The Next Happy: A Love Letter


While anonymously blogging as Little Ms. J in 2010 I posted a blog, “137.” I started by explaining that the number 137 is referred to as the fine structure constant and some years ago a mathematician was drawn to its significance relating to Jungian archetypes. I, of course, had no idea what any of that meant, but I quickly got to the point:

“I just know that today it is the most beautiful number in the whole wide world because it counts the beats of my baby’s heart. We don’t smile with our teeth showing just yet, that would be too soon, but did I mention that my baby has 137 beats to it’s little heart in one whole minute?”

My cousin, a physicist, corrected me in the comments, “Technically, the fine-structure constant is approximately 1/137 = 7.3*10^-3. But, that’s rather immaterial, isn’t it? Congratulations to you and your hub! Glad your hard work paid off.”

It was a lot of hard work. During the work I met another blogger who I bonded with over our fertility struggles. I was not in a place to be happy for anyone who announced pregnancy when I was being shot up with hormones and looked at cooing babies and happy moms with disdain. Tracey, however, was the first to comment, “I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HAPPY FOR YOU. I would put in 137 “o”s but that is a little much. Big congrats to you and your baby daddy.

I immediately emailed her to express my gratitude that she had the resolve and kindness within her to express such well wishes. I never forgot it. She didn’t either. Tracey and I have kept up with one another and I’m so proud of her journey. She has turned her own experience into a best selling behemoth of a beauty, THE NEXT HAPPY: Let Go Of The Life You Planned and Find A New Way Forward (I may even be in the acknowledgments). I asked her recently if she’d write a love letter to LORE readers as she is such a strong and beautiful example of the grace of letting go.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Tracey Cleantis.

Image 8

You’ve Come A Long Way Baby: A Journey From Grief To Happiness In Five Short Years

On September 20th, 2010, while in the midst of a whole lot of childless-not-by-choice grief, I wrote the following to Ms. J, upon learning of her pregnancy:

I want you to know that it is not every blogger whom reading about their pregnancy would I feel real and true joy — for you, I really and truly feel
That. I am so happy for you. I really am. xoxo

In revisiting my 2010 letter-writing self I am struck by several things.

One: Where have five years gone?

Two: I am happy that at height of my certainty and conviction that “I will never-ever-ever be fully happy because I didn’t get what I wanted most” I could manage real happiness for Ms. J. I wasn’t very good at that with other people.

Three: I have come a long way in being really and truly happy for other people who have kids and it is no longer something I have to pretend with forced pseudo-smiles, saccharine sentiments, a double-shot of piping hot envy, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

Four: When I was trying to conceive there was no telling me that I could be happy without a child of my own. I was totally and absolutely sure that without a child I would feel empty, lonely, unhappy, incomplete and like a failure, hence my willingness to undergo endless rounds of costly, painful and heartbreaking infertility treatment. I can now say — and this is the BIG news — that I was wrong! Let me say that again. I was wrong. I was desperately, horribly, tragically and categorically wrong about my belief that I couldn’t be happy without a child. Today, as I was in 2010, I am childless-not-by-choice and I am also very happy. Yes, I am happy without a child. This is the most surprising part for me. My life is rich, full and very very happy, even without what I wanted most. I have a successful therapy practice, a best-selling book, a wonderful partner, an adorable dog. Yes, I still wish, on occasion, for the joys of mothering, but mostly I don’t.

The unshakable belief I had that my happiness could only be determined by being a mother is what I want to really talk to you about, and not because I imagine you too are childless-not-by-choice, but rather because I think this kind of prognosticating and predicticting about what will or will not make us happy is pretty much human nature. As a rule, here is how it goes: we want something and we want it bad. We are pretty sure we know what getting this thing or experience (guy, job, house, baby, car, goal, weight loss, or whatever) will give us. We will be happy, feel loved, secure, worthwhile, and complete and life will finally be as we imagined it to be. We may even decide that it is the absolutely only way we can be happy, and this, I believe, is a red flag and a glowing flashing, screaming warning sign that we are doing ourselves a disservice and limiting our happiness in a big way.

In 2013, years after giving up on the hope of having a biological child of my own, I was invited to speak at an infertility conference to people who were still trying to conceive. My topic was “How To Be Happy Without Biological Kids Of Your Own.” Until I started to prep for the event I didn’t intellectually understand how much I had really come to know about this topic. I was actually an expert! Even though I had loads to say, I was very afraid that no one would want to hear me. When you are undergoing treatment, it is not the time when you most want to imagine that the treatment might not work. I mean, would you want to hear a lecture from a divorce attorney at a wedding conference? Much to my surprise, there was an audience filled with people who wanted to hear that they could in fact be happy without what they wanted most. As I was sharing my tissue-and-tear-filled journey, I came to see that this was not just a journey for those dealing with infertility; it was something that every human being needs to know about.

