Marcy S., age 47, North Carolina

Lord, if I could only relax and enjoy life. Pickett signed his letter “we wish you happiness and laughter and peace.” And that’s what I wish for my family and myself. But there’s always (nearly) this holding back inside me, this feeling that happiness occasions, it won’t last. And it’s not a superficial happiness I want — everything going along smoothly, no problems — it’s the deep joy and peace of experiencing God’s love and acceptance and presence.

It’s as if I’m forever saying “no” to life, to love, to happiness and peace, to good feelings and good things.

Is it because I really enjoy being miserable and lonely and unhappy? Maybe so. But that’s just as much of a prison as being miserable because of deeply ingrained feelings of unworthiness, etc.

Both of my parents had a good sense of humor and I remember many happy times when I was a child. But they were also grimly serious about the evils of drinking and “too much” social life, and that it wasn’t right to enjoy extra comforts when some people are starving or homeless.

I think I feel that it’s somehow wrong to be happy or to enjoy life when there’s so much suffering in the world. Even though this isn’t logical because my being miserable is only adding to the suffering, not alleviating it.