Sunday, November 15, 2009

happiness. yes.

Today, I am happy.

In this season of my life, I am happy.

And it is really good to be happy.

But I am realizing, more and more all the time, that happiness does not result from today being what it is or from this season of my life being what it is or from any one influence in my life. Happiness comes when I choose it, when I look for reasons to be happy and wrap my fingers tightly around them, when I pull them up and lift them high above my head, when I open my hand so that the light falls on them and no one, not me or anyone else, can deny their existence.

This is nothing profound or new, not at all. But it's what I am learning in this coursing, continuous life, the one unmarked by exams and due dates and semester breaks, the one in which I make choices for significant periods of time and consider jobs that have no date of completion... you know, my great-big-real-world adult life. I want it to be a happy life, and I am learning that it can be happy, regardless of the good and the bad and the otherwise of what happens within it.

I could choose to look at the frustrations, at the confusion of the moment or the uncertainty of the future or that fact that life is kind of ridiculous. Because, of course, it is not all rosy here: I spent a recent afternoon hour in tears on the telephone with my mother because I am so confused about my next steps. I really miss my sister and brother-in-law and all of my friends that have moved away. I will need to find a new place to live and go about the awful business of moving once again come January, whether I stay in GR or go elsewhere. I cannot seem to catch all of the genius mice that live here in my flat, the mice that keep on reproducing their genes of brilliance, increasing the population of really intelligent, not-fooled-by-traps-of-any-sort mice and causing me to fear that one day the ceiling will break open and the whole colony of thousands and thousands of genius mice will run squeaking through my home, like that scene in Ratatouille where the rats pour out of the old woman's ceiling and she shoots them with her rifle (though, of course, I wouldn't reenact that part).

Now, I do see those things, the frustrations and the sadness and the confusion. I would be being dishonest with myself if I ignored them. But then I look deeper. Instead of dwelling on these things or basing my happiness on life turning out ever-shiny and bright and easy, I am looking for the reasons for happiness, reasons that are always there, regardless of the state of my life in any one moment.

And yes, things have been relatively calm for the last several weeks and far less tumultuousness resides in my mind and heart today than did two months ago. I do have a quiet flat for the weekend, void of roommates, in which I can turn up George Winston's December album (too soon for Christmas? no. never. more on that later.), sink into my chair by the window, drink my strong black coffee and rest and think. This month did bring -- finally! -- routine in my job and an income that pays the bills and possibilities for the future. And I do have particularly wonderful friends and family and live in a particularly lovely city.

But I could choose to see or ignore all of that. And I could choose to see or ignore the wonder of a campfire on the beach in mid-November... the beauty of the many kinds of squash on display at the farmers' market... the humor in my dad's insistance on converting every moment of my visit home last weekend into celebration of his birthday... the simple joy in making fresh-from-the-bog-cranberry salad and cranberry bread with my mom in her bright, clean kitchen while home... the tremendous peace and truth that seep into my soul whenever I am with my dear friend Nicole, one of the most incredible and wise women I know... the wholesomeness of the food she and I ate together at Gaia this afternoon...

And I choose to see.

Nothing new, nothing complex, nothing I haven't talked about here before. But today, I am filled with joy and peace, and I didn't want to keep it to myself.

Welcome Morning
by Anne Sexton

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry "hello there, Anne"
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard,
dies young.


  1. Your bolding is making me think of Baxter Donation thank you letters. If you know what I mean...

  2. I totally understand your fears of hoards of mice falling from the ceiling - Anthony and I felt that same fear except about rats...but I think we finally killed them with the rat poison that we put into the attic through a door in the ceiling - at night and possibly on top of one of the rats...