In the Unlikely Event of My Happiness
I’ve been freezing up at the keyboard. This last week freaked me out a bit. In the course of a week, my subscribed followers jumped by 1000+ readers, crossing over the 10,000 mark. The Likes on this Freshly Pressed post exceeded 1400. I answered 300+ comments.
I’d never experienced anything like this in the four years I’ve been blogging. I have to believe that it is because, for the first time ever on this blog, I used the word “clusterfuck”.
I’ve had the thought all week that okay, I’m done. Really, where do I go from here? Does this extra attention mean I need to change my blog theme, open a Twitter account, punch up my rhetoric, Instagram a boob selfie and find a picture from 20 years ago where I look less wrinkly and put it on the blog? What is expected of me now?
Panic. That’s what an introvert does when they get a little attention. The moment of glee morphed into dread over the week. Give me a moment of unmitigated joy and I’ll anxiously stomp on it before someone or something else does. Premeditated squashing.
This is how I move forward, never lingering too long, never resting on laurels, never asking for more. I think about happiness and what that might mean for me. I think about all the well-meaning advice of the attitude-of-gratitude-too-blessed-to-be-stressed crowd. I think, as I often have over the years, what is wrong with me?
It’s easy to be a discontented, restless, and striving person in a world that feeds it. Consumerism is based on fomenting dissatisfaction, while memes of puppies, flowers and Buddhists exhort us to be happy in the moment. Meanwhile, Likes, Hits, Follows, Stars, Views, are all feeding the message that more is better. But more is just more.
When it comes to figuring out what makes a person happy, it gets weird. We are so often told what should/might/will likely make us happy that when it doesn’t, we’re left feeling that there is something wrong with us. I must remind myself what has, historically, been happy-making for me.
Solitude. I am often happiest as a party of one. It’s when I’m working in the garden, dirty from head to toe with sweat dripping into my eyes. Sitting back on my haunches, I notice the flurry of life around me, bees and butterflies and frantic squirrels – and I get to be right in the middle of it. Being part of something greater, I feel the privilege of being alive.
Love. Never one long for sentiment, I feel my attachments like ligaments to bone. A child who makes me see everything all over again. A man who baffles me with patience. Friends who have raucous laughs and who are, when I say “I need to be alone”, understanding, not bruised.
A story. There’s that ending to a book, when I sit back and sigh. Marvelous. The writer was a magician performing sleight of hand. Who wouldn’t want that kind of skill – the ability to take a reader out of themselves?
Odd sources of happiness. I’m happiest when my desk is clean, when I’ve written something that makes me laugh, when I’m in the middle of a run, looking on the verge of a cardiac event, red-faced and dripping with sweat. There are extrinsic things that make me happy: coffee, when I make someone else laugh, live music, and being outdoors.
Like the ten pairs of glasses a middle-aged myopic owns, the things that make me happy have never been where I looked for them. It’s in the looking and striving that causes the disappointment and pain. In never expecting happiness as a given, I find myself constantly surprised.
I think of that unalienable right, in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, to the “pursuit of happiness”. Pursuit suggests a high speed chase, and less a saunter. If happiness requires a chase, it’s getting away. I stroll. I sit on park benches for long periods of time. And when a happy event runs me over, I have to sit with it for a long time to see that it’s a good thing.
In the end, I’ve realized that the things that make me happy will likely always make me happy, with an occasional addition, like my current addiction to burritos or meeting fellow writers.
When something happens, like a blog post exploding, I can marvel/freak out in the moment, but then it’s time to get back to being me, a bemused, caffeinated, and sardonic depressive who likes to write. Whee. Let the good times roll.