I’m happy. Profoundly so. I want to say that I’m happier than I’ve ever been, but I have a tendency to think that at any given time, that same way you always think you’ve never been in love before just as soon as you are, again.
But I am happy, and the most striking thing for me is that for once, I’m feeling that way on my own, as plain old me. I have not accomplished very many desirable cultural markers. My marriage failed, and I’m childless. I’m not engaged and I don’t own a house. I don’t have an iPad or an iPhone or an iAnything. I don’t have a lot of money, and my wardrobe is downright pitiful. I am happy for very little reason at all, as far as I or anyone else can tell, and that makes me feel safe, insulated from the ups and downs of those two most revered economies, love and money. If you can be happy without a reason, there is nothing to guard.
Perfection has tumbled from my grasp, thank God. If you’re still slaving toward an existence worthy of a photo spread in a magazine, you probably have no idea what a blissful relief this can be, like taking off pantyhose at the end of a beautiful evening that nonetheless required a great deal of bickering and sucking in and fussing with your hair.
I’m playful in grocery store lines, in the DMV. I string up colored lights. I sing. I dance my feet into blisters. I roll out dough. I pump the bicycle pedals. I scritch cats and dogs and bunnies and any other friendly creature that comes my way. I make terrible puns. I feel fall-to-my-knees grateful that I’m alive, I’m healthy, and I’m employed. I recognize hard times, tough days, and bad moods as temporary, as separate from who and what I am. I come home and I kick the snow off my boots and I say hello to my run-down, leaky, drafty home as a place that I am truly glad to be. I fall asleep smiling, often with a cat purring under my chin.
Happiness is not something I feel when I stop to think about it. It’s not something I am only willing to concede when someone points it out. I feel it, almost all the time, woven into everything, this sense of pleasurable wonder. I crack open cold cans and I perch them on ledges in steamy bathtubs and I read. I read, and I learn, and I am awed by all of it, by the slosh of the Pacific ocean while the world spins too fast underneath it for it to catch up, by the piles of dinosaur bones cleared from the construction site of the Parthenon.
I read about suffering, too, about the sorts of things no one wants to know about. Hate. Violence. Cruelty. Loaded guns used as instruments of rape on tiny baby girls in the Congo (and sometimes discharged, with catastrophic results). Sick women left outside at night, as food for the dogs. Horrible things. Unspeakable things. Humbling things. I sit there in the warm water with my hair twisted up on top of my head and a book in my hands and I feel so lucky that it makes itself into some sort of fierce, unarticulated prayer.
I drop possessions off at Goodwill by the carload. I roll up rugs, I toss out pillows. I give away dinner plates, crock pots, picture frames. I’m getting lighter, so light that I could almost step off a windowsill and disappear, like in Peter Pan. What I keep is dear to me, just a few pounds here and there of treasure.
But if I should lose that, too, it will be all right. Something else will come, and I’m done carrying whatever doesn’t want to be mine. None of it matters; almost nothing matters. I would have expected such a realization to be terrifying, not freeing, but it turns out I didn’t know anything. I’m trying to remember to laugh about the fact that I never will.
I’m happy, and I am grateful for that, but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this because sometimes, happiness feels isolating and unfashionable and annoying to other people, and because sometimes, joy can be startlingly lonely, and because I keep hoping that I am wrong when I think that nobody wants to hear about this.
I want you to be happy, too. And if you are, I want you to be my friend.