A few years ago, I picked up a little project called 100 days of happy, or some such thing as one would take in a stray, with care without knowing why. I may have even written about it here before. The project consisted of taking a picture (or in my case, writing a few hundred words) of/on something that makes you happy, for 100 days. I can go on forever w/r/t the elastic nature of the word happy, but it is a good cue for writing. And as it were, I've been thinking about the word happy quite often recently. In Mike Mill's new film, 20th Century Women the mother's response when asked if she's happy is (to paraphrase) "asking if you're happy is just a great shortcut to being miserable." The punchline is sharp and wry and it says a lot about the character delivering it. But as I get older, I find myself a little more in line with that sentiment. Obsessing over happiness is not directly related to finding contentment (obsession does not tend to lead anywhere warm and safe). The hounds hunting happiness are not necessarily there to help you look down and examine what you have, and often the hunt for self approval is actually about others. To jam one more quote in here, let's hit up the father of our national parks, Teddy Roosevelt who called comparison "the thief of joy."
Self-exploration is always a good thing (and we are all more cavernous than we give ourselves credit for, with skeletons and treasures abounding), and opening dialogue about what it means to be happy is certainly a part of the process, but I don't believe it needs to hold such a prominent position in the horse race of concepts and ideas that helps to form a conception of identity (past the one the mirror offers).
I know a woman who feels anxiety at the idea of meditation. Focusing on the breath and being in the moment force her to relive the heat of her father's road rage. When she was little she would pretend she was asleep as he boiled over at "the other" cars and in so doing would focus her energy on being perfectly still, breathing slowly, and being relaxed, while the expression of anger imprinted in her and began to associate itself with the breath and the body. How wonderfully complex is that!? While I seek out the breath and try so hard to find comfort in the present moment, she is skating around it in an effort to keep buoyed from the raw nerves of stillness.
The 100 days of happy was one of my favorite experiences and the practicing of gratitude something I am attempting with all my heart all the time. But gratitude is something you hear less and less of, the less you give it. Sometimes it is hard to feel the weight of what we have. Just as with the weight of what we are wearing. Just as with the feel of a full clean breath. Just as with the blink of an eye. Just as with the gift of a clear bright day. As with a song. As with a dream. As with the web we weave around everything. We don't notice until it is pulled apart and takes everything down with it. Try to be the web and not the things.
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