A throwaway question. A perfunctory answer. “So how are you?” he asked. Unthinking, the answer tumbled from my lips, “I’m great.”
There was a pause before he replied gently. “But you never say that.” And he was right. I never do. Except that I just did. That’s when it hit me.
I was happy. So happy that I hadn’t even noticed.
Well good grief, how did this happen? And how was it that I didn’t see it coming didn’t prepare, didn’t revel? That longed for sensibility, that sweetly elusive quest that launched a thousand well-thumbed self-help books, the favored subject of so much yapping from so many smug and silly daytime talk show hosts. Happiness. It was mine?
I had to cry a little. Not because I was happy. But because I hadn’t realized how long I’d been unhappy.
Had I bull headedly been unwilling to admit how unhappy I had been? Or had I simply been rutted for so long that I hadn’t noticed? Or worse, not cared?
The marvelous Mary Oliver speaks of “a seizure of happiness.” That can certainly be so. But this lovely, pervasive longed for thing snuck up on me. Caught me by surprise and held me.
The thing is, for those who are aware there are always, even in terrible times, moments of happiness, of beauty, of joy. We snatch greedily at these happy things, grab them and hold on tight. Most of us swing from joyous moment to joyous moment, all the time lurching over the abyss of fear and unhappiness.
But this feeling was something else entirely, pervasive and calm and real. It arrived without fear.
How did it happen? On the surface, it all seems the same. The weird and wonderful cascade of daily life continues. The comfortable old house is still basically held together with duct tape. I’m haunted by sisyphean piles of laundry. My untamable flyaway hair perseveres in having a wayward mind of it’s own. I try to be where the people I love can reach me. I remain small and quiet, often unnoticed and most comfortable in a corner.
And yet there is a difference. I am doing exactly the work I want to be doing in just the way I want to do it. That small thing is everything to me.
Could it be that happiness was there all along, waiting for me to stop searching for it so it could simply suffuse me?
All these thoughts raced through my head before I continued the conversation. I took a deep breath, “And how are you?” I asked. I thought and I hoped, “please be great too.”