Here is the message I want to share to you, to my five-years ago self, and to anyone who is over attached to a single outcome as the source of their happiness:

Getting ___________ will not likely have been as you imagined.
You likely want something from __________ that it would not have given you.
There may be other ways to get the qualities you wanted from ___________ in other ways.

Five. Thing five that I am struck by is that Ms. J and I have been blogging friends for almost six years. She continues to support, cheerlead and share in my joys, and I am delighted to be here on her blog sharing my happy ending. Thank you, Ms. J for having me.

Tracey Cleantis, LMFT is a psychotherapist, best-selling author, workshop leader, blogger and speaker. Tracey has helped thousands of people let go of what isn’t working in their life and get to their Next Happy. Tracey is a frequently featured happiness expert on radio, TV and print media. She has been featured on Fox News, NPR, The Daily Mail, The Daily News, Publishers Marketplace, Psychologies Magazine, Redbook,, Huffington Post, Forest and Bluff, Sheridan Road and Yahoo News, and in Jamie Cat Callan’s book “Bonjour, Happiness”. She is a Huffington Post contributor. Tracey’s best-selling book, The Next Happy: Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward” (Hazelden, 2015 ) is available at bookstores everywhere. In 2016, Tracey’s second book, Self-care is Not a Stupid Candle: How to Give Yourself What You Really Want and Need in Every Area of Your Life will be released by Hazelden.

You can find THE NEXT HAPPY at Tracey’s website ( or purchase on Amazon.

Dig In. Dig Out. Shine.

Meme Shiny Heart

My daughter loves to look at old videos of herself and often scrolls through my albums on Facebook while laughing with her head back, “Mom, look at how silly I was when I was a little baby!” Last week she turned the phone to me and I was awash in memories. I started clicking back to old status updates to remind myself of the flurry of activity surrounding her arrival. In the middle of posts of my baby bump and cravings I came across something unexpected: a snarky, sardonic post in which I made fun of Angelina Jolie’s “chicken legs” and her relationship with Brad Pitt.

Oh my God, what is this?

I felt like I was reading someone else’s words. My nose wrinkled and I felt embarrassed. Who was this girl with all this meanness? I started scrolling back to the days when my world was US Weekly and weekends drinking margaritas at the pool with my girlfriends while we discussed other people. Not ourselves. Not our goals, not our love of anything within, but that which had no meaning to anyone outside a mirror or a selfie. We had entire conversations about lip gloss.

Lip gloss.

Then Olivia wanted my phone back and that was that.

A few days later I read a positive quote on Twitter that made me smile and clicked on it. I love words. Love them. Of course this makes sense for a writer. If you can string along a sentence to make my heart soar I fall in love for just a minute. The happenings of the world fall away from me as I crash into the weight of your vernacular. It is like a high. Right under the quote was a response from a woman that said something along the lines of, “Girl, all your money is making you lose touch with reality.”

Suddenly Twitter became a study in human behavior. I clicked on the woman’s profile and within short time I found a very angry woman who trolled celebrity accounts. She’d seen all their shows, she had opinions about their lives and sometimes she asked them for things. Like shoes for her birthday. After about ten posts in I was sad that she couldn’t see what I could so easily. She was miserable in her own life so she needed to live someone else’s. If they were rich she asked them to share, “you have enough.” If they were lovelorn she bashed their ex. If they were positive she made fun of them.

If they weren’t miserable she didn’t like them.

I thought back to who I was when I posted my snarky celebrity-centric posts. I certainly didn’t ask anyone for anything or follow their lives, but I thought I was funny, biting wit and such. I finished my days with Chelsea Lately, read magazines that had nothing to do with being fit, being healthy, being anything other than interested in someone’s thigh gap and marital status. Not only was I miserable, but I was incapable at looking at myself, within myself, past the baubles I wore as twinkling distractions and the MAC liners I hid behind. My “biting wit” was simply a disguise for my own unhappiness.

I felt compassion for the little troll girl. Not pity, mind you, but an awareness of work. Work that she needs to do within that may never happen, her life, her path, bless.

I found it interesting that I didn’t even realize I’d been on such a journey until a piece of the past, granted a status update, smacked me. I noticed I’ve hidden posts from friends who are unhappy because I don’t want that in my day. I don’t read magazines that glorify beauty over soul or the inner workings of someone’s personal life over their right to privacy, family and respect. I cringe that we cover people the way we do.

Maybe we should cover ourselves first.

Dig in (do the work).

Dig out (of what is holding you back).

Shine (without the lip gloss).