Happiness and Misery

“Happiness comes in moments. That’s all I can ask for. Those moments.” – Iris Humphrey in To Be Her Girl

This shot of me in a t-shirt covered with happy faces was taken last week in Isla Vista, CA; where I lived when I was twenty-one, where despite living a sixty-second walk away from the ocean, I was miserable, drunk, and lonely—each and every day.

A decade later, my view on happiness has changed, to say the least. I still don’t think I have the answers—like another character in my novel says, “If I had the answers, I’d be dead.”—but what I do believe is that in pursuit of it, we must both take the reins and let go of them at the same time. Or maybe, it’s just about deciding which reins to hold onto. Like I said, I don’t have the answers.

But what do we have control of in life? What don’t we? Take the release of my novel for example. By the time it was finally ready, I knew I couldn’t fret over it much longer. I couldn’t wait the multiple-year-long process of traditional publishing. It’s not like any other fictional story I’ve ever written because it’s too similar to my own reality, and as I’d previously said, to move on with my life, I need to move on from this story. I’m not sure it’s ever possible, but one day at a time, I am trying; I am learning; I am growing.

I also decided to self-publish to hold onto control. Because this story is so personal, I didn’t want anyone else making decisions about it. Call it therapeutic or call it stupid, but it was something I couldn’t let go of.

I knew at the start of this year that I would polish it up and finally release it into the wild. And after my father died, I chose to do so on September 30—his birthday—to honor him. In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have. In hindsight, maybe releasing your debut novel on your father’s birthday—the first after he died—isn’t such a good idea. Or maybe, in hindsight, it is. After all, it’s only been a day, and we’ve already established that I don’t have the answers.

So that’s what I had control of. Or so I thought. Because here it is, October 1, and while available in eBook format, there’s been a hold up with the paperback—which to me, is what matters—the paperback; my words on paper, in hands. I may not be a traditional publisher, but I am a traditional reader.

So yesterday, September 30—my father’s birthday and my debut novel’s release day—I felt just like I did when I lived in Isla Vista—miserable. I felt disappointed about my novel’s half release, and brokenhearted about my father leaving this life before we were ready. Combine those two together and I felt guilty that instead of honoring his birthday with joy, I was drenching it with misery. Then last night, I slept for twelve hours straight, and I woke up this morning feeling refreshed. Maybe I don’t feel happy, but I don’t feel miserable either.

In this moment, I have no control over when my novel will be available in paperback. Maybe it will be later today, which is the hope, or maybe it won’t be. I don’t know yet. But yesterday I allowed myself to feel miserable about it, and today, I won’t.

Ten years ago, I felt miserable more than I felt happy. Now, I feel happy more than I feel miserable. Is that all I can ask for? Or is it something I took control of? A good night’s sleep had little effect on me then; I’d just get up and feel miserable all over again. But after nearly two years of intense soul-searching and trauma-unpacking, I’ve learned a bit more about those reins—holding on, letting go, and most of all—letting be.

Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe I’ll know when I’m dead.

You can purchase the To Be Her Girl Kindle edition here.


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