Maybe you already know this; but I didn’t. Happiness is a new one on me.
I do remember one time pre-breakdown that I was actively happy, and that was the day of my wedding. (Getting engaged was pretty good as well.) I remember it because the feeling was so novel that I noted it and wondered what it was. It was what I am feeling today, and felt yesterday, and usually now feel a few times a week.
So, from the perspective of a novice, here’s what happiness is:
1. One of two varieties: excited or content. Either is just fine.
2. Waking in the morning wanting something in the day enough that getting up is not an effort.
3. Being in the present, noticing what is going on and smiling at it.
4. Feeling lucky, so lucky, to be right in this place right now.
5. Not being scared of what’s going to happen in the next few minutes, or hours, or days (until I stop to think about it, and then of course I am scared).
6. Wanting to transfer this feeling to everyone I meet. Which means I walk along smiling at people and I say hello to people I meet, and neither of these things is an effort either.
7. Being content in my body; not hating it or trying to change it.
And why seven? Because seven is mystical perfection, and that is good enough for today. (Awww.)
As a child I was told that if I worked hard enough I could do anything. That had its downsides; I grew to believe that not achieving perfection in everything meant I was lazy and I therefore began a pattern of destructively hard working. But it also meant that life was within my control. I didn’t blame anyone else when I faced lack of opportunity; nor did I blame others when things went wrong.
The problem, it turns out, is that even by working myself brutally hard, I am unable to have certain things. Those things currently include my health, the career I wanted and was doing well at, the lifestyle I previously had, and the belief that life is fair.
That’s right. I used to believe that life was basically fair. I had sympathy for people who were in a less good place than me, but I did believe that working hard would bring improvements in people’s lot. I also believed I deserved my success because I had worked for it.
I no longer fully believe that. Continue reading “Life just isn’t fair”
Maybe it’s too early for a round up of the year. But when I’m feeling low I tidy my flat; and the rest of the flat was already so tidy that today I even got as far as the books piled on the floor. In no order, but in three categories, here’s a lot of what I’ve read in 2016, with some comments that you shouldn’t take too seriously:
Giorgio Bassani: The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. The Jewish WWII book that barely mentions the Holocaust. Full of unrequited love, coloured marble monstrosities and tennis.
Han Kang: The Vegetarian. Weird. Korean. Probably so esteemed because the book world was befuddled by that conjunction.
Next week’s New Yorker cover shows us silly-walking over a cliff. A meme is circulating of a cartoon Britain shooting itself in the foot. Remain voters are loud in their condemnation of the idiocy of Leave voters many of whom, it seems, have made a decision vote into a protest vote and damaged their own interests significantly in the process. Much of the UK has expressed a howl of pain and anger rather than making a considered decision. I’m not the first in this context to use the phrase ‘self-harm’.
I know a lot, as it happens, about self-harm. Both being deep in it and getting out of it. I’d say the term is apposite here. Self-harm generally is the last resort of those who are in unbearable pain and need somehow to express that pain. Those who cut, or starve, or punch, or burn themselves are usually those who are unable to see anywhere they can turn for help. They are those who feel they have no voice. They are often boiling with anger which they have no means of defusing. There is a strong correlation between being abused and self-harm, between unbearable stress and self-harm, between being patronised when you mention your pain and self-harm. (All of those things were true in my teenage life, and were reasons my self-harming behaviour become so secretive and lasted for so long.)