Friday, January 27, 2006

Live in the Now

I always thought that if I didn't have to be tied to a job I would be much happier. That is not to say I wouldn't work, but my time would not be driven by an employer's clock. I would "work" from home at my own tasks—the ultimate telecommuting. As I needed to be a Mommy or a Friend or a Wife or a Family Manager I could, without guilt. But I don't think it has worked that way. The better my life gets—the ultimate spouse, the perfect child, relaxation of financial pressures, good friends, a comfortable home, satisfying professional recognition—the non-happier I am.

What does that mean "Non-happier"? Does it mean I am less happy? No. What it means is that as things get better you should get happier. I know there is a scientific formula for it. But I am not happier, I am the same. I am me. Brief burst of happiness at the achievement of a goal followed by a return of the emotional status quo. So am I unusual? I don't think so. We read all the time about rich, beautiful people who have everything bitching about how unhappy they are and we just. cannot. relate. We think that if we had everything they have we'd be happy—how dare they not?!? But it doesn't work that way. We are happy because we are, or unhappy because we are. "Things" don't make one happy. Good health, financial security, friends and family, lack of fear and pain take away our stress and anxiety, but they don't make us happy. There is more to be found in this line of thought and I am not there yet. I need to ponder more.

I have wasted a hell of a lot of time in my life to date "looking forward" to something instead of just being happy in the now. And I am still doing it! I endured much of the fall hating Atlanta and the south with a passionate intensity and blamed my depression of the time on living here. But there are as many good things about living here as there are bad things about living in Montana or back in Austin again.

I spend a lot of time despising the culture here—the lack of ambition and education and the stench of right-wing "Christian" morality—but when I walked out my front door yesterday morning I literally caught my breath at the beauty of two of my red azalea bushes which decided to bloom in the middle of January. My camellias—planted to provide scarlet joy in the depths of winter—haven't even bloomed yet and the little azaleas just up and popped.

I immediately notice when the neighbors three new dogs start yapping in their 24X7X365 kennel in the backyard next door (the dimensions given are temporal rather than spatial), but I know I often miss the gentle susurration of our wind chimes—Music of the Spheres alto and tenor Japanese scale—which hang from the deck beneath our bedroom windows. I take for granted that it will not snow or sleet or rain dismally for weeks on end like it does in other parts of the country at this time of year. And I am not happier because of it. Of course I also don't remember being more miserable when I lived in other areas of the country where Weather was Nasty (ten years in Chicago comes to mind...).

When Dave and I were first married it drove him insane that I was always yearning towards something next week, next month, next vacation, next job, next house, next… He is very grounded-in-the-now and it made him anxious that I seemed to be so dissatisfied by everything all the time. His discomfort made me think about what I was doing and saying and throttle back on constantly blurting out my escapist thoughts. Because it is escapism—just the way that the majority of the books I read are meant to provide escapism rather than provoke thought. I think I am present in my skin and provoking and prodding life enough on daily basis that sometimes I just need to get the hell out of it.

A side note: “Ronnie and Neil” by the Drive by Truckers has the same opening chord as “What’s the Frequency Kenneth” by R.E.M. Interesting.

So have I just had a life-altering epiphany about happiness? I would like to say yes, but no. I see that I am wasting time and energy and letting good things slip by under-appreciated. And I feel that I am teetering on the edge of the chasm of Greater Knowledge (the kind you find in the self-help aisle at Border’s). Right now I’m just squinting down into the darkness below. Maybe over the next few posts I will become Enlightened and be able to share. But not tomorrow. Tomorrow is dedicated to the evolution of technology and Battlestar Galactica on the iTunes Music Store. Now I must get to work—glass awaits!

1 comment:

Bill Paley said...

Of course, if you get too deeply mired in the NOW, you stop planning for the future...