On the brink of a new phase of life, I find my thoughts turn more and more to happiness. Not the actual feeling, the concept I think? For the first time in a long, really long, time my life is changing dramatically. A new place to work, a new place to live...new friends, new struggles...I will just GO to work. And come home. How simple yet how few appreciate the concept.
The last decade has been spent somewhat in suspension - God knows, I truly tried to live fully. I fell in and out of love, I met new faces, I saw more of the world. But as I look around my apartment where the things that mean enough to me to make the move to my new city can fit in one box - I cannot deny that the last decade was not lived completely. I will now have decorations for the holidays - an emotional luxury I have not allowed myself until now. I will not fill my days with study texts but rather books on history and art and, oh God, fiction! I can just read. For fun. I can go to a concert, just because. I can invite someone over for dinner...and not worry about how late we stay up. (I have done these things, obviously, to some degree in the last decade but never enough to constitute a pattern. Rather these have been rare and, dare I say, momentous occasions).
I will have an iron skillet and a wok. And I will make yummy things in my kitchen just because...so that my friends can come over and enjoy a glass of wine while I feed them my creations. I can make museums and parks my routine. I can see my friends...in person!...just because, even across state lines.
Happiness... the word rolls of my tongue. I taste it as the consonants form between my lips. H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S. I like it.
But I am also afraid. For a long time now, and I cannot remember how it started...I cannot submit to happiness. I do not actively seek to be miserable or sanguine. What I mean is - every time I am happy - during an event...a flickering moment captured in time...an experience that will never be forgotten...anything that truly stirs the soul and makes the heart beat faster - that is when suspension happens. My mind separates from my body and I begin to frantically analyze the moment, capturing every detail and cataloguing it (yes actually filing the memory away). I do this BEFORE the moment is even over. Which means that while it is happening instead of submitting to it with closed eyes and an open being I maniacally grab to the pieces and fragments to SAVE, SAVE it for later, SAVE it for when I am sad or alone...SAVE it for when I am old perhaps? This happens without my command...nor is it subject to my control.
I grab my phone and flick, flick, flick ....snap the photos that will help me capture the moment. Instead of losing myself to the emotion I snatch it and preserve it like a rare insect under the glass of my subconscious.
So I am afraid....I am afraid that I will find ways to lose myself in the day to day again...and I won't stop to look at the sunset... and I will blink and a decade will fly past me leaving only photos taken by a stranger to remind me of what once was. I look at pictures of my youth - I still remember how insecure and frustrated I was...yet so young and beautiful and delicately confused. WHY didn't I savor that? Why did I rush to move on and not give those life stages their due? Evolution was key but those steps should have been slower...calmer...colored with patience and a unwavering belief that change would happen as it should, without rushing it along.
Is the answer meditation? Self-help books? Religion? Therapy? Is happiness akin to a discipline that one must practice? Will little exercises every day accumulate to make me happy like the muscles I have trained this year that now glide under my clothes and give me the strength I craved so badly?
I am so fortunate...so thankful...so aware of the positives of my life. But this is different. Comparing my station to others less fortunate is an exercise in gratitude not happiness. Happiness is a different beast. How do you teach someone to be happy? To Enjoy...To Savor...To let my eyes and ears and hands embrace the moment instead of my phone?
I keep reverting to this dream of mine - I am on a small boat sailing at sunset. I am me as I am now (not old nor fragile nor sick) yet I am sitting in a rocking chair wrapped in a thick blanket though it is summer. My mom is next to me and she looks at me as someone looks on one who is terminally ill...with great love, sorrow and a bit of pity. She asks me to look at the sunset...to really look at it. To let the sun bathe me in its soothing light. To listen to the waves splash against the boat. To let the breeze ruffle my hair and not reach up to fix it so that it's perfect again. Her hand is on my back and I feel something on my cheek...it is a tear...I cannot see now because tears are streaming from my eyes...the sun and the water merge in a kaleidoscope of colors and I weep from overwhelming sorrow. I am very old and my mom is just my imagination of her...and I realize that I am alone and crippled by my inability to surrender to this emotion. This is NOT the future I want. This is the nightmare that haunts me now...
How's that for self-actualization? We've acquired food and shelter...conquered higher education and financial stability...and now we are hysterical because we "can't feel happiness." If I weren't me I'd tell me to SIT DOWN. haha
But if we value life for it's experiences...for the people we affect...for the mark we make on the world and the world makes on us...shouldn't the pursuit of happiness equate in value to Maslow's basic needs? A work in progress indeed.