Thursday, March 17, 2011

What Happiness Looks Like
Or: Is Happiness a 60's Muscle Car?

Recently, something really strange occurred to me. It could be, could it be....that I'm happy?

Not happy like brimming with blissfulness all the time, not happy because I finally got something I've wanted for a long time, not happy because I'm rich or freakishly beautiful, or wildly successful (which I'm not). My life is pretty much the same as it was before. I still have days where I'm cranky, sad, or tired. I still get irritated when my cats careen around the house at 4 am. I'm still single and don't want to be. I still say things I shouldn't, still don't exercise like I should, still feel fear and anger and still have some bad days. Still wake up lonely most mornings.

But there's a lack of compulsiveness or obsession that's different than it used to be. It's not mania, and it's not lethargy. Things don't stick as much. It's like my mind is teflon and my emotions just sort of roll off. I still experience emotions: still feel a jolt of joy at receiving a compliment, still feel tongue-tied in a room of people I perceive as more creative/attractive/lucky than me, still feel upset when someone is upset at me.  I'm not completely detached or disassociated. I get upset at pictures from Japan. I still swear at the keyboard sometimes when I type so fast that I make an error. I even still have days when I ruminate. But I see it all clearly, even when I'm in the midst of it. The emotions don't go down to that wounded place inside. They don't pour salt there anymore.

Walking back to the office after lunch, I was musing about first dates, and how they no longer make me nervous. They don't make me nervous because I no longer have any inclination to pretend I'm different than I am. I am me. As much as I would love everyone to like me, I know to some people, I just won't be their cup of tea. And vice versa.

Maybe happiness is really just about not putting pressure on ourselves to be different or to be having a different experience. I know I probably jinxed myself by writing about this and that maybe tomorrow I'll wake up in the clutch of another depression, but right now, the thought doesn't bother me. Because then is not now.

Maybe happiness is just a willingness to let the stuff all go, the gladness and the sadness. To experience it fully, then watch it go on down the road, like the kind of beautifully kept 60's-era muscle cars that always catch my eye. "Wow, nice car!" Then it's back to the present.

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