Reverb10: Day 8 – The Happiness Gene

Meeting Tigger at the Dark ride The Many Adven...
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Prompt: Beautifully different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

As much as I hate to admit it, I am my mother’s daughter.  My mother and I had such a tortured relationship that when she finally died in 1995 at age 64, I felt nothing but relief and freedom.  I carried the burden of her like a bag of rocks around my neck my whole life, and when she died I gladly put her down.  At her funeral many of her co-workers made a point of telling me how much they loved my mother, how funny she was, how she would make their day.

I didn’t doubt it.  I could see how people would think she was hilarious.  She was.  She was totally outrageous and over-the-top and she’d say anything for a reaction.  My mother loved the limelight, and being the life of the party.  She actually thought it was her duty in life to be the show.  And people came to depend on her for that.  They invited her to parties precisely because they knew she’d do something outrageous and people would be talking about it for days and weeks, even years later.

My mother never heard the phrase, “fake it till you make it,” but that’s how she lived her life.  If those co-workers could have seen her when she wasn’t performing, they wouldn’t have thought she was so funny; they would have been sad and appalled to see how she lived her life “off stage.” My mother was insecure, scared, and petrified of being seen for who she really was: a petty schemer, a viscous manipulator, a liar and a fake. She embodied the “fake it” lifestyle but she never “made it” to where she wanted to go, and that was to… Happy.

When I read today’s prompt, it definitely made me squirm.  My first reaction was, “I don’t think this is my call to make. It’s for other people to decide how I’m different (and IF I am) and what about me lights them up.  I don’t know what I do, if anything, that “lights people up.”  The only thing I see in myself that I don’t often see in a lot of other people is a kind of ebullience.  Joy, if you will.  Happiness.

But it’s not always the case that I feel ebullient. But even if I’m not feeling particularly happy, there is something inside me, something of my mother’s legacy, that tells me that it’s my duty to shine, that I must try as much as possible to “happify” my surroundings.  If there were genetic testing for such a thing, I know I would definitely found to be carrying the “life of the party” gene. I feel it, and when it kicks in I am powerless to resist.

As personality types go, I am definitely a Tigger (as opposed to an Eyeore, or a Pooh.)  I have a pogo stick tail and I’m not afraid to bounce around on it. And like Tigger, I want everyone to share in my enthusiasm.  I want to kind of “sneeze” happiness all over the place, cough it right into the faces of everyone I meet. I want to infect people.

But there are scary moments, especially when I catch myself holding forth in front of a group, when I flash on images of my mother doing goofy-ass things at a parties, and I worry: Am I being an ass? Are people laughing at me, and not, as I hope, at the zaniness of the human condition?

I hope the gene that I inherited from my mother mutated somewhat from its original form and is now fueled by genuineness, rather than fear and insecurity and the need for attention.  It  definitely feels that way, regardless of how it looks.  It feels solid, this happiness.  It has roots that go deep down, and even when storms blow, it’s still standing in the morning, as if nothing happened. And then all that’s left for me to do is get on my pogo stick and get on with the day.

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