happy is as happy does

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I want to be happy. That is what it boils down to. There are people in the world for whom everything is a trial and there are people in the world who want to be happy, and I want to be one of those. I want to be happy, and I want to be the kind of person that makes others happy, just because it is the kind of worldview that is contagious and communicable even if you think it is twee and ridiculous and sappy to say I want to be happy, even if you think happiness is not a worthwhile goal, even if you have a heart as black as coal and cold as ice and as small as a tick in an elephant’s ear.


I would say I want happiness for Christmas, but it’s something you have to do yourself. And what I really want is a pony, actually. And what I really want you to understand is that the kind of happiness that I’m talking about isn’t the go-lucky style; it isn’t the cheerful, optimistic, everything’s a-okay style. It isn’t the kind that lets you quit your job and your life regardless of the consequences and go trekking through Tibet in search of inner peace. It isn’t the ridiculous and trivial kind of happiness I’m talking about here–the kind you get from eating cake. I am not disregarding that kind of happiness, no, not at all. But what I’m talking about here is the more like–let’s say the kind of happiness that comes from there being cake in the world, available for eating. The fact that you can eat cake. Does that make sense?

Let’s also say this: It is not that "dance like nobody’s watching" greeting-card style of happiness that is packaged and sold. What I’m thinking about is the people who work to be happy and healthy and secure in their lives and bodies and the inside of their head, and the way they deal with the world and the people in it. That is what I am thinking about. That kind of happiness. A fuller, wider, broader sense of happiness in the world. Maybe I’m ridiculous. Maybe I just want to stop thinking I’m ridiculous.


I am tired of worrying about things. I am tired of worrying about being ridiculous, and sounding ridiculous, and acting ridiculous, and other people thinking I am ridiculous. I am also tired of worrying about the following things: being crazy, being stupid, being stupidly crazy, doing stupid things, acting stupidly, acting foolishly, being foolish, being a fool. I am tired of second-guessing everything I think and everything I say, and I am tired of waiting for other people to get tired of me. Or tell me that they’ve always been tired of me. I am tired of being tired, and overwhelmed by the business of living, of interacting, of being inside my head, which is a busy intersection at rush hour, filled with the dulcet sirens of a fleet of wahmbulences. I am also tired of acting like every emotion I have is either incredibly unimportant and ridiculous, or deeply and vitally important to the fate of the entire universe and thus, must be dissected and worked over and sobbed about.


There are bills and there are jobs and there is stress and debt and a future to plan for and there is some way, I know there is some way, there has got to be, and I will goddamn find it, the way toward making these things not simple, or easy, or gloriously fabulous and wicked-fun, but there is a way to make these things manageable, to make them not only manageable, but serious, grown-up responsibilities in which I can take satisfaction in completing. They can be things I’m not hiding from, anymore. They can be things that are ordinary and usual, not never-ending sources of great giant sucking gobs of panic and worry.


And there is my body, always present and demanding something from me, always needing more of this and so much less of this and always impossible to deal with, it feels like. Food and water and vitamins and exercise and it is all a chore, right now, and it shouldn’t be a chore. It should be something I do to take care of myself, something I do because I want to do it and not just need to. Except that part of being happy is that these kinds of things are not shoulds and musts, but something that is just part of my life and being happy and healthy.


It is very complicated, this happiness thing. It is hard to define without sounding a little crazy (I am not crazy!) and it is not enough to just want it. It is a something you have to work at, I am guessing from my perspective as an unhappy person who wants to be happy, and it is something that is hard and frustrating, that process, I am guessing from my perspective as an unhappy person who finds things overwhelming. But wanting to be happy, I think, is one of those first steps that you take and it is one of those important steps to take, because how are you going to do it without deciding that it’s important? Now I have to figure out how I am going to do it, since I can’t get it for Christmas. Or maybe the pony is all I need to be happy.

