Happiness Production

by theobfuscatedone

Today has been spent in introspection.  A lot has happened in the past few days.  C and I have effectively abandoned the final show.  I have spent time with great friends.  I realized today that there is finally, again, more good than bad in my life.  With the final show saga closed, the constant stress and worry associated with it are gone.  It was only one thing but it was so massive that no matter how much good there was, with it around there was always more bad.  Once our letter is sent, there is nothing else to do but get back into the studio, back into school, and back into living.  This post is dedicated to the good things (Wow, that was ridiculously sappy.  Enjoy.)

Happiness: What You Need to Know

My friend M and I talk to each other all the time.  Thank goodness we both have Verizon and can talk mobile-to-mobile for free.  If we had to use our minutes, just one of our conversations would deplete a months worth.  What do we talk about for hours?  Everything and nothing.  We are very much alike and we spend a lot of time trying to understand a world that, in many ways, is foreign to us.  We are expert observers and when we talk we compare notes and experiences and try to synthesize our knowledge into a sort of living philosophy.  It is living in two ways.  The first is that it is a philosophy about living.  The second is that the philosophy itself is a living entity, constantly evolving to keep up and incorporate more of the experiences we have as we go about our daily lives.

Both M and I lead purposefully packed lives.  Neither of us drives so we spend a good amount of time walking through our respective cities, running errands, going to school, eating.  Without cars we interact with our environment in ways that drivers rarely experience.  The trials and tribulations of mass transit, the asinine behavior of many drivers, the joys of large stretches of time where we are on our way to somewhere.  These stretches serve as times to catch up with each other, others, but most importantly, for absorption and interpretation of ourselves.  Our brains are, in many ways, our best friends.  As long as we have them, we are rarely bored or lonely.  While only one of us is an actual only child, we both have one of the integral qualities of an only child: an ability to occupy and entertain oneself with just our minds.  If you knew how much time I spend lying in bed or sitting on my balcony, staring into space and looking for all the world like I am simply killing time, you would probably be shocked.  In reality, it is a time of furious activity as I daydream about goals, desires, hopes, and frustrations.  Since our brains are such an integral part of our lives, we talk a lot about them.  We talk about thought processes, functions, dysfunctions.  Our minds are our jumping off point, the place where it all starts and where all eventually comes to rest.

Another common topic is literature (We’re both serious word geeks.  We have actually spent entire conversations debating the merits of certain obscure words [these conversations usually end with silence as we contemplate the beauty of the current word.].  Our favorite word: caesura.  A word that produces an unmatched aural sensation.  Look it up.  It’s amazing.  You’re welcome.)  Both of our courses of study are composed primarily of literature.  While we do not focus on the same writers or genres, our knowledge of literature is so varied that we have no trouble keeping pace and challenging one another.

There are an infinite variety of topics and tones of conversation for us.  The common thread through all of them is simply us reinforcing the idea that if we want happiness in our lives, we must doggedly pursue it.  Happiness is not something that is handed to anyone.  Much like a hothouse orchid, it is something that requires careful cultivation to thrive.  We both exhibit a practicality towards life that helps us with the cultivation.  In the simplest terms: Do what produces happiness.  If something isn’t producing happiness and is optional, don’t do it.  There are many things in life that produce unhappiness but are necessary e.g. taxes, cleaning, paying bills, etc.  However, many things we are told are necessary are not.  It is not necessary to stay in a job you hate.  By that I mean, you have a choice: you can either stay in your job, make it work, and quite complaining how much you hate your job or you can find a new job.

When I first started grad school, I was working towards an MLIS so that I could be a librarian.  It turned out that the only books I saw were the textbooks and I spent every class sitting in front of a computer.  I had to learn how design and code websites.  Since my interest was in the conservation and preservation of rare book and manuscripts, all of my courses had very little to do with what I would actually do as a rare book librarian.  I was also actively discouraged from pursuing rare book conservation because of the widely and absurdly held belief that eventually, all the book will disappear and we will all read with an e- reader.  Fuck that shit.  (E- readers have their place and I can make several good arguments for them.  I can also make several good arguments why we can have both e- readers and actual books.  Even if the rest of the world does away with books, I will have an unrivaled library and when a massive computer virus comes and guts all the e- readers, I will still be able to read to my hearts content.)  I hated library science school.  I was miserable. I had a choice.  Slog my way through another year and a half and come out hating my life or leave and do something else that produced happiness.  Now, I realize it might have been more sensible to stick it out.  I would have saved on student loans, I would have saved time.  Neither of those things would have produced happiness in my life.  I left.  Life is too short to spend it miserable and unhappy.

Happiness takes work.  It is not going to come looking for you and it is not going to stick around out of the goodness of its heart (It doesn’t even have a heart.  Quit anthropomorphizing.)  What makes you happy? For me, it is (in no particular order): pottery, good food, good friends, family, literature, yoga, sweets, sleep, the beach, the outdoors, walking, not having a car, hugs, cuddling, my cat, animals, sarcasm, confidence, laughter, silliness, absurdity, silence, music, the perfect lip balm, and many others.

The final show saga produced a lot of unhappiness in my life.  Now that it is gone, I realize how foolish I was to forget my own advice to cultivate happiness.  Recovering fully will take time.  I am now working to stabilize my reaction to things that make me happy.  Spending so much time unhappy made me latch onto anything or anyone who made me happy.  I almost destroyed any happiness they produced by holding on too hard and demanding their constant presence.  Life is fluid and nothing will constantly produce happiness.  Whatever or whoever it is has to come and go so that you never become immune to the happiness they produce.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder is a cliché for a reason.

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