“All too often, we know we are happy only when we no longer are.” ~ Robert Zaretsky
Happiness is like having a plaster over a wound: it protects it from incurring further damage, it stops it from hurting any more, and (if we are lucky) it also lets it heal. Papering over the cracks, it – the plaster, the strip of sticky happiness – allows us to forget, temporarily escaping what had become our reality before it showed up. Filled with renewed energy, partially restored, our spirits rise and we are filled with the desire to externalise ourselves again. Motivated, inspired, we are more productive, doing and achieving where previously, recently, in the interlude of damage, of detriment, we failed. In this enlightened period, we crave interaction and we seek out company, enjoying mixing with the public and meeting with friends. People seem nice, where we live friendly, our work less of a chore. Even our problems seem less distressing than they did. So what about our bad back, our bruised foot, our estranged friend and our sick relative? So what about the job we hate, our financial worries and the debt we have somehow incurred? So what about the darkness in our heads, the sadness in our hearts, the anxiety in our shoulders and the anger in our stomachs? So what about the fact that daily, hourly, minute-by-minute, we are barely functioning, literally clinging on to the edge of a cliff face that has become increasingly hard to see of late? None of this matters, at least not half so much. The sun is shining, the temperature is favourable, we have just had coffee with a friend, and this afternoon we plan take a leisurely lunch, swim, then read and meditate. Before all but forgotten, we embrace this respite, only realising too late how temporary it was.
At least I do, because this is the story of my life. And it is only in the down times – times like these; times when I can’t think, can’t do, can’t even speak without stumbling and falling – that I realise how doing and having are not something that I own but gifts I intermittently borrow from a far off place, somewhere I once knew but now only glimpse at.
What is happiness and where does it come from? And how does one, once one figures that out, pin it down?
Like stones flung into a pond, these questions are wishes lost in the darkness of weed and scale. Happiness is sporadic, unpredictable and rare. It comes from nowhere and disappears just as completely, leaving one drowning in space. My life is devoted to its pursuit. My every effort, every attempt, every motivation, action, dictated by my desire to hold it for longer and tighter the next time around.
If I am to succeeded in finding the answer to the problem that plagues me, I must learn to receive graciously and give back without complaint. If I could study and explore it, entering into in order to remain; maybe then I could achieve more and better like the results?
In the meantime, the road is full of potholes and there are obstacles to navigate; the mountain is looming and the steps too steep to contemplate. In other words, in spite of what they say: the future is not bright or orange, but rather rather dark and black.
This is the birth of a new chapter, an unforeseen fork in the meandering journey of my life, a narrative spanning from a to b, with a being the beginning place that didn’t work out, that constantly disappointed and injured despite my best efforts, and b being the place where I am supposed to end up, the place I would have begun in had something not become tangled right near the start, diverting me and everything about me to an entirely different somewhere else.
I feel like I am standing on yet another threshold, contemplating a beginning I didn’t anticipate, and, like a rabbit in headlights, there is nothing I can do about it. The car is coming towards me, I am central to the road, we are going to interact. The question is: what will result? A bloody mess and a trip down under? Or an enlightened sojourn in which much is done? I am aiming for the latter, conscious that to fall apart now would be both dangerous and damaging. But what if I can’t? What if, instead, I trip or sink?
I am trying to plot the next step, attempting to put things into action to accommodate me when I arrive: searching for groups, looking for classes, signing up for lectures and talks, picking out workshops and courses I might take if they are affordable, of brief duration and at a suitable time. But it’s hard to find the right mixture: the things that are inspiring, the ones with respectable looking leaders and teachers, the events and gatherings that occur during the day. I’ve spent a long time researching and yet my efforts do not amount to a whole lot. I feel defeated and this sense of failure, or not getting very far, is sapping my energy and motivation for everything else. Mornings are painful and progress is slow. I look at what I have achieved and uniformly hate it. Afternoons, I burn out, mostly sleeping. I feel hopeless and useless and I am annoyed with myself. Where is the me of yesterday who had so much to do and not enough time to get it done, the me who wanted the day to be longer so that I might be more prolific? I’ve gone from working effortlessly and joyfully to dragging myself along and I am miserable and grumpy.
I miss my old self and I want her back. I need her courage and her determination. If I am to survive this next leap, this unforeseen interlude into a grey and open space, this cold and dark place I sought to escape, I must have a bag of resources and all of me must be my friend.
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