The key to happiness (or at least neutrality)

I was standing in line at Publix on Thursday with one person in front of me and two behind me. The two were a grandmother-granddaughter pair, and the grandmother was resting her arms on a cart as she supervised her granddaughter, who was hurriedly tossing items onto the conveyor belt: barbecue chips, beef jerky, a yellow carton of Blue Bell ice cream, a yellow box of Eggos…

 

“OOOOOOOOOH,” the granddaughter (who looked to be about 12) cooed, reaching up for a comic or magazine.

 

“Not until you’ve read your current one,” Grandmother declared in a tone of finality.

 

“Ohhhhhkay,” Granddaughter sighed.

 

A few seconds later…

 

“Your phone,” Grandmother grumbled, fumbling with it. “Someone’s trying to TEXT you,” she stated, presenting the granddaughter’s phone to her.

 

The granddaughter leaned over the cart and peeked at the name or just number displaying on her screen without accepting the phone. “Eh, it’s not an important person,” she decided, continuing to transfer items from cart to belt, using both hands.

 

Not an important person. I repeated the phrase in my head. Why do we all bother filling our lives with anyone but important persons? It’s such a waste of time and energy… 

 

***

 

The day before – Wednesday – I was at work, shuffling through paperwork and planning my agenda for the following week. I knew that my boss was going to be out on vacation, and I wanted to have enough projects stored up and events slash branch visits scheduled that I wouldn’t grow bored or restless.

 

I turned toward my weekly planner — a cool, outer space-themed calendar that I keep out on my desk, lying flat — and accidentally flipped two pages instead of one. My heart sank.

 

“Oh noooooooo! It’s OVER,” I mourned. “The calendar — the year — is over…”

 

And just like that, my beloved calendar became obsolete. I brought it home with me that evening — I plan on salvaging the pictures and creating a space collage of sorts.

Time slips away from us so easily, so mysteriously… like snow. I watched the wind blow it right out of the trees a week and a half ago, following an uncharacteristic snowfall. It’s there for a day — covering the ground, painting our cars, and coating the trees — and then it simply vanishes. Vaporizes.

Most of us took pictures of it and all of us have memories of it, but otherwise, it’s gone. And when it leaves, it looks spectacular — glittering in the air, tumbling down over itself, and then just magically disappearing. Its impossibly strange exit makes you pause and wonder, where did it actually go? 

 

***

 

The morning before THAT and THAT – on Tuesday – I was getting ready for work when Charlie walked into my room.

“Hey — you got your final grades yesterday, right? As?”

“Yep!” I smiled.

“Well congratulations, GRADUATION BUN!” he cheered.

“HA! I wish,” I murmured. Then, my heart sank again, sort of like it would the next day, when I would realize that my time had run out, and like it had a week before, when I had watched something truly beautiful appear to meet its end.

“No, actually… I don’t…” 

 

***

 

Why un-wish graduation on myself? If I’m a kayak, depression is the undercurrent tugging at me from beneath the waters I travel on. Always there, and always almost about to pull me under. Calm waters will sometimes weave themselves into this undercurrent, causing me to feel the restlessness and/or turbulence of my depression to varying degrees at different times. But the current has yet to totally take over.

But here’s the thing: When I’m busy... traveling, potting plants, cooking meals, and enjoying my work-work, my school work, and my ceaseless self-exploration-and-development work… the waters don’t mix together quite as much. And that’s a good thing. Busyness seems to keep us all straight, nicely moving from left-to-right in our side-scrolling life games.

 

“Aren’t you glad the semester’s over?” my mother asked me earlier this week.

 

“No. It’s terrible!” I replied, laughing into the phone. I knew she’d think I was joking, so I explained that I wasn’t.

 

And today, during the winter break, I’ve brought my Spanish curriculum to the cafe with me. I plan on working a few chapters ahead so that when the spring semester ACTUALLY starts, I’m really just giving myself a ‘refresher’ on what I’ve already learned.

 

“I guess if you just always stay busy, you’ll always be okay,” my mom concluded at the end of our conversation.

 

And it’s true. She’s right. Busyness is the key, the secret, to controlling it (plus or minus a shot of St. John’s Wort in my orange juice). And isn’t that terrible; depression demanding restlessness from the person it inhabits. Or, instead of inhabiting, is it more of an external force that simply pokes and prods and torments its victim? I, personally, believe that it exists inside of us. An unwelcome but sometimes sleepy companion who we can both hate and learn from.

 

***

 

I’ve tried googling “how to relax”, “ways to enjoy your free time”, “how to do nothing” and other, similar search queries, but none of the results have either interested or resonated with me. I don’t know how to simply sit and be.

In order to be happy (or at least neutral), I have to be producing, or creating, or learning, or discovering, or going, going, gone… all of the time. When I was assisting at a branch on Monday and finished breezing through all of the “busy work” the manager had saved up for me, he looked just as stressed as I did, trying to answer my question of: What now? What next? Please, give me something to do so that I can enjoy being alive. Alright, it wasn’t THAT dramatic, but almost. Almost.

 

“I’m going to write ANOTHER book,” I professed to a good friend of mine, on an afternoon when I was feeling particularly exasperated with myself. “And here’s what I’ll call it: HOW TO DO NOTHING. Or perhaps, HOW TO DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.”

 

IMG_20171201_193444_370
= me presenting another key to happiness (burritos) in Asheville, NC

 

Still here (sitting on the couch at Urban Standard and appearing to do nothing although I’m actually doing quite a bit — exploring myself and writing and thinking about the clearance rack at Nordstrom and where to find a good spice rack for Charlie and I’s booming spice department and also planning my and three friends’ itinerary for an upcoming trip to Ecuador where I will stay supremely busy, spying on active volcano Cotapaxi, adventuring through the Amazon rain forest, and popping into a cave or two — but what about later in 2018… like, in October; where will I go and what will I do THEN, assuming I’m still alive? Go hiking up in Colorado Springs? Go find a cafe and a waterfall somewhere in Canada? Aren’t the people there supposedly extra-nice? Will I make As in those 2018 fall classes, and before those fall classes, these upcoming spring classes? Will I find a guy, the right guy, a genuinely NICE guy, someday? Soon or not very soon? Never? That would be okay, wouldn’t it? But if I do, will he have a British accent, like David Tenant? Will he hail from Ecuador? If I go to Canada, will I find him there? Will I meet him in Ecuador? Am I supposed to find him or is he going to find ME? Will we have a little girl together and name her Josie Elliott and will I know how to hold her properly? Will it take me four years to graduate or possibly just 3.5? Will I ever write a book that sells? Despite all of my holistic endeavors, will I eventually develop one of the cancers my family has had — brain, breast, skin, colon? Should I NOT have a little girl to spare her from possible health issues and the soul-draining sadness of a depraved world that is spinning into a state of complete insanity? Will I stay busy enough today, tomorrow, next week? OH YEAH, I still need to buy some organic red potatoes for Christmas… and Charlie mentioned having a sore throat, so I should also pick up some lemons!),

Aun Aqui

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