“I’m happy but I ache”


Journals are important. The mind distorts memories, it twists and changes the truth of what happened as soon as it happened. Every time we recall that memory we save over the former memory with a newer, updated version of how we remember it. Of course, we are also the greatest source of bias. We only remember things the way we saw it happen.

I like looking back and seeing how my life has changed every year, every few months or so. Sometimes it is striking how little changes. Sometimes I wonder how I ever made it to where I am now.

I was reading through my journal for last February and I found that I used the same phrase more than once, and some combination of that idea in almost every post. I am happy but I ache [february 14th, 2013I was happy but … [february 15th, 2013]


Thinking about parts of my life as storybooks that open and close is helpful in moving forward and becoming stronger. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people will rationalize the faults of their relationships. I am happy except for these very important things that are completely unchangeable. I spend a lot of time on reddit in r/relationships and it’s echoed frequently there as well. I am so happy and love my partner very much and they are great for me except actually theres this huge problem I have that cannot be fixed. Maybe if I just wait, maybe it will be different, I like them so much, I’ll figure it out.

Why is it that we can say “I am very happy and totally satisfied” and “but I have been hurt, and my relationship is actually making me unsatisfied” in the same sentence? Why is it that I look back and see “I’m happy, but with such frequency?

I think that it can be difficult to realize that you are unhappy if nothing in your world has changed except you and what you want. Maybe you’re confused. These things used to make me happy, why don’t they make me happy anymore? Maybe you bundle up the things in your life as a happiness package (noun) and expect that happiness package to carry out the experience (adjective) of happiness. It worked before, shouldn’t it work now? But then it doesn’t and that’s confusing because you think you’re happy. You must be happy. You have all the things that made you happy before.

I think about this a lot for couples in their 20s or 30s who are going through exceptional shifts in life goals, or life plans, and their wants and desires are changing. What do you do when what used to make you happy makes you go “… but.” Where do you take that hesitancy? How do you differentiate between the need for change within a relationship and the need to end a relationship? How can we stop delaying our happiness as soon as we realize we are unhappy?

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Mistress L says:

    That’s interesting. I actually just looked back at some old Livejournal entries from years ago and discovered the same thing. I believe is has to do with not wanting to admit we’ve allowed our self to get into a situation where we have become unhappy. It always seems so simple when it’s others we’re telling, if you’re not happy then get out/leave/find someone new/etc but with yourself it’s hard to take that leap from what’s been safe.


  2. meggsy1Megan says:

    I have my diaries from my teen years and when I read them I sometimes cry with the heartache I get from reading the things I did back then. I am happy (NOW) but I do regret and am ashamed of some of my past. I am glad others have a past whether it be good or bad. My diaries are in a locked bank safety box because they would be dangerous should they ever be read by anybody that knows me now.
    I should be ashamed of my past but it was me back then and I cant change that,


  3. Lisa Reed says:

    Everything you’ve ever done makes you who you are right now. If you ever start to drift and forget why you like or don’t like certain things, all you need to do is take a stroll down Memory Lane and realize that there’s probably an experience that made you have such strong feelings.

    You shouldn’t be ashamed of who you used to be. Maybe you did things you wouldn’t have done if you’d known better, but, undoubtedly, you learn the most from your own mistakes. Not your rights, but your wrongs, and certainly not someone else’s wrongs.

    If you want to start celebrating yourself and who you are now, you must come to terms with who you were before. Keeping an objective journal will help you do this without lying to yourself. Great post!


  4. Horia says:

    I disagree with the binary classification of “happy” versus “unhappy” in which you’ve framed this discussion. Happiness is not only a continuous valued metric, but it is furthermore conditioned on utility.

    Example: one might be 70% happy in their relationship, and 70% happy with their career; the amount of effort required to change their relationship (or end it) might be significantly less than the amount of effort required to change their career; but changing their career would qualitatively mean much more to this person, so the economics of their daily life dictate that they work their career and accept their relationship as is.


  5. Horia says:


    Naturally , that example only holds when the degrees of happiness are equal. If the same person was 30% happy in their relationship, they would would allocate their time and energy into changing their relationship instead of their career. Unless their career meant everything and they didn’t really care about their relationship (at least not anymore).

    I believe this phenomenon is responsible for many people voicing “I am happy but I ache.” Those aches are more of a nuisance and less of a motivating pain, compared to other metrics on which they judge themselves.

    Of course, the internet allows us to dawn whichever Character Mask we desire, while affording us the anonymity needed to step into and out of that role while seamlessly managing our actual life and our daily concerns.


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