Life is strange. Even stranger when one’s mental health is thrown into the mix. The brutal truth about life is that we are born, we live, we laugh, we suffer and we die. What a cheery thought on a cold, dark, dreary afternoon in January.
So here I sit, having had a minor falling out with a colleague at work, with my back in mild agony after a gruelling session with the osteopath, a bit of a headache, my dad recently diagnosed with cancer of the bladder, minor money concerns, my mid-life crisis still chasing my shadow, a failed musician and songwriter still desperately wanting recognition – however small – yet knowing in my heart it will never come, an irreparably broken heart from my teens, permanently single despite a constant yearning for companionship, gay but wishing I wasn’t because I would like nothing more than to get married to a woman and have children and therefore lead a ‘normal’ life… (it ain’t gonna happen), a permanent feeling of underachievement, a burning desire to better myself but with not an inkling as to how, desperate for a total change in career, but unable to think of anything I could or want to actually do…. a dwindling circle of friends, a smoking habit I can’t shake, a penchant for a few glasses of red every night that I don’t want to shake, a need for a joint every night so I can sleep, too much time in front of crap television wasting away my precious hours of life, constant awareness of the grim reality that no matter how good I am at anything, there are always thousands of people who are much better at it than me. Shattered dreams, fading hope, painful truths…… yes, here I sit with all these things, yet for some unfathomable reason, I feel happy.
So why on earth do I feel happy? I feel almost guilty about being happy. It’s wrong that I am happy – I don’t deserve to feel happy because, well, I’ve got a whole world full of shit on me, behind me and ahead of me, which should surely stop me from ever experiencing happiness again. I know that some people have that peculiar need for a crisis in order to feel invigorated and alive. If everything is running smoothly and there are no problems and everyone is happy, then they are miserable, grouchy and unfulfilled. My boss, unfortunately, is one of those people. She seems to regularly makes things go horrifically wrong, just so she can jump in and save the day like some kind of twisted superhero. I am not one of those people. I am the opposite, I like things to go smoothly, I like everyone to be happy and I like the easy, pleasant life that goes with it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m pretty good under pressure, but I like ‘busy’ pressure, not ‘ohmyfuckinggodwearefucked’ pressure.
I digress… why do I feel happy? Honestly? I have no idea. None. Perhaps it’s because I appear to have successfully worked my way out of the darkness of a 2-year major depressive episode. Perhaps I feel like I have succeeded in something by writing this blog. Perhaps I have come to terms with the fact that I am just Mr Average and will never be successful, rich, famous, revered, celebrated, remembered… I will die and in a very short time, I will be forgotten. Completely. Dust. How will it all end for me? Maybe I will drown – I would wholeheartedly approve of that bitter irony – I really would then be the ‘Anonymous Drowning Man’…but perhaps that would have to change to ‘Anonymous Drowned Man’.
I think maybe part of my new found, strangely unwarranted happiness, is because I have stopped expecting so much of myself. I take each day as it comes. I don’t set my sights so high that I can only fail. I’ve stopped looking enviously at what other people possess (both materially and intellectually), and have started to appreciate what I do have and what I have actually achieved, and allow myself to feel satisfaction from those things… no matter how small or insignificant.
If I write and record a song, for example, and I really like it, and feel pride and satisfaction with the end result, then who cares if not another living soul likes it or even ever hears it? Why is it so important for as many people hear my new song as possible? (leading to the inevitable crushing disappointment when you realise that actually, no one is ever going to hear it). What is it I seek? Recognition? Why? So people remember me when I’m dead? Why should that bother me? I’ll be dead for fucks sake. Ash. Dust. I won’t be looking down from my puffy white cloud playing my harp and feeling satisfaction that the world still remembers me. So fuck it. Take the enjoyment and satisfaction out of the creative process, enjoy and feel satisfied by the end product, listen to it over and over again until you are sick to death of it, post it on the internet for everyone to ignore and then forget it. Move on. Happy.
The need and desire to improve oneself is both admirable and in my opinion essential… but it mustn’t go too far. If you are a serial killer, then yes, it is essential that you try your very best to stop. However, if you are guilty, for example, of being addicted to reality TV, then ok, probably best not to admit it to too many people, and probably a good idea to try and cut down on it a little, so you can enjoy some of the other things that life offers. But why make yourself miserable by destroying your television and engaging in self-flagellation? …I am aware that this argument is full of holes, but I’ve written it now, so it stays…
Ok, let’s pull this back to me and my curious happiness…. One of the vices I would prefer I didn’t indulge in, is my nightly joint to help me sleep. I’m 43 years old and I still smoke pot. One half of me berates myself for this juvenile habit, pours scorn on my weak will, feels shame at my secret vice. This half of me was undoubtedly the ruling half during my depression. Now, the other half has the upper hand. The other half that says ‘so fucking what’, ‘who cares’, ‘do what you damned well like’, ‘you enjoy it, so do it’… this half also has a more sensible, cautious side which says ‘as long as you have control over it’, ‘as long as it doesn’t effect your day to day life’, ‘as long as it doesn’t hurt of effect anyone else’, etc… I like this half. It allows me to continue my bad habits, but without the guilt. It allows me to feel happy and contented despite my flaws and my faults… it allows me to feel comfortable with my imperfections, rather than overwhelming, self-hating disgust.
This is the key I think, to my current happiness. Life is still full of the same old shit, and with all the usual unpalatable ingredients, but it now also has a good, healthy sprinkling of ‘don’t let the bastards bring you down’ and ‘always look on the bright side of life’, and it’s working for me.
Life really is a bitch and then you really do die, but if you can just stop looking over the fence at what you don’t or can’t have, and instead marvel at the flowers growing in your own garden, then it is entirely possible to find your very own, small piece of happiness.
I’ll drink to that.