"Would you consider yourself to be a happy or a sad person?" I asked randomly, still moving my hand up and down my makeshift canvas. I don't know exactly why I asked in that moment or what I hoped would come from this conversation. She looked back at me, equally if not more confused, as she tried to formulate an answer. It was as though the thoughts that had been swirling above her had stopped moving, an answer waiting to be plucked from them.
"Like in a resting state, or a normal day... are you a happy or sad person?" I reiterated.
"I'm more happy," she said slowly but assuredly. I nodded immediately as it made sense to hear that answer come from her. She was very different from me. She seemed like a person who found it somewhat easier to be happy, but although she was my friend I didn't want to just assume things about her life, so I asked her. We talked a bit more on the subject about emotions and the mind. I've always been very aware of my vulnerability to depression, but that conversation remains a very vivid memory about what it is going to take for me to be 'happy', By the way, as if to prove the point of my resting state of sadness, I ended up drawing an homage to lost love that day .
Happiness has been weirdly packaged as this almost tangible, reachable thing. I used to believe that happiness was a goal to be reached. To think of it that way is just asking for fear. My relationship with the idea of happiness is a weird one - not because I don't want it, but because I would be too scared to lose it if I did have it. I've self-sabotaged myself in so many ways, so many times because I have learned to live without happiness rather than allowing myself to have anything worth losing. I don't know if it's just me, but my lows in life have felt devastating to a point where I do everything to avoid pain. Truly avoiding pain means avoiding happiness by default and entering a state of numbness. Sometimes it feels as though as I'm just weak and silly for complaining about something that everyone goes through, and other times I can't help but think that life affects me differently, that my lows are somehow lower, deeper, wider than they should be.
I've gone through life watching other find happiness and exude happiness in ways that feel or look practically unattainable to me. I find myself asking, "But, how can I do that?", "How can I even begin to have that." There's a trap out there when it comes to happiness, in that people would have you believe that happiness is and should be the same for everyone - that what makes one person happy, should be the same for the next person. There's also this idea of equating happiness with success and fulfillment. I've never considered them to be the same thing. Yet I've always felt dehumanized by the expectation that to be considered a functional and successful human being, I need to be happy. If you're not happy, you're broken - perpetuating the illusion that not being 'happy' in the way that the world sells it means that you are depressed or sad or unfulfilled. I don't understand where this monopoly over emotions came from. Now, it's a weird thing to try to justify and let me set the record straight - I'm not anti-happiness (what a weird statement). I just don't believe that the pursuit of happiness has been used or packaged in a healthy or realistic way. It has been used as a illusive ad unattainable ideal to draw people into doing and consuming things under the assumption that it will make their lives better.
I've taken way too long to put these thoughts into one somewhat cohesive blog post. It just goes to show how deep down I have shoved any ability to articulate my emotions outside of myself. Not addressing one's self is so temptingly easy - auto-pilot is always easy. It's just not living... for there is nothing to be felt.
We had had a party and the plastic, white outdoor chairs were due to be stacked up and put away until the next gathering. I don't know how young I was, probably around 5 - apparently old enough to stack chairs... or at least climb up them. I remember thinking, "How many chairs will it I need to stack in order to touch the sky?" I very remember standing on a stack of chairs (I wouldn't be surprised if it were only 2 or 3) and reaching up to the overcast sky with the expectation that I would be able to touch it, that I would so easily have the answer to my initial question. The world tells you that happiness is the sky. You don't realize that happiness hides in the chairs and the way you climb them and who you climb them with. You become so concerned and impatient, that you start to question whether the sky is worth it and sometimes you even abandon the task and go inside, leaving a stack of chairs in the middle of the patio. I've since come to learn that you can't actually touch the sky (how disappointing), but that makes for an even better metaphor. Don't fall for the illusion that happiness is something to obtained with finality and certainty - it's in the chairs you stand upon, it's in the eyes of the people watching over you, it's in the very air that surrounds you. Look around on your way upward, there is happiness to be revealed to you... and don't fear that you will lose it because you most definitely will. But that loss is not final, either.