This is a weird picture.
Someone drew this on the sidewalk, the arrow pointing the way. This was somewhere over in the West Village – my awful NYC nose had turned me round yet again and I’d walked three blocks in the wrong direction before I realised it – where the skyscrapers were thinned out and sticks on the horizon and Midtown seemed a world away. I just had time to snap off a few shots of both horizons and chug a water bottle (the temperature was soaring) before turning on my heel and beginning the long unnecessary schlep back into the interior.
I never got to see where that arrow went. Or what was at the end of it.
ut maybe the arrow wasn’t the point. “Happiness” is often twinned with a longing or a tale of somewhere else. Going somewhere else, being somewhere else, being someone else. It’s always movement away from the now. But in that level of thinking is the “now” unhappy?
Obviously not, but it defines experience on some unspoken, unreported level. Pigeonholes states into inferior and superior groups to be offered up for future debate, used as ammunition in arguments over careers, second guessed and festering which of course is never their intention.
You can’t live a life in hindsight. This could be why I’ve never fully embraced the whole Twitter phenom. If you spend your life constantly commenting in real time on issues breaking instantly you’re going to miss a lot of the now. And even if you don’t I don’t think you could experience the here and now to the same degree as if you watched the whole event (whatever it may be) unimpeded. Is it that important to distill anything critical down to a hashtag?
I think the result of this continuous commentary is a loss of positive moment. or even worse, the moment becoming polluted by random negativity; a chain reaction of memory, second-guessing and regret that results in one giant cacophony of angst. A clusterfuck as our American military brethren say.
You don’t have to remember everything, and you don’t have to forget everything. I think at times memories are like shoes. You like them, you buy them, you wear them. But like all things they get replaced for newer, shinier models. So they end up in the wardrobe, forgotten. If you don’t then wear them in a year let them go. People change, so you shouldn’t hold onto the things that you forget. What’s the point? To remind yourself of how lousy your life was? So then life becomes like David Tennant circa 2010. You love him to death but after one tragic loss and disaster after another sorrow gives way to irritation.
What has all this got to do with happiness?
The idea that the here and the now isn’t as bad as you think it is. It’s hard, you wish it was easier, but do you wish it was less?
I’ve written my first novel. It will probably never be published (I will give it the best chance it can get mind you) but I can admit now that I had the best time ever writing the thing. It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. 20 months of stress and labour. And it’s horrible to slog away at a 10 hour shift, then get home shattered, eat something and face an hour and a half of editing before you do the whole thing again; week after week, after week. You create these characters and then you put them through hell. It’s cathartic. And I see how much good it did me writing the thing. It allowed me to prove to myself that I could do it.
One of my highschool teachers once told me that the people who have more on their plates often accomplish more. They test themselves, they make the time they need and they hit their marks. I’ve noticed this, and anyone who has multiple children can attest this too. Time management is the key to the universe.
I had time management down to a science on that New York trip. So much so that my hamstrings paid the price severely and my left knee is now permanently damaged as a result. But my mom picked me up on the airport and she said that I was glowing as I limped through the immigration gates. Happiness. I think it changes as we change. It goes from the latest Barbie accessories to the latest designer fashions to the attentions of someone you’re willing to be honest with. But when the honeymoon glow wears off what are you left with?
Hopefully what you intended but you then have to learn to adapt your impression of that item of clothing or that person or that dream job; but if it’s true then the happiness should remain. The lustre should remain.
When it came to books I’ve noticed this sensation for years now. This is partially why I read so slowly and why I often have several books on the go at once. I don’t want them to end. Because the task of reading them is often the best part. D’you eat an expensive meal quickly? Of course not, it’s not McDonalds. It’s the same with good books. It once took me a year and half to read Stephen King’s The Stand. I know some people who read that book in 3 days. Neither result is the correct one. But the first one is the correct one for me.
Happiness for me is empathy. It’s understanding. It’s appreciation. It’s noticing things that mean so much, things that might not be spoken aloud. You find that and that’s important. Someone who helps with those things, or you helping someone else, that’s special. That’s happiness.
That and the chance to draw upon the sidewalk one baking hot September day.