Imposing a definition of “happiness” on someone else

Today, I had an early morning flight to go back to New York. My mom has been in an especially edgy and nervous mood, which can be attributed to a combination of the ongoing pandemic, hate crimes against elderly Asians, and the fact that I’m pregnant, on top of her usual unstable mental state. I was originally planning to get an Uber to go to the airport since I needed to be at the airport by 5:30am, but my mom insisted that my dad drive me. I relented, but only knowing that my dad had two cups of coffee. Given that he’s now 73, I generally don’t trust him driving when it’s too dark outside or if he could potentially be too drowsy. That would just be an accident waiting to happen.

I hadn’t been home in over a year and a half this visit, but for the most part, things are pretty much the same at home: cluttered, dusty, dirty, frustrating, and angst-inducing. Nothing has really changed. On my flight back, I was lucky enough to get upgraded to First Class, so I got to enjoy a nice breakfast, more privacy, and a fully reclining seat. While resting on the flight back, I thought about the way I define happiness, and maybe while I may fear that my parents may not be happy, maybe I actually have it all wrong. To be frank, I don’t think it’s possible for my mom to be happy. But my dad, on the other hand, maybe he actually IS happy. Maybe he’s content with the way his life his and what his day to day routine is. And maybe I’m the one who is trying to impose my definition of “happiness” on him. Maybe he’s content living in a cluttered, dusty, and dirty space. Maybe he thinks that renovating the kitchen or having a fresh coat of paint on the walls won’t really do anything to increase his incremental happiness level, even though I hope that it would. Maybe he’s happy going on YouTube most days to see the “outside world” instead of actually going out into the world. He’s always been content without any friends and only associating with my mom’s friends.

We spend all our lives having assumptions about everything and everyone. We assume that if x person had y and z inspiration or thing or job or person that they might be better off. But who is really to say if that’s the case or not? Every time I go back home and leave, I realize that while my parents may want to impose their views on my life and do it in an annoying way, perhaps I am also guilty of trying to impose my definition of “happiness” and “contentment” on them, and either way, neither of us is getting anywhere with that approach.

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