I’m not a happy person.
Don’t get me wrong, I can be happy, but the feeling tends to wane more than it waxes. As long as I’m not actively unhappy, I count the day as a win. But there are days that definitely aren’t winners. There are days when it’s hard to find a reason to get out of bed.
As an introvert, I have a rich inner life that doesn’t often mirror the outer one. Before the craziness that was the late fall of 2016, my outer life was whisper quiet. In contrast, my inner life is akin to ordered chaos. And while chaos lends itself to fantastic bursts of creativity, it is also exhausting emotionally and physically.
But here’s the kicker: you would never guess it.
From the outside, I appear to be mild mannered Clark Kent. But, on the inside, I am leaping tall buildings in a single bound and screaming at the top of my lungs.
For me, adulthood has been a mostly bleak landscape interspersed with the occasional soaring peak of exquisite joy. And while I cherish those joyful times immensely, I also wonder why they are so few and far between. I came to the conclusion many years ago that adults aren’t meant to be happy. That we expect otherwise is a childish misconception born of the fairy tales we were force fed as children, complete with smarmy soulmates and happily ever afters. Real life is different, longer, and packed full of humdrum, yawn inducing moments that can still, oddly, be fraught with anxiety.
So, I set a low bar, and settle on the goal of contentment, which I label the absence of active unhappiness. This mostly tolerable state isn’t created out of thin air. I set the conditions in which I can stand to sit comfortably inside of my own head, that loud, tumultuous place where dread so often seeps in through the cracks and crevasses. Contentment is less a state of being and more a destination, reached through hard work and constant diligence.
Exercise helps a great deal. The longer I run, the better I feel, because that anxiety washes away on a river of sweat. But I can easily overdo it if I’m not careful.
Spending time with a handful of the right people can also bolster my weather beaten spirits. But if you add too many people, my spirits tatter at the edges even more rapidly, and I unravel.
Food helps too, momentarily. And why wouldn’t it? Food is delicious.
There are times when I stop short and think:
I am happy, right now, in this moment.
And the feeling disappears like smoke in the wind.
But the residue remains, and I cleave to it on mornings when I can’t find another reason to peel myself from the mattress and face another day. Because there will be more such moments, if only I soldier on. Right?
Why am I even bothering to say all this? Because we should name the beast whenever we see it. Whenever we feel it. Whenever it starts to creep over us, spreading sticky black anxiety…
The more we speak its name, the more we know it. This might not loosen its hold, but there’s relief in the telling, isn’t there? And, sometimes, that’s all there is.