As I write this, I am laying in the sun, wearing a white bikini, feeling a perfect breeze through the trees, in a beautiful park by a river, after a morning of yoga and meditation, having just eaten a Salad Nicoise, enjoying a much needed and well-deserved repose. I feel happy. Mostly happy.
Since I last posted here, my essays and exams and the third year of my degree has been completed. In the midst of that I’ve somehow managed to: organise a sit-down dinner and Spring Fling Teen Scream American High School Prom Midnight Steakout for 172 people with accompanying festivities, rehearse and perform a concert as The Silver Jay, do the Bikram yoga 30-day challenge, and apply for the MA that I am eagerly hopeful to take the year after next. I have also managed to: upset my best friend to the point that we haven’t spoken in weeks by getting stuck in traffic behind a demonstration and missing her wedding ceremony (I was the maid of honour), be rendered almost unable to get out of bed for an entire week due to extreme exhaustion after the Steakout, not get accepted onto the MA programme this time around (although I was encouraged to apply again next year), and sabotage the springtime romance I was enjoying immensely, and that currently looks as though it is fated to be as brief as was the beautiful early spring.
I have been imagining happiness as being like a butterfly; simply awe-inspiring when it comes along, but the life span can often be too brief, especially after the spell in darkness awaiting the moment of emergence from the cocoon. What is there to do? You could play the role of a Victorian butterfly catcher, visiting tropical climes with a long-handled net in tow, pinning specimens under glass, securing fleeting moments of happiness to be referenced or used at some later date. This really will not do somehow; the colours may maintain their hue but the lifeless forms somehow lose their magic when viewed through the frame of nostalgia. There really is only one way to truly feel and appreciate happiness: to be present in the moment and recognise it for what it is when it flits by; to realise that everything in life is transient and that the only certainty is change. There is no use clinging or grasping or trying to save some for later; this will lead you to become like that old butterfly catcher, cataloguing and analysing, always looking back at those little moments of happiness you had captured sometime before. But, look (!), if you go out today you will see that spring is having an unexpected resurgence late in the season, new buds have opened into a flood of leaf and flower, and there are glorious butterflies almost everywhere you look.
Still, it is worth considering that, external factors, though they can be exciting and sometimes practically euphoria inducing, should not be relied upon for a steady source of happiness. In fact, I often wonder if happiness is not largely a physiological phenomenon. Hormonal balance, affected by diet and exercise (and sex or attraction) no doubt plays a role. Despite your best efforts, sometimes, without knowing why, you will still feel low no matter how well you take care of yourself. And sometimes taking care of yourself (or, indeed, doing something nice for someone else) will miraculously make you feel great, despite your best efforts to wallow in the mire of your own misery.
A couple of years ago, I actually was deeply sad for a while: unshakably, depressingly, heartbreakingly, achingly sad. One day I was walking by Trafalgar Square when I noticed there was someone throwing things off of a plinth for an art piece by Anthony Gormley. I caught one. It was a bright yellow paper plane with something printed on one side. It read: ‘No one is in charge of your happiness but you’ (Regina Brett from Ohio- 91 years old). So true, Regina, so true. Now, I cannot say that this immediately snapped me out of it, but it did serve to offer some comfort and encouragement. It reminded me to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get back out there to enjoy life’s rich tapestry of pain and pleasure. This reminder is framed and hangs in my sitting room (alongside a long-dead butterfly) where I see it daily.
There is no disputing that what brings one happiness is different for everyone. My gorgeous sister Hayley (who is today celebrating her 32nd birthday), has found a life that brings her delight and pleasure. She has two sons, Cain and Aiden, and with her fiancée Carmen and his two children, they all live in a big house together like the Brady Bunch (American sitcom from the 70s). Hayley has a business degree and works a job involving a lot of numbers and spends many evenings driving fast between kid’s basketball and football matches. Carmen loves Hayley deeply and has recently proposed marriage. They will wed in a waterfront garden in Florida this September.
Long have I been searching the world trying to find something, to figure out what makes me happy. I want to live life to the fullest and burn with the brightest flame; I want to make something truly beautiful; I want to know love of the highest order; I want to be interested and interesting and never be bored or boring; I want to say and do and write something great and leave something meaningful behind, or at least not leave things worse than how I found them. I want to be a great friend, daughter, sister and, perhaps someday, wife and mother.
I have come to the realisation that the things which I seek are already inside of me: there is no one man, there is no set of circumstances, there is no thing I can do or buy or even create that will suddenly and permanently ‘make me happy’. Understand, I am not saying that I am incapable of being happy. On the contrary, I am regularly and definitely brought happiness by these and many other things, particularly as I learn to be happy just for the sake of being alive. Sometimes the simplest thing (a song, a seedling, light reflected on the water, a hilarious thought, a properly cooked egg) can bring so much immeasurable joy. Not to mention the happiness derived from all the great and wonderful that life has to offer: friendship, nature, true love, gratitude for life itself!!! But happiness, like everything in life, can sometimes be as fleeting as a butterfly in love on a sunny day in early spring. Enjoy it while it lasts. ‘Remember: Be here now!’
Happy Birthday to my beloved little sister, Hayley Alexandria Johnson (soon to be Treffeletti). I love you sis. You are a wonderful woman and I am so pleased that you have made a life filled with so much happiness.