Monday, June 23, 2008
How Will I Remember This?
I often remind myself that it is the times I struggled most that I recall most fondly.
I remind myself of this so often because it seems I have struggled more than I've coasted. As a matter of fact, does any period of of our lives seem particularly easy as we experience it? Are we ever really happy in the present?
I often recall the years I was in college as the happiest years. But if I take the time to pick apart the memory, I recall that I was so broke I ate boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese because that's all I could afford. I had patio furniture in the living room. I never went out and I never went shopping. I studied a lot, even on Friday and Saturday nights. I dreamed of the day I would graduate and make more money. And have a social life.
But this crusty 37-year-old brain recalls the way the sun shone through the empty attic of my Detroit bungalow and the near-giddy feeling of, "This is mine!" I was so busy trying to get a 4.0 and keep myself fed, I really didn't have too much time to trouble with existential angst. And though I recall these years as the golden years with my ex-husband, I can't help but recall all the nights I got in my car and drove around the block because I was so angry with him I didn't want to go home, but drove home anyway because I had no place else to go.
That makes me laugh now.
I looked at seven or eight houses on Sunday, and quickly ascertained that the affordable houses weren't as nice as my apartment, and the only houses I liked were about $300 more than I pay now. Returning home to my clean, bright, sunshine-y apartment after looking at other people's rundown houses, I couldn't help but tilt my head back and laugh.
I suddenly realized that some day I will look back on the apartment days as some of the fondest memories of my life. My years of struggle as a single mother, climbing my way up the corporate ladder and eeking out a little more salary each year — oh it will be these years of which I will be most proud.
And perhaps I will remember them as the time I was the most free.
I keep getting distracted by all the things I should be dissatisfied with. I don't make enough money. My job is pretty boring and routine. I sit in a cube all day. My car is crappy. My apartment, small. I don't like my furniture. But I'm laughing as I type this.
Happiness is for now, not later. Happiness won't come with a new car, a new job or even a big brand new house. When you move on, you bring your happiness with you. Or your misery.
New houses aren't furnished with emotion. In fact, nothing new includes happiness. It's sort of like batteries — happiness is sold separately. Happiness is a choice, you choose it every single moment, as it occurs. You don't get to pre-order it for the future, and you don't get to send it back in time. Happiness only exists right now, even as you read this.
Figure out how to be happy right now, or fire off all the reasons you can't be happy. Get angry. Tell me why I'm wrong. See how far that gets you. Go on and pack your bags with misery and expect to find something else when you unpack.
I read once that Freud said daydreams were the territory of the dissatisfied and meloncholy. Happy people don't daydream. I have a tendency to daydream away the present, wrapping the fantasies of future successes around me while I completely miss what's lovely right now.
It's cloudy out, the pavement is covered with rain. I can't comment on the sun. But the parking lot looks slick and black, and the grass is greener than it ought to be. Michigan is lush and wet, and I want to roll around in it.
I think I will.