22 July 2006

The Pursuit of Happiness

Recently, a friend turned me onto this book on happiness. I try to think of myself as a happy person. I want to be happy. I try to be happy. I’d say the vast majority of people who see me day to day think of me as happy. I smile quite a bit. I try to be friendly. I can usually pull out a joke or two when needed.

But really, to be entirely honest, I don’t really feel particularly happy, or at least not generally happy, not the kind of happy that some people just have. You know the kind… the people who seem to possess happiness in an ever-abundant supply, the people who may be upset or frustrated or downright sad about things in life, but there’s a deeper happiness that’s just waiting to take the stage as soon as the moment passes. Even if you saw them at their worst, you’d still walk away and call them a happy person.

Now don’t get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong. Life has actually been pretty good as of late. I’ve been doing fun things, enjoying my friends, even having a spot of good luck with my work. But as to that inner happiness, it would use some work. I’d say I have a little, tiny glimmer of that kind of happiness that I desire, but it’s pretty close to draught mode on any given day.

I don’t like that. That’s not the Leslie I want to be.

So, I started reading the book. I also started reading these books.

I started reading stuff on this website

I started reading blogs and magazines and I started writing journal entries. I started taking lots of baths and long walks, just thinking about happiness.

And I’ve processed a lot of it, and I’ve struggled with more of it, and I’ve gotten downright frustrated and angry about even more of it.

But I’m ready to give it a go.

And I’m taking the blog with me.

Now this may be bordering on the line of a really, really, super terrific bad idea. Announcing your psychosis, neurosis and general screwed-up-sis to the world, uh, yeah, not exactly subtle. But isn’t that why we read Crazy Aunt Purl or She Just Walks Around With It? Or maybe that’s just part of why I read them. I read posts that are real, that involve real thinking, real personal development and I’m entranced. I suppose it may just be schadenfreude,* but I think it’s something more that draws me in. And I’m not the only one, as convinced by the number of commentors who seem genuinely touched to read a real story written with feeling and style. (Now I’m not promising either of those, but I’ll try to include a story or two every now and then…)

I think there are quite a few of us that need to up our happiness stockpile. I think there are a lot of us that aren’t ready to be committed to a funny farm just yet, but there’s something off. We’re in a funk, not really full-blown depression but more just funk. We need to find something more. Maybe we’re unhappy with our job, our personal life, our friendships, our homes, our bodies, our relationship to the greater world and the devastation going on all around us… but I think we’re all hurting a little bit and I want to see if there’s a way that I, at least, can get more happiness and less frustration, less anxiety, less hurt.

And who knows, maybe the three of you that are still sticking around this fairly pathetic blog will want to bolt for the hills. But the posts I’ve enjoyed writing have been those where I’ve been thinking aloud, wondering about materiality and consumerism and my penchant for choosing the color white when I get stressed out. And I think one or two people have told me they enjoy reading them. So I guess I’m just giving you a warning. There will be knitting coming up, don’t worry, but I can guarantee you aren’t coming here for the knitting content. If so, O wayward knitter, go look at the experts. Really, me and my Lion Brand stash aren’t going to get you anywhere but in trouble with a whole bunch of ill-fitting acrylic sweaters that’ll get you a superstar on You Knit What? Expert knitter I am not… mediocre knitter I only am when I really, really concentrate… Frog pond queen, now we’re talking…

Anyway, just to clarify before my mom starts calling or I start sounding like a total sad sack… I’m not devastated. There’s nothing really wrong. I really have nothing terrible to complain about, but that only seems to make the funk more difficult. Things are just… not good. And that makes my outlook… not good. Stress levels are high. My grouchiness is high. My shoulders are high… odd little way I physically carry stress and unhappiness… my shoulders look like they’re pretty much even with my ears. It’s attractive, really. True, I don’t have the job of my dreams, a guy that’s more significant than a Flavor of the Month, a fancy house, fast sports car, killer abs, or even an awesome knitting project to show off. There are lots of things that are making me unhappy. But I also don’t have a serious illness, a recent death to mourn, creditors coming to lock me up, or a lack of supportive friends and family.

I’m just not as happy as I want to be.

So this project is just about upping the happiness quotient at Chez Leslie. I just thought that I’d share a little of my journal type writing. It may not be anything worth reading, but maybe someone else in a funk will find something here that’s worthwhile. Maybe those of you fortunate ones that are clearly in the happiness camp will share your secrets and wisdom. Maybe I’ll get bored and move on to some other new project or scheme or idea. I have no idea.

* By the way, I recently got the soundtrack to Avenue Q. Must. See. This. I mean, c’mon, they have a song titled “What do you do with a B.A. in English?” Damned if I know, but I do know this little theatrical treat will be worth a trip to the city in the near future.


Anna said...

Right on. My favorite happiness book is Alexandra Stoddard's 'Choosing Happiness'. A little on the materialistic side, but wonderful if you can see past that.

And Flylady rocks.

Anonymous said...

A friend sent me a postcard once that had a photo of a smirking Frenchman on the cover. The caption read, "Il n'ya pas de honte a prefere le bonheur." There is no shame in preferring happiness. The smirking Frenchman? Albert Camus.