By John Lee Pendall
She was happier when she got here; I was happier when I got here. We were all happier.
Happiness isn’t one of those things that comes easily or naturally. You can’t just be happy, no matter what some gurus or annoying people might say. You have to work at happiness; you have to find the things that you do that make you and those around you happy. That’s all there is to it. That’s a happy life.
That said, happiness can be destructive. Doing what makes us happy means that we also have to stop doing what makes us unhappy. When we stop something that has that much force behind it, then there’s always chaos, upheaval—change.
Besides maybe the planets racing around the sun, nothing has more force than our own lives. Sure, a jet breaking the sound barrier has more force than I ever will, but it was human lives that made that jet in the first place.
Hearing shit like that, our initial thought might be to do something drastic and harmful. Let’s say your family or partner make you unhappy. It seems like the most logical thing to do would be to leave them, and then without them around, you’d be happy. But that’s not the way it works because then they’ll be unhappy and part of you will always know that they’re unhappy.
It’s impossible for any non-psychopathic person to be truly happy knowing that someone who loves them isn’t.
So, this upheaval for happiness also keeps those who love us in mind; it keeps everyone in mind in some way. Sometimes we have to do something that makes us unhappy in order to make someone else happy. Then their happiness will intensify any happiness we could’ve gotten by glorifying our own selfish needs and disregarding theirs.
One aspect of happiness means totally ditching the urge to hurt anyone else. That means we also have to stop hurting ourselves.
These are some thoughts I had after smoking a bowl and going for a walk in the snow. I was greeted by my cat when I got home, and I realized that I hadn’t really played with her all day. Then I thought back to how active and happy she seemed a few months ago when I had more energy to throw stuffed mice around so that she could chase after them.
My first urge was to head to the laptop to write something—anything. I love to just sit down and write. Instead, I found her favorite toy and threw it around the house for her. When she was tuckered out, I laid down next to her on the floor, pet her and thought about how long I’d known her.
I’ve had this cat for 15 years. 15 years! We’re friends. Then I thought about how much it’s gonna break me when she dies. I mean, I’m gonna be totally fucking shattered. I won’t be surprised if I go on a Fear and Loathing-esque binge across the country.
I know that, when the time comes, I could use concentration methods to reel in the pain, but I don’t think that’s the way to go about things. As a close friend of mine said while she was folding clothes one day, “You’ve gotta feel your feelings.”
So I cried thinking about it, and gave her a hug.
Then I laughed when she squirmed away and tackled one of her toys. I saw that there’s no such thing as “true” happiness or unhappiness when it comes to being a time-being. One moment there’s grief, the next there’s joy. Watching closely, it’s clear that life’s more like the wind than a river. The water moves but a river really doesn’t. None of the water in the Fox River will be the same water that’s in it a few weeks from now, but we’ll still call it the Fox River.
The wind isn’t like that, breezes don’t have names. That’s what we’re like, that’s what our lives are like, and that’s why happiness takes so much work. Happiness doesn’t travel with us, like a drop of water does in the Fox. It’s something we pick up, like the wind stirring up a leaf. That leaf might soar for a moment before hitting a sign and falling back to the ground where’s blown against a pole. As it sits there, the breeze that initially grabbed a hold of it keeps moving on down the road.
We have to keep picking up the causes of happiness and setting down the conditions for misery again and again. It’s a lifelong process, and it doesn’t stop with us because it didn’t start with us. All the leaves we pick up are ones that other breezes blew into our path. Working at happiness is creative and destructive, but happiness and sadness aren’t created—they’re discovered. Like one wind blowing the leaves another one left behind.
So, the more happiness we discover in our lives, the more happiness everyone can discover in theirs
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