Friday, March 6, 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness.

Current Reading: A manuscript from Critters.

Inspirational Quote: "Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude." -- Denis Waitley

"The basic thing is that everyone wants happiness, no one wants suffering. And happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors. If your own mental attitude is correct, even if you remain in a hostile atmosphere, you feel happy." -- The Dalai Lama

I find myself contemplating happiness a great deal lately, and I've decided to share what I know and the circumstances that led to that knowledge.

1) I can fly.

I'd love to be able to fly. Ask me what superpower I'd want, and I'll tell you "flying" without even a pause for thought. Sometimes I dream that I can just drift off the ground and up into the sky. While I'm dreaming like that, I have no worries. I'm just glad to be there, to feel the breeze, to drift. I hate waking up after those dreams because I hate being stuck to the ground again.

In the late nineties, I worked a contract job for I.B.M. Canada. It was a good gig. It ran two years and near the end of it, I was faced with an uncertain future. Penelope and I were sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a basement apartment, barely making ends meet, but it was a comfortable existence and seeing it coming to an end made me tense and irritable. Then one night, I dreamed I stood on top of a mountain cliff, near the edge. I was going over, pushed by something. I'm an acrophobe, and this is the kind of nightmare I get. Suddenly, though, I found myself thinking, "What am I so worried about? I can fly!" And I did. Suddenly the cliff and the fall were no longer terrifying. They were irrelevant. I woke up that morning with complete confidence that I was equal to whatever challenges the future held.

I don't need to be afraid. I can fly.

2) If I don't see anything beautiful around me, I'm not looking in the right direction.

Every morning I drive a half-hour to where I work. I listen to the radio. I think about the day ahead. Sometimes those things are cheering. Sometimes they aren't. One morning, after Aeneas had said something to cause Penelope to read the riot act, the news was full of death and the music full of sad songs. I was beginning to think driving into a ditch at top speed and hoping for instant fatality was the only sensible thing to do. Then I rounded a corner and found myself faced with a row of depressingly identical '70's sub-division houses. The sight just killed my soul, and I had to look away.

On the other side of the road was a ditch filled with reeds. It was early winter, one of those cold, clear mornings when your breath fogs up and a snap frost has given every puddle a thin crust of ice. Frost had gathered in beads on the leaves and stems of the reeds. In the bright sunlight, the ditch shone and sparkled like a field of diamonds. In that moment, it was enough to take my breath away.

Beauty is everywhere. I just have to let myself see it.

3) Every day is a good day.

A few weeks ago, a teenager in my town committed suicide. He was seventeen. I don't know the circumstances, and I can't imagine what had happened in his life that had suddenly made him absolutely unable to face his future. Earlier this year, two people close to me died: one after a long illness, the other suddenly. All those lives were too short, and one of them ended before it really had a chance to begin. In the face of that, the realization that all our days could end in a heartbeat, how can I not find some pleasure in every moment?

Things are not good now with my job. Morale is gone, and the only laughter I hear is the ironic or bitter. At home, my boys are becoming teenagers with all the worries and frustrations that have always accompanied these things. Life is rocky, difficult. And yet, this morning, Cassandra woke up and thumped downstairs to where I sat at the computer. I was trying to work on the Magnus Somnium, but I'd been struggling for days and the scene on the monitor right then was clumsy and discouraging. Cassandra was carrying her stuffed rabbit and a blanket. She said, "Can I watch you write?"

No living being can write with a four-year-old on their lap. If I wanted to get anything done, I should have sent her away. Instead, I took my fingers off the keyboard and let her climb up on me. She smelled of watermelon shampoo and milk from her sippy cup. She asked a lot of questions. Few of them made sense, and that didn't matter. I was listening to the curiosity and wonder in her voice and feeling how warm she was against me and marveling that anyone could bring themselves to leave a life before seeing the miracle of their own child. I'm not saying that, after this morning, I'm ready to go. I'm saying that I'll never look back and wish I'd sent her away.

Today I'm alive. It's a good day.

1 comment:

slcard said...

Maybe a better person could come up with the right words to say how lovely that was, but I can't seem to do it. You make me laugh and you make me sigh. More people need to discover you.