Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

From time to time, A Life Unexpected will bring you guest blog entries. Today’s entry was written by my lovely and talented wife, who offers a unique perspective as the spouse of an unemployed person. Often times, the spouse is overlooked, but it’s important to remember that unemployment affects everyone. During my unemployment, she has handled a difficult situation nearly flawlessly. She has been an incredible source of inspiration. I encourage everyone to show your support and leave her a comment or even email us at:


A Guest Blog by Trish aka Hungry Dog Heaven

It was 2007 when my husband finished his PhD. For years we had been patient, understanding that after all of the long hours of schooling and scraping-by on my non-profit salary, we would reap the rewards of stability…

Also for years, my own job with a national organization had been subject to the perils of a struggling economy. I had been working without any support staff since December 2006. In March 2009, in an effort to reduce organizational overhead costs, I agreed to close our New Jersey office and moved operations to our tiny beach bungalow by the bay.

I took conference calls in my pajamas. I did laundry while writing grant proposals. I snuggled with our dogs while creating training curricula and started dinner in-between sending and receiving emails. There were some perks, for sure.

Then the economy really started to take a turn and the state funding for my husband’s post-doctoral fellowship was not renewed. Then…he was unemployed.

This was last August.

Since then, working from home has taken on a different feel as I take conference calls locked in my bedroom, praying my colleagues on the other end don’t hear my son in the background. I repeatedly fight my mama-urge to throw open the door and swoop-in with healing smooches and comforting cuddles when I hear him crying. My bed does double-duty as a desk on days when it is too hot to work in my make-shift office in the attic.

There are days where I crave the peace and structure of an office – to remember what “normal” life was like. Life before this life - this life of uncertainty and fear and chaos and doubt.

But…there are other days. Days where I take a lunch break with my son at his kiddie-sized table. I read him books about ocean animals as he eats alphabet-shaped tater-tots. I run out to get a glass of water and am able to steal a quick kiss from my two favorite guys. I can hear them outside playing – throwing balls, laughing, squealing….living!

Maybe this is the life we’re supposed to live. A life with little means, but full of heart. Maybe we don’t need a bigger house. Maybe we can make things work. Often, I think…I don’t want this to end.

When my husband returns to work, our house will be quiet again. Our son will return to school. I will be able to take conference calls with ease and we will be on-track – working towards that life for which we had been longing. We will be back into the routine of the working-world. The world where we see our colleagues more than we see each other, where our son sees his teachers more than he sees us and we rush-around trying to squeeze the most into our limited time together.

I think, perhaps, I’m on the brink of a perspective shift. Why do we need a bigger house if, in order to afford it, we have to work so hard we’re rarely there to enjoy it? Why can’t we take this experience and turn it upside down? Why can’t we say that this time, this time of economic uncertainty, was the time that changed our life for the better? We can do that, right? When life hands you lemons…

It’s challenging – reconciling dreams lost and being bold enough to carve new dreams out of current realities. The fear of failure is palpable. The stress of uncertainty is oppressive. But, the reality is that the dreams we had when we were in our twenties do not have to be the dreams we work to fulfill in our thirties and beyond. They are our dreams – to be achieved, dismissed, dismantled and reassembled as we please.

My dream is for us to be happy. To laugh loudly without apology. To embrace the joy in the little things – the wind in our hair, the sun on our face, the smell of the seasons. Life gives us the ability to be happy!

I’m shifting perspectives in pursuit of this happiness and the thing is, I think we’re there. We just need to be brave enough to hold onto it.


  1. Amazing Trish!!!!!! Such inspiring words.

  2. Patty you are always inspiring! You are a strong and loving person and I know your husband and son appreciate you and love you with all their heart. I agree that our ideas and goals we had in our twenties are not necessicarily those we have as we grown and have a family... We realize with a family that we love, we are willing to do anything to be happy and to spend quality time with them. As you, stated I totally agree that happiness is the key! I know we all have had a rough time in the last several years but I do know that you and your family are well loved by family and friends near and far! All I can say is that I am inspired by both of you and I am working hard to be happy especially with the arrival of my first child and living in a new state. We are all given choices in life, but you two have chosen to be positive and proactive and even let others see how your life is one is perfect, but you two are following your hearts and being happy - which is not always easy. I commend you both on being strong and not giving up!

  3. If I ever won a big lottery jackpot, don't be surprised if you get a check in the mail. Honestly, you and your husband have taken a situation that many people could not handle and turned it into a challenge that I know you guys will overcome! Truly inspiring!

  4. Well Trish, I thought Jay was the "writer" in the family and now I know he has competition. You two are an amazing couple and L is so lucky to have such great and grounded parents as role models. Love you both!

  5. Trish, this is SO powerful and really made me think:
    "The world where we see our colleagues more than we see each other, where our son sees his teachers more than he sees us and we rush-around trying to squeeze the most into our limited time together."
    I feel like its hard to accept that situation as 'happiness', and yet so many of us stretch ourselves to achieve it. My perspective just might be a bit different after reading this. My husband was unemployed too, I shared this blog with him. I wish your family the best of luck and all the love in the world to get through whatever life hands you!

  6. Beautiful words, Trish! Really thought provoking. I wish the right path, whatever that may be, for the three of you!!

  7. Great 'guest spot' Trish! Inspiring, for sure!

  8. Beautifully written, Trish!

  9. Ahhh, I remember in grade school how impressed the teachers were with your writing ability. Now I remember why! I love your blog, and its so very true. Working in healthcare, I see so many sad families, sad situations, people whose lives have been ended too soon and the struggles their families go through. I see older people who are forced to adapt to an ailing body, a new disease, a million meds....I know you see all this in the careers you both have entered. But what inspires me most is that you both GET IT. You truly appreciate the important things in life, you grasp every good thing you can, you roll with the bad things, and you have such a positive outlook on every situation you encounter and have such an open mind. This is the way I try to live my life...but on some days, when I have 3 kids creating such chaos and it seems nothing is going my way...I need a perspective check and thats what you and Jay have brought me by sharing your stories and feelings and most importantly, appreciating LIFE. Its truly inspiring. -Carolyn B

  10. You again make me smile - what a great way to begin my day! One arrives at wisdom and clarity when s/he is open, recognizes and embraces his/her unique change. As you've realized, you alone are responsible for your happiness :-) Continued recognition of your uniqueness; every day is a gift!

  11. I thought the comment below was something we all should think about!
    Thank you!

    It’s challenging – reconciling dreams lost and being bold enough to carve new dreams out of current realities.

  12. I marvel everyday at the women you have become, you make me proud to say I'm your Mom. You always have the ability to take the lemons of life and make lemonade. To know you as at peace with your life comforts me. You inspire me to try to look at life differently. You will survive this and be happy with your life. You are a great person, mother, wife, and daughter.

  13. Trish -I just read your blog post and i am going to read it as often as possible, words to live by. These tears don't need a tissue, they just need to fall because they are tears that run the gamut of emotions, these tears represent my feelings of being so extremely thankful to have you and jay and link in my family, tears that reflect my admiration for you and my brother, tears that represent my love for you guys and tears that show just how much words and writing can affect someone in a good way...that words can make a person reflect on their own life.So I'm going to cry and let it out...because these are tears of joy and sadness. Thank you for your words


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.