Tuesday, April 20, 2010
A State of Perpetual Intoxication
I caught myself this morning singing in the car on the way to work. I was singing Broadway tunes from Wicked, in fact. (Go on and laugh--I know you wanna!) Suddenly I was struck by how good I feel. My eyes are clear (Chelle stroked my cheek last night and told me my eyes are "kind," which made my heart melt); I'm leaning out; my brain is firing on all cylinders--my teaching is much improved this semester, and it was never bad); I feel a connection with a Higher Power; I'm not angry about anything; it's springtime and flowers are blooming everywhere; and, well, I'm just happy.
I'm not sure I've ever really understood happiness before. I think about that, and I guess I had a vague, unformed impression that happiness is some kind of constant state of utter bliss. You know, the happy feeling you get when you've had the first drink or two. Your spirits lift and all seems right in the world. Or that high you get when you're first falling in love. I suppose I thought that if you're truly happy, you're in a state of continual ecstasy. Everything clicks into place and nothing much is ever wrong--a kind of perpetual intoxication.
So, naturally, I seldom felt happy, except for in times like those I've just listed. Maybe that