There’s a saying about happiness. It goes: Happiness is the man who was looking for his hat and found that it was on his head all along.
When I first heard it, it made my heart soften and go ‘aaah’ but then a sort of alarm took over. Because it was suddenly clear that the happiness I got out of hoping, praying, wishing things will be better in the future was in itself deep unhappiness.
The suggestion that happiness is in the here and now seems like a Mount Everest challenge to concentrate and find happiness in the present moment. Where is it? Is it here now? Then why is my heart squashed and crumpled with fear and anxiety – is there happiness in letting go of this? Can I really let go of all my ‘If only’s’ and wistful gazes away and embrace my warty, imperfect present happiness?
David Cameron et al are currently prancing about the idea of a Happiness Index whereby Britain’s level of happiness is measured in some wooly way involving voluntary groups, reiterations of the words ‘Big Society’ and lots of clapping and meetings in church halls or whatever.
My efforts would certainly add a smile to Cameron’s red, elasticated face because I’ve been fulfilling his credo of becoming an upright citizen by volunteering and throwing myself into the harangue – I’ve signed myself up for various things of late, including the role of voluntary Development Ambassador which sounds great but I’m not entirely sure what it actually means. I think I’ve also signed up for some sort of assistant cake maker role, which could have been one of those spur-of-the-moment-when-slightly-inebriated decisions since the closest I’ve come to making a cake was when I accidentally left my trainers next to the radiator for two months. The reason I’m doing this malarkey is because I’m making an effort to become happier – the thing is it hasn’t quite worked yet.
I stunned myself when I asked that question and forced myself to be frank. Are you happy? I asked. ‘No” was the immediate and unfaltering answer. I didn’t even have to think about it. Frickin’ hell, I thought. This is worse than previously assumed. But hey, my brain reasons, you’ve had a rough time of it of late, it’s ok to be unhappy. Work isn’t great. My love life is like a drunk driver on the M25 taking random swerves, having near misses and periodically ramming into stationary objects with the airbag having long given up trying. I suppose since coming back from my travels in India, life in England feels like a long, stale fart – an anticlimax, an act of simply treading water.
Don’t we just love finding comfort and salvation in our unhappiness. It’s like a smelly blanket we wrap around ourselves, pretending to complain but really loving the scratchy feel against our skin, because it’s something. It’s there, it’s tangible and we can touch it. Unhappiness is always attainable. Happiness- well there’s the effort. There’s the change in the way of thinking, feeling, being.
I still don’t know how to answer the question about happiness. But I feel it inside me. I know it’s there because it is the delicious mischief of this world. As long as you can still smile at two pigeons having a little domestic on the pavement or at the evening sky that makes you stop in your tracks on the way home or how your sweet pancakes have somehow ended up tasting of anchovies, you can see the universe that is behind our small lives, that is not taking life as seriously as we are. And when you suddenly come right into tune with that energy, well then you are right in the music.