Here’s the scenario: My car mechanic, Randy, calls me at 11 a.m. I’m at work. “Your car’s all set. That right front caliper was completely frozen.”
“Oh, okay,” I say, “Awesome!”
I think, oil change and unsticking the caliper – 80 bucks.
I finish at 12. I spend the afternoon doing my newsletter. We go for a walk in the nice weather, then my partner brings me to Randy’s to pick up the car and drops me off. I go in. The bill is over three hundred dollars. New caliper, oil change, a couple of other parts and labor.
Out comes the credit card, the only place where I have that kind of “money.”
Numbly, I go to the grocery store. From there, I text my partner: “Because of my natural optimism I had 6 extra hours of happiness before I got the car bill!”
As often happens, at the end of the day, we revisited the whole scenario, and she asked if that was really true. Didn’t getting the news at 5 p.m. eradicate the previous 6 hours of happiness? No, I said, it was definitely better to have a nice afternoon not worrying about the car bill than it would have been thinking about the money I didn’t have to pay for it.
As we got into bed, I said, “Look, I’m gaining extra minutes of happiness right now,” and started hugging her, and that’s when it hit me: that, of course, this could all change in an instant. I didn’t see the car bill coming. I totally believed my version of reality. I felt relieved that it wasn’t going to be a big repair, like I’d just dodged a bullet. But in reality, it’s not just the car bill. It’s people, love, relationships, money, the house, everything. Being happy in this moment out of blissful ignorance is one thing. But knowing that someday something fundamental will have changed, that this moment is just this moment, and choosing to be happy in it and to cherish it for right now — That’s big.
Something about that was so bittersweet to me that I was laughing but nearly crying, knowing how much time and energy I’ve spent in the mental space of “what if something catastrophic happens?” And then having it happen. I could’ve had all that extra happiness. And still I would have lost my dearly departed, still had catastrophe strike, still had my worst case scenario unfold.
The cat’s out of the bag, because I now must live each moment with the knowledge that catastrophe is around the corner. Another car bill is coming in, the bank balance will shrink, people will change, get sick, die. All this will happen, and I don’t know when, how, or why, and can’t do anything about it now.
I choose to live this moment deeply, holding both.
When I’m with a sick person I’m aware that they’re both sick and a person – with hopes, dreams, loves, a soul, a spirit, an essence. Being present to both is such a challenge. The mind can understand it, but can’t meaningfully attend to both. It’s either, “Ack! Sick!” or “Wow! Person!” Only the heart can do both, hold paradox, live in the unknown, feel the mystery. The mind can’t do it without constantly jumping from pole to pole, first the positive, then the negative, like the spark on a battery. The heart is the battery, incorporating both, generating energy, love, connection.
This is why the Joy Report is deep sometimes and why my Thirty Days of Joy blog challenge book is going beyond happiness. Happiness is both the Holy Grail and a red herring. It’s both a goal and a byproduct, both pure and complex, as simple as appreciating a flower bud just opening, and as complex as holding a sick person’s hand and feeling the life force ebbing away.
For me, it’s still happiness, but it’s deeper, darker happiness. It’s still happiness, because it’s real and feeds the deeper needs of the heart. It’s still happiness because it speaks to the heart’s secrets, life’s secrets: We will die, we will suffer, we will experience anguish and longing, all because we are human. And somewhere in some sacred text is the nugget of a reminder that that’s what this human trip is all about. Nowhere else in existence does spirit get to feel and have a heart and experience love in all its layers from gaiety to passion exactly like we humans do. (I think.)
I love my newly fleshed out definition of happiness. It’s my version of happiness, because that’s who I am. It helps to know this, because maybe I can stop trying to achieve someone else’s version of happiness. Maybe I can just be me, kind of serious, but happy nonetheless.
I don’t know why I’m wired this way, but the truth has always been my greatest comfort – even if it takes a while for me to know it. Because, when it comes right down to it, I don’t know much, do I?
How about you? What’s your favorite shade of happy? What version have you striven for that just isn’t you? Can you let that go now?
Till next time–
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by Phyllis Capanna © 2016 joyreport
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