“Are you happy?”, my daughter asks me as I pick up pieces of broken egg off the floor. Kneeling at her feet I stoop to scoop up the cold gloop which is slowly spreading over the kitchen floor, a scrambled mess of yolk, white and shattered shell.
“No, I am not happy,” I reply. I am irritated. Irritated that she was inquisitive enough to pull the carton of eggs across the counter and look inside. Irritated that she has dropped and wasted them. Irritated that it is I who have to scrape them up. Irritated that I left them within reach in the first place.
“Sorry”, she replies. “Are you happy?”
“Yes, I am happy.” I am still annoyed.
“Are you happy?”, she asks as I pick up the plate of untouched vegetables, exhausted by all my attempts to persuade her to eat any.
“No, I am not happy.” I am weary. I am weary of trying to encourage someone else to do what is good for them. Let her live off chips and chocolate and have done with it! Maybe she will not turn to them as comfort foods when she is older then.
“Are you happy?”, she says as she conceded so eat one pea.
“Yes, I am happy.” I am still fed up.
“Are you happy?”, asks the child I have just dragged away from her victim, her supposed friend, who she has shoved over in the park.
“No, I am not happy.” I am embarrassed. I try, and try, to teach good manners and to use logical discipline, but the threat of ‘Time Out’ seems to fall on deaf ears and now it feels like every other parent is condemning me.
“I’m sorry. Are you happy?” I am still humiliated.
“Are you happy?” she asks as I desperately try to mop the spread of water from the bottle she has tipped upside down and all over the table, knowing exactly what the result would be.
“No, I am not happy.” I am furious. The puddle was millimetres away from ruining my computer and the act was a flagrant attempt to get my attention.
“I’m sorry. Are you happy?” I am still fuming.
It’s amazing that someone who is able to rile me so easily and so often is simultaneously so concerned about how I feel.
Even on the rare occasions when she is not the cause of my agitation, she still shows an empathetic interest in my frown lines.
Chopping onions, filling in forms, reading books – suddenly a little voice will break into my thought-bubble, chirruping: “Are you happy?”
“Yes, I’m happy, I’m just concentrating.”
This strength of awareness is enviable. I hope you do not spend your life in pursuit of happiness, but are wise enough to notice when you are.
I feel tired, I feel stressed, I feel bored, I feel burdened, I feel frustrated. You make me feel all these things. But you make me feel happy too.