Ignorance is Bliss

Canadian Family magazine’s challenge at BlissDom Canada 2011 was to write about finding our bliss. I was so fortunate to land on the runner up list of articles. Special thanks to Canadian Family Magazine! Here is the piece I wrote:

A query posed at the BlissDom Canada social media conference about “finding your bliss” has turned into the thought that keeps my mind spinning when I am reading Dora the Explorer for the 100th time to my daughter. The more I think about it, the more I am becoming convinced that there is something very relevant in the old adage that ignorance is bliss.

Sitting at a Starbucks one grey Saturday morning, getting my weekly kid break, provided by my dear husband, I was listening to two teenage girls lamenting something or other about a boy they knew. I thought how lucky they were to have these problems to wrangle with, that they seemingly had no idea about what life might hold for them and that perhaps, just perhaps, this was a good thing. I tweeted this out and someone responded that ignorance was bliss. Yes! My fellow tweeter was on to something!

The irony is that the blissful ignorance is a state you can only truly understand when you are no longer ignorant of something. Childbirth, for example. Despite having read mountains of literature on birth and babyhood, including one fascinating piece about women who orgasm during the final stages of labour, I remained blissfully ignorant of the gritty, messy, bloody and painful reality of it. This was a good thing, too, or I might never have gone through with it and we wouldn’t have our wee face. If I had it all to do again now, knowing what I know, I would have to go through three stages of denial first. I could no longer claim blissful ignorance. Denial isn’t bliss: In the back of your mind, in the furthest recesses of your brain, the truth still looms. (And for the record, no orgasm.)

Bliss is defined, by Merriam-Webster, as “complete happiness.” The antonym is, not surprisingly, “hell.” The life of a mom, wife, business owner, reader and bill payer flies wildly between these two extremes. Though I wouldn’t, even at the worst moments, characterize my life as hell, it certainly has moments of hellishness. The last hours of labour and the weeks of sitting on an ice pack that followed the birth of my daughter, for example. Or that point around 11 a.m. when my dear girl, who had earlier refused all forms of breakfast nourishment and was not even remotely pleased with the snacks that I brought, pitched a screaming fit at the zoo. I looked around wildly for a Starbucks. Or a drinking fountain that spouted vodka. Or Nanny McPhee. When none of these materialized, I picked up the kiddo and we headed for the exit. I found no bliss in that moment whatsoever.

Then there are moments of true bliss, like when my husband and I were recently at a Japanese restaurant with our two-year-old daughter. The waitress asked us what we would like to drink and Nikki looked at her and clearly pronounced that she would like “white milk, please.” I cried on my edamame. It was the first time she had responded to a direct query by a stranger, without prompting from mommy. To a non-mom, this probably doesn’t seem very blissful. To me, it was the culmination of hours of repetition, teaching Nikki to be polite and respond politely when spoken to. It is precisely these seemingly small moments that make all the hellishness worthwhile.

Life just isn’t as simple as being defined as blissful or not. It isn’t an either-or proposition. Life can be messy, sticky, glorious and thrilling, all at the same time. Having reached a certain age, I can no longer claim ignorance about the world around me. For this, I envy my daughter at this stage in her life. She is ignorant of most negatives in this world. She knows nothing of debt crises, Gadhafi, Darfur or Rob Ford. Her world is all about those scrumptious macarons from the French patisserie near Grandma’s house and going to the park for a swing before dinner. She is in a state of bliss that I hope to keep her in for as long as possible and perhaps I can live along with her, vicariously.

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