The scene: my bedroom. The alarm beeps at 6:35 a.m. As I reach to turn it off, the usual thought pops predictably into my head: I should have gotten up earlier.
Sunlight filters through the shutters as I get out of bed, careful not to wake my husband, who is dozing next to me. I walk down the hall and peek into my daughter's room—she's still asleep, curled up and cozy, with her stuffed dog cradled in her arms. I turn right to look in on my son, who has tossed off his covers and is snoozing with his arms and legs splayed out, proving yet again that sleep can be an aerobic activity. I smile, then think, I don't spend enough time with my kids.
I pass through our living room, where dozens of photos covering bookshelves and end tables remind me that I'm blessed: I have a tight-knit family, wonderful friends, a job I love. Then I see my desk in the corner, piled high with unpaid bills, and I groan. I have to catch up on those.
I enter my kitchen to start the coffee, averting my eyes from the dinner dishes still piled in the sink. I should have loaded those into the dishwasher last night.
An hour later, after an invigorating jog through Central Park with my dog, I feel strong, energized and optimistic. As I step into the shower, I catch a glimpse of my rear view in the mirror and think, Still my biggest feature—some things never change!
Do you see a pattern here? By most people's standards, I have it all. I'm happily married; my kids are thriving; I love my job as editor of the amazing magazine you're holding in your hands. But even so, on this beautiful morning, I have a dull ache of dissatisfaction. Regardless of how fulfilled I am, I find ways to sabotage my own happiness, as if I don't deserve it all. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that I'm lucky and loved, these glass-half-empty-isms fill me with feelings of inadequacy, dissatisfaction and guilt.
Did I say me? I meant we. All of us. All women.
We struggle every day to achieve a happy, balanced life, yet we allow the slightest misstep to throw us off-kilter. And it's usually the little things that knock us sideways—family squabbles, friend tensions, job uncertainty, body-image issues. I think of these as X, Y, Z problems because they're the ones that should come at the end of a list of happiness stealers. The life-and-death issues—illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, financial ruin, real trauma—we tend to face with courage, forbearance, even grace. Our challenge is to make sure our minor problems don't grow into full-scale issues because we've allowed them to persist and take over our lives. In fact, if you don't take care of an X, Y or Z problem, it can become a major life event. Think about it: Being bored in bed can be a precursor to seeking out other flirtations, even infidelity, and then you have a potential big problem, as in divorce.