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Misery isn’t the only thing that loves company.

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.

26 Comments

  1. jim wrote:

    I didn’t know I wanted to hear about this until it showed up in my feed reader, and then I found myself guzzling it as though I had been parched for days.

    It sounds like you have found the link between lightness and joy. Be light!

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink
  2. Avitable wrote:

    That sounds like a nice place to reach. I’m happy for you!

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink
  3. beck wrote:

    Me too! (Being happy.) Life is such a gift. So beautiful.

    Some days I do feel what you describe here. Other days I think I don’t get enough sleep. Joy, regardless of circumstance, is a very worthy goal.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Permalink
  4. Shannon C. wrote:

    Hear hear! I am slowly finding my way towards happiness, after a few years of not-happiness. I find myself all alone for the first time in a decade and . . . I’m okay with it. And one day, I’ll be good with it. And so on. I’m finding myself again, just as you have/are, and that makes me joyful indeed!

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink
  5. Bethany wrote:

    I am so happy to read this, and I am also so happy to say that I am finally on a similar path. Not quite there yet, but I can see it, just off in the distance.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  6. Teej wrote:

    Happy, and happy for you.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Permalink
  7. MariaV wrote:

    I’m delurking to tell you that reading this made me happy. I’m happy to hear of someone who is happy. I’m happy and grateful for the inspiration.

    Friday, December 24, 2010 at 3:39 am | Permalink
  8. Jessica wrote:

    <3

    Friday, December 24, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink
  9. Titanium wrote:

    This is the GOOD happiness you’ve etched here, the inimitable and incalculable wonder of simplicity and contentment. It’s so rare, so authentic, so unquantifiable that it is seldom written or heard.

    The soft, candlelit glow of joy emanating from this post spread all the way in to my frozen corner where my broken-down vehicle is currently being towed away to the mechanic’s shop.

    I was sitting here feeling desperate, angry and a bit sorry for myself until I read your words. It’s -42F outside, but the honesty and warmth you convey are more than enough to thaw out the arctic.

    You’ve excavated your soul and discovered that beauty and love and happiness have lived inside all along. That is something well worth sharing!

    Thank you for this.

    Friday, December 24, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink
  10. I’ve never before been so happy to inform someone of how very WRONG they are. This is exactly the type of writing that the world needs to read. This Christmas is not the happiest I’ve ever had but reading this post made me smile and that’s never a bad thing. Thanks and have a Merry Christmas!

    Friday, December 24, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Permalink
  11. scott wrote:

    A friend recently posted this comment on something I wrote and I’m re-commenting it to you because it says what I would say in response to this post were I as eloquent and thoughtful as my friend:

    You’re good at being happy. It’s a rare talent, and those who have it might come across as simpletons. You, however, are no simpleton. Hi, Scott.

    Except, of course, in place of the “Hi, Scott” I would say:

    Hello, Jennifer.

    Monday, December 27, 2010 at 6:29 am | Permalink
  12. Someone once wrote a review of my blog and called me “Super Annoying Happy Lady.” So there you have it. Unfashionable, indeed.

    I’ve been happy for a long time, but used to feel somewhat apologetic for it. Until a few years ago when I realized that was loads of stupid. I learn slow sometimes.

    I’m glad you’re happy!

    Monday, December 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  13. Jen wrote:

    These comments make me want to make a Happy Blogroll. Shouldn’t there be a Happy Blogroll?

    Monday, December 27, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  14. Issa wrote:

    I love hearing about others happiness. I’m slowly working on finding mine. It’s my goal for next year. This year? Was about finding my inner strength. Next up is happiness.

    Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink
  15. Issa wrote:

    Oh I will add that I got a hate filled email a few weeks back that told me I was a more interesting blogger when I was depressed all the time.

    Ha. She can keep away. I’m cool with that.

    Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 11:44 am | Permalink
  16. Elise wrote:

    What a beautiful, inspiring, HAPPY post to read. I am so glad you shared. It is like salve on the driest skin to read words like those.

    Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  17. Amy wrote:

    And now you’ve made one more person even happier. Well done. And thanks!
    Amy

    Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  18. Robyn wrote:

    Thank you. This is beautiful. I, too, have a failed marriage, no kids, and no house (actually, a house that should be going into foreclosure any minute now). Sometimes I need to remind myself of what I DO have, which is a me that can take all this in with wonder, and your post has helped bring that to the forefront.

    Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 11:57 am | Permalink
  19. Kerri Anne wrote:

    This is what I want to hear most of all. That you are happy. That I am happy. That there is so much happiness in this world, so much to be thankful for that has nothing to do with bank account numbers or anything we own or don’t own.

    Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  20. schmutzie wrote:

    This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday:
    http://www.schmutzie.com/fivestarfriday/2010/12/31/five-star-fridays-132nd-edition-is-brought-to-you-by-patti-s.html

    Friday, December 31, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink
  21. Suebob wrote:

    This is a great post, and the only reason I didn’t comment on it the first time I read it was that I wanted time to think about it.

    People tend to think that happiness isn’t important with a capital I. That it is frivolous, a luxury. But the decision to be happy FIRST, before circumstances arrange themselves just so, before the picture is perfect like a magazine spread – that is important work.

    I don’t have a resolution this year as much as a vow: this is the year self-hatred ends. Because it is spiritually important. Because if I want to make any kind of contribution to the world, I must consider myself valuable and worthy. I read a great quote by Geneen Roth: “Fixing yourself isn’t the same as being yourself.” I am already fixed, or already not broken.

    I’m with you.

    Friday, December 31, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink
  22. Natalie wrote:

    You just completely put into words a feeling that I didn’t even realize I was trying to define – and you expressed it beautifully. Thank you. And even though I don’t know you, I am happy for your happiness.

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
  23. Suz wrote:

    I can be a bit of a surly pisser, left to my own devices, but I can’t understand people being dicks about happiness. Witnessing another person’s joy is like seeing the Northern Lights, unspeakably good.

    I really enjoyed this, thanks for braving it:)

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink
  24. Marcy wrote:

    What an absolutely lovely and refreshing read!

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
  25. Rich wrote:

    I honestly believe this is exactly what every person on our planet is looking for, I just don’t think most of us know it… or know how to find it.

    I focus on everything negative in life, because then the simple joys seem to have such a profound impact. I think finding the joy in everything possible is a much better way to go. Wish I had the ability to change my perception, but personal pessimism is my K2. I really enjoyed reading of the delight you have found in finding your summit :D

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Permalink
  26. Jayme wrote:

    I want to keep this, and read it every time I start to forget how to be just simply be happy. I don’t know if anyone else is like this, but I spent so much time looking at whatever people had that I didn’t, that I spent most of my energy trying to “catch up”. It took me a long time to stop and appreciate the life I already have. Thank you for writing this.

    Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Permalink