  9 comments for “happy is as happy does

  1. August 13, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    When you find out how to be that content, and happy; when you start to become one of the people who have a graceful way through like and can just handle life, and feel strong and proud and fulfilled…please share! Of course from my side of things I see a woman who has grown through the years and has gotten stronger and more confident and even when things are hard finds a way through them (even when it might have involved a whole bag or Oreos!) I am proud of you, I know it is really hard to for me to be proud of myself, but we really all need to work on that whole self loathing crap… like I said I hope you find happiness, and when you do please share (step by step) how we can achieve this happiness too!

  2. Regan
    August 13, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Get out of my head. Because seriously, I’ve been thinking about this all day. How to be happy just for the sake of being happy, without that happiness being tied to something or someone or some fulfillment of a need, want or goal. I think just even wanting to be happy with yourself and life puts you steps ahead most people.

  3. *S*
    August 13, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    I wish there were just a switch to turn on for happiness, but I’m still fumbling in the dark on that one (the switch, that is). Revoltingly enough, I’m pretty happy most of the time. Or maybe I just *think* I’m happy – or actually, don’t think about wanting to be happy – and isn’t that the same thing?

    *S*

  4. Sally
    August 14, 2007 at 9:18 am

    I think you are an amazing whiz- kid who has had some very dramatic moments in her life…You have been recognized for your fabulous writing and razor sharp wit; your incredible transformation from fat to thin, and maybe other magical transformations? You may have a few more up your sleeve or have pulled other ones. But they’re not unlimited. I know–I’ve pulled a few myself–U-Turns that blew everyone away. But you can’t live off them forever. Life has long dull stretches. (I think actually I may be 10 to 14 years older than you.) Old enough to have gone through many more dull stretches. It may just be you’re coming up on one. You can get through it. Try exploring the nuances of dullness and boredom… Flatness, ordinariness, everydayness. Read Laurie Notaro’s “We Thought You Would Be Prettier.” There’s humor and beauty in the banal, too. A boatload of it!

  5. Amy
    August 14, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    I really have no wisdom to pass down. I just wanted to say that I feel exactly the same way you do in this entry. I could’ve written all of this myself if I were half as talented of a writer as you.

    I realize I live inside of my head way too much. I think too much. I’m too cautious. I need to stop thinking so damn much and act on my thoughts. Be a little impulsive sometimes. Live out loud. All of those things. And stop worrying so damn much about what others will think of it.

  6. spacedcowgirl
    August 14, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Everyday things seem overwhelming to me too, and I wish I could be a happy person. That’s hard to say because it implies that other people never have problems and my life is so much worse than theirs, which is so far from true that it’s absurd. But many people seem to maintain a baseline level of happiness (or at least calm/contentment/ability to cope) despite what life throws at them. I want to be like that.

    I have a book on happiness by Martin Seligman (I have never actually read this book, which probably says a lot about me), and there was another professor featured on the Daily Show recently who wrote a book called “Happier” that he said was a sort of workbook to become a happier person (can’t remember his name). At best perhaps these resources might be beneficial to you; at least they also point out that you aren’t the only one asking these questions and working toward being happier.

  7. August 15, 2007 at 9:12 am

    I hate to be redundant but are you in my head too? It’s obvious that we all want the same thing but we seem to be stymied on how to achieve it.

    Some of my unhappiness (or severe cranky-pantism) is due to lowering my caffeine and a pig-sty apartment. Some of it is internal. Add trying to exercise and be more particular about what I eat — it’s a big tray of dishes teetering around. Sort of the unhappy version of the giggle loop from BBC’s Coupling.

  8. August 20, 2007 at 2:48 am

    So, SO late to this party, but: thanks. This was inspiring. It’s always nice to be reminded that there are other people out there working toward the same things.

  9. August 21, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Yes. What you said. You’re not in my head but we’re in the same area code. I don’t want the frolicking about madly in flowers kind of happy, I want to be centered and confident, trying new things and content with myself and my life even as I continue to work on adding to both. Thanks for the post.

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