Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.
A woman said she can't believe how happy she is lately. She loves her home, feels comfort, love and stability in her marriage, has friends, likes herself, has some cute new clothes, looks ok but not perfect, and has some health issues but nothing life-threatening, yet. But, she qualifies her feelings by saying, "Don't get me wrong; I'm not Happy with a capital H, just happy with a small h." She believes that her true, innocent Happiness evaporated when her long marriage with her childhood sweetheart ended. It's true that her dream of a 50th anniversary or growing old and dying with the one man who never loved anyone but her, until he didn't, ended.
She needs to remind herself every time she reminisces nostalgically of the bad times, the hurts and the things both of them did wrong in the marriage to go back to healing.She romanticizes the past, focuses on the best parts, forgives so much, blames herself, and compares her present state to a parent who lost a child but takes great joy in her surviving child. It's all too dramatic. Still, she's probably right that there's a kind of innocent happiness, pure enough to cling to romantic dreams despite dysfunctional conditions, which she honestly lost and will never have again.
However, her past situation should not impair her present opportunity to grab all the happiness she can . Is it possible for er to convert her good state of partial happiness now to a true Happy state? I believe the answer depends on how hard she's willing to work on it. If she writes off her life as half over and settles for "good enough," or "ok with persistent issues," she'll always have a bigger empty spot than necessary. Instead, let her be grateful every day for what she had, what she lost that wasn't so great, and what she has now. Let her be courageous and responsible enough to work on the flaws in herself and her relationship and life to make whatever important improvements possible. Then, let her accept that perfection and unrealistically high expectations will ruin her happiness, both with an H or an h. Most of all, let her realize that the work to be done is on herself because therein Happiness lies.