Joy in the Small Things

I just finished a book--an autobiography by someone who's the same age as I am. It's almost ridiculous, I think, that he's got enough material to write a whole book about himself, but the truth is he's squashed about sixty years of living into his thirty-three; me? I've done about twenty-five years of living and eight years of sitting on the couch, watching television.

Here is what I thought about after finishing the book: regardless of the author's fame and fortune, he still doesn't come off as happy. Maybe that can be put down to his childhood (although it seems to me his childhood and adolescence were imperfect because of HIS choices, not because of outside forces), and maybe not. For a long time, he was addicted to drugs and alcohol, then was cross-addicted to sex, and his rehabilitation seems to be going well. He states explicitly that his ambition won out over his addictions; if he hadn't been determined to achieve some level of fame, he wouldn't have bothered with rehab, and he'd probably be dead or close to dead by now.

Though I'm no therapist, my analysis goes something like this: the guy's still unhappy because he doesn't know how to BE happy. That's crazy, right? Happiness isn't something that should have to be taught.

And I'm not sure he knows what joy is. Just joy. Pure, bubbling up, pouring out of yourself JOY. And frankly, I might have forgotten it myself.

Used to be, I'd bounce to work. I'd bounce AT work. I couldn't control how ecstatic I was to be there. And when I got home, I'd bounce around the house, because I was happy to be there too.

But over the past few years, I've taken a downward turn, gotten more cynical, more bitter, more suspicious. It's come out in my writing, I think, as I read through my archives, and it's not altogether pleasant. Sure, making fun of myself is my stock in trade, but here lately, I've been taking jabs left and right without any real humor, just plain MEAN cussedness.

Today I went out to the mall, and I was angry that I had to wait ten minutes in line to pay for something. And then I was angry that the salesclerk had to tell me all her problems. And then I was angry that she rang up my sale incorrectly. ANGRY ANGRY ANGRY. I wrote up an imaginary blog post in my mind, as I was fuming, just villifying this poor woman who was just trying to do her job.

And that's not the first time either; I'm always doing that. And I enjoy it, that's the worst part, the absolute thrill I get from choosing the perfect adjective that will best emphasize someone else's (presumed, by me) shortcomings.

I thought about this, this morning, after I finished that book. As I was turning it over in my mind, having an imaginary conversation with the author (as one does), I realized that HIS problem is MY problem. Oh, not the whores and drugs, but the dissatisfaction, the feeling that I have to keep reaching.

One of the main points I made to him, in my head, was this: "You never take time to reflect on your achievement. It's like, once you reach a goal, you can't enjoy it for a second, you have to move right on to the next thing."

And another point: "Your head doesn't rest. You don't sit down, you don't look around, you don't stop moving. There's always something going on, there's always a plan forming, there's always a gear winding; YOU NEVER STOP."

Both valid, both true, and both directly applicable to ME.

So, it's got to stop. I'm stopping it.

I've got a month before school starts, a month to learn how to revel in the little things. To sigh with contentment at my laundry drying on the back porch, to be amazed at my burgeoning cooking skills, to find delight in a clean house, to purr along with the cat while we're both sitting on the couch staring into space.

And I'm going to re-find my JOY.

This post did not go where I thought it was going.


Shannon said...

Good blog. You can start having your joyous moments again by spending time with your sister. Fine. I'll let you watch your niece if you want. :)

Anonymous said...

How about the joy of taking me out to lunch. :)


Amy said...

I'm glad to hear that your problem isn't with drugs and whores...that's a relief! Joy is hard to find and hard to hang on to - there are so many other things to drag us down, but it is there and I really hope you find it. When you do please let me know where it is!

BTW - I just found your blog and I REALLY enjoy it - you are very entertaining and funny!

J said...

I wish blogs had fave buttons (a la flickr) so I could fave this and come back again to read it. I know exactly what you're talking about--all those things are true for me, too! Except I'm not sure I've ever bounced anywhere. But I *want* to find a place where I'm compelled to bounce, you know?

A good book for this might "What should I do with my life?" by Po Bronson. It's about people who are inspired to finally go after their dreams and ambitions, and find happiness.

So I say Brava to re-find yourself and your joy!


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