September 14, 2009

C'mon, Get Happy

I read an entry in the great book, Obsolete: The Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing us by that really gave me pause - it was how sadness is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.

On the surface, one might think that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I mean, given the choice, who (besides emo boys and blues musicians) would really choose to be sad? It's really hard to be around mopey people all the time, too. "Cheer up!", we say, as though it were a command. Maybe what we're really saying is, "I'm sick of your attitude. Now snap out of it or I'm going to stick my foot where the sun does not shine."

But the opposite of sadness - if you ask any 6 year-old, anyway - is happiness. Right? Has someone ever asked you flat out if you were happy (besides in the relationship realm)? What does that really mean, to be happy?

So I asked myself: am I truly happy? I am definitely as content as I possibly could be. All of my needs are met - food, clothing, shelter, art supplies - and I certainly feel peaceful with Brian and all that fun mushy stuff.

I know that music can definitely make me giddy - the right song, at the right time of day? Why, it's almost magical. I was sitting in our local coffee shop the other day when a Gordon Lightfoot song came on, and the light of the day was just right and the temperature was perfect and it smelled so good, I almost burst with joy for 3 minutes. I love it when that happens. But is it happiness?

I know that there are days - you can never try and create them, they just happen - that I'll remember for the rest of my life. They are wonderful days, where everything just went the way it was supposed to, and they weren't necessarily spectacular days. Just perfect. I felt totally at ease and relaxed on those days.

I think our modern-day definition of "happiness" may have been dreamt up by ad execs. But the caveat with this so-called happiness is that it's deliberately fleeting. "I'll for sure be happy when...."; "If only I had this one blankety-blank, I'd be all set....", etc. But where does it end? There's a great line from "The Princess Bride", where Buttercup accuses Wesley of mocking her pain. Wesley replies, "Life is pain. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something."

Life is pain? That's a little harsh. There are always going to be painful times in one's life, but it's a little pessimistic to say that life is pain. So maybe, somewhere between "happiness" and "life is pain" is where we should strive to be. To be able to live with the reality that we'll be up, and we'll be down, and mostly we'll be hovering in the creamy middle. And that's perfectly fine with me.

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