The Empress of Cheerfulness

on 15 February 2012

February 7th was Charles Dickens' 200th birthday.

I celebrated by starting my favorite biography of him.  It's a behemoth, but very well done, so worth the weight.  I'm up to the 1840s, Dickens is now established as THE author of his age, and one of the many nicknames the British public had for him was the Emperor of Cheerfulness, which is sort of ironic because I don't believe for a moment that he was naturally predisposed to being cheerful, and now that I think about it, his books are melancholy and pessimistic as much as they're lighthearted and fun.  But I digress.

I was reading away yesterday and I came across that nickname and I thought, "That's how I feel right now.  Like I've been crowned the Empress of Cheerfulness."

Chris is deep in his annual Melancholy February Funk, he's snappy and impatient with all of us.  I know it comes every year and I've just accepted that this is part of loving him, but every year I still work hard to cheer him out of it.  I open all the blinds and let the winter sunshine fill up our home.  I play happy music, I let him sleep in, I keep a steady supply of yummy treats in the house.  I try to do as much of the home work as I can so that he can just regroup.  And this year, I've been shepherding the kids out of his space as much as I'm able.

See, I'm an adult.  I understand that Chris is just human...that he has grouchy days, days when he's tired, days when he's impatient and frustrated or discouraged.  But the Boy?  Not so much.  He still thinks his daddy is a superhero who can DO anything.  And he has plenty of time to discover that Mama and Daddy are made of clay, just like him, that we're human and get tired and impatient and have bad days.  While he's small, I'd like to foster this belief in our Superhero-ness as much as I can.

But can I just whisper a secret here?  Just between you and me?  I'm tired.  The Girl is down to eating only once in the night, but that doesn't mean she doesn't wake up, or that she doesn't wake ME up.  So between the sleep deprivation and all of my energy going to try cheer up a grouchy husband, and shield a puzzled child from his grouchy Daddy, and feed an adorable but bemused baby girl, I'm just a little tired.

I've been thinking about Margaret Hale from North and South.  How after her mother died and her father went to Oxford to visit friends she said, "[she] felt how great and long had been the pressure on her time and spirits.  It was astonishing, almost stunning, to feel herself so much at liberty; no one depending on her for cheering care, if not for positive happiness...she might be idle, and silent, and forgetful, --and what seemed worth more than all the other privileges --she might be unhappy if she liked."

I lay down yesterday afternoon to try to sleep a bit, but I couldn't.   I was thinking about how every year I get to this point.  Chris sinks into his funk, I spend the first two weeks of the month working myself into a lather to try to cheer him out of it, and the last two weeks of the month being tired and just keeping my head down and letting him work it out on his own.  I'm torn between a long established habit and a strong desire to persevere, to continue to work hard to cheer him up and make home as happy as it can be for him.  Because, tired as I am, I still love that man of mine.  It breaks my heart a little to see him be sad and disgruntled.  And so I wonder if it's our actions, or our desires that end up earning a title like the Empress of Cheerfulness.

Even if I don't feel particularly cheerful myself.


Sibley Saga .... said...

If you are the Empress of Cheerfulness, then I am the Duchess of Depression. Or Lady Looney. Or Countess of Crazy.

Surviving this pregnancy is testing all those who live in my domain.

Brett said...

You are a good wife. If Ben sulked for a month, I'd tell him to snap out of it and treat him exactly as I do the rest of the year. But I've never claimed to be as awesome as you are.