his new job. In a mid-life career switch, he just graduated with a masters in teaching and landed his first job at a terrific school in Brooklyn. After hopping from radio voice-overs to NYC tour guide, teaching just seems to suit Bobby. He's smiling bigger than I've ever seen him.
In my dream, I kept thinking how unfair it was: He had just found his happiness and now it was taken away.
I suppose you're thinking what I'm thinking: the dream isn't about Uncle Bobby. It's about Sally and it's about me.
Sally, when she got sick at 57, had been in the prime of her happiness. She had married late for the '70s (she was 34), had children later (she had me at 39), and was finally enjoying her husband and children and planning for retirement. Cancer came in and took all her happiness away, just like that. It took some of my happiness away, too.
Like Sally's happiness at 57, I feel I am reaching my happiness now at 27. Living with Mark is the start of our home and life together. After so many nerves of whether or not to move in together, living together fits us so well. But sometimes, when I overhear girls on the subway telling their girlfriend to dump his sorry ass, or when my own girlfriends get their hearts broken, I tell myself sternly, "Marisa, this could all go away tomorrow," and then I look for holes and gaps where my happiness could slip through the cracks and be gone.
Happiness has always been top priority for me. Mom used to like retelling the story of me at age 2, sitting on the potty. She and dad had just had a fight. "Mommy," I asked, looking up at her. "Are you happy with Daddy?" Imagine Sally's shock. "Why, yes, sweetheart," she said, "Don't you want to get married one day?" I guess I pondered this, still tinkling, while I came to my decision: "I just want to be happy."
The funny thing about happiness is that as soon as you become fearful of losing that happiness, you stop feeling happy. Why shouldn't Uncle Bobby just enjoy his new teaching venture? Why shouldn't I just enjoy my new life with Mark? What goodness comes of fear? It may first seem like a humble quality, but really it just breeds negativity.
Off to re-start my Saturday with happiness. Step 1: Breakfast. Step 2: Haircut. Step 3: Dinner and a birthday party with close friends.
I wish you all a happy day.
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