some thoughts on happiness / by mrm

That I am a happy person is something I have learned. I have learned it through repetition. It did not occur to me. I did not say, nor do I now say, to myself: I am happy. Rather, people ask me often, always, Why are you so happy? It has never ceased to startle me. Rarely when I am asked this am I conscious of feeling particularly happy, a feeling which I associate with being somehow different/more/better than my daily feeling – that, at least, is the definition I feel I have learned. You are at a zero, a neutral, and happiness is something above zero. Let's say five. With seven being ecstasy.  

Why are you so happy, I am asked. Am I, I wonder, and also, are you not? And if I am, why? And if you are not, why not? The confusion of others confuses me. They want something from me, I can sense it. An answer, an explanation, an excuse – I drank a lot of coffee. I passed the bar. I just got engaged. I'm having a good day. I used to say, I don't know. Or, What do you mean? Then for a while I said, I'm just like this. Now, when possible, when I think the questioner is listening, is genuinely wanting to know, I say, I think there's something wrong with my brain. I think there's a chemical imbalance in my brain. It's like clinical depression, but the opposite. I think I have that. And it's true, that's what I think. And I sense the jealousy in it, I'm not as happy as you. What does that mean? That happiness is somehow comparative. Or competitive?

And I think about the way we talk about happiness. We say: That makes me happy, She makes me happy, I think I could make you happy. The very language is transformative/descriptive: I am tall, I am old, I am happy. A characteristic? We describe other temporary things the same way: I am tired, I am bored. But make? To make is to force, also to create. You could make me dinner. You could make me a ceramic pot. You could make me happy. Or could you. We want to cling to things that are unclingable (happiness is not a scarf, not a rope, not the edge of a cliff, either). We want the agency to come from outside ourselves. When do we say, I made myself happy?

I think: Happiness is not a seashell. You won't just be walking along one day and suddenly find it and then pick it up and get to carry it around with you for as long as you want. I think: Happiness is not a present. Other people can't give it to you.

I also think that people have weird ideas about happiness. If I could just be happy, they think. Or, things are fine, but I could be happier. Sure. You could. And what then? What do you think happiness will do for you? What will it give you? I really think it won't give you what you want. Worrying about happiness is funny (if you can get yourself there).