Happiness and Other Lies


I know this woman (I won’t mention names) who’s bookshelves are full of self-help books. Not just the mainstream stuff either, the Jesus self-help books, the work books, the real hardcore happy-pushers. They are like drug dealers, aren’t they? We try really hard in the U.S. to make happiness a commodity. We sell it in books, seminars, pills, even in Sobe Bottles. It’s like make-up, a diet and highlighted hair for our insides. Forget about the Marijuana, this is the shit that should not be sold over the counter.

It’s really frustrating to me because I feel that there is a value to learning about your own nature, and about human nature, but I have a really hard time with the conclusion that the only legitimate value is complete happiness and brilliant beauty all the time. I often got the feeling from JJ that this was what he was searching for. He said he had it once, I say he was young and horny and didn’t have to make any hard choices in life. We often measure our happiness this way – the Tony Robbins way. Everything must feel like first love. And, truth be told, I suppose he was always looking to get stoned for the same reason – to feel bliss, to feel first love, to feel a lack of pain. But I don’t think we are seeking happiness when we do this, I think we are simply avoiding discomfort, and these are two vastly different things. Avoiding discomfort is simplistic, happiness is complicated.

This came in my inbox today and it make me cringe – http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/9-daily-habits-that-will-make-you-happier.html?goback=.gde_35975_member_182779351 Now, don’t you think that if there were really only nine simple steps to happiness every person on the planet would be happy all the time and there would be no need to write articles like this?

Then I remembered this interview I heard on NPR yesterday. It was with author Oliver Burkeman about his book called The Antidote -Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. “what I wanted to do in this book”, he says, “was to explore what I ended up calling ‘the negative path to happiness,’ which involves instead turning toward uncertainty and insecurity, even pessimism, to try to find a different way that might be more durable and successful.”

FINALLY, someone who says fuck you to our fake ideals of happiness! I like a certain amount of discord in my life. I like a bit of reasonable insanity. You know, not the kind that puts you a padded room or prison, but the kind that makes for a good story. I like getting lost, feeling frustrated, I don’t mind tears, and I don’t care if things aren’t perfect. If there weren’t low level anxiety in my life I wouldn’t feel at home. I wouldn’t feel like myself. I would feel like one of those people with straight, white, gleaming teeth on a commercial, brushing my thick, shiny breck-girl hair and laughing constantly with my Aloha-Ken boyfriend. A synthetic, pre-fab person.

Yuck.

I like guys with crooked teeth.

I had a discussion with JJ once about something (I can’t even remember what now) that he was doing that really hurt me. His answer was that he would try not to. Well, that was good enough for me. I was thrilled with that answer. Of course, he did it again the next week. And, we had the same discussion again. And I was still thrilled with the same answer. Could we have used some more knowledge on the topic? Probably. Would it have “changed” anything? Maybe. Do I care? No.

The other grand selling point of American society is that ‘all you need to be happy is within you”. Bullshit. A big part of everyone’s happiness are social interactions. I have a friend I’m not always happy with. A few, in fact. I get frustrated, he get’s frustrated. We do things that hurt each other. We have the same talks more than once. Often, it seems, that we get no where – but as I look back over our friendship I see that each of those conflicts changes a little something. Often something I didn’t expect or consider at the time. It’s not in three months or six months or even a year, but after awhile I can see us growing together. That makes me feel kind of , well – happy.

There is a difference between being happy and having knowledge that can help you when too much sadness or anger is hurting you or others around you. As Burkeman says: “I think what I’ve really learned is to have a lot of different tools at my disposable for when I’m not [happy]. It’s not that I sail through life in some completely serene state, but that the problems and the obstacles and the irritations can be dealt with more swiftly when you are not locked into this idea that you have to stamp them out; that you have to make yourself feel motivated, for example, before you can get on with things that need doing; that there’s something terribly, terribly wrong with not feeling incredibly excited and cheerful every moment of the day.”

A book to sink your teeth in to; information to chew on; thoughts to digest. I wonder if this guy is single…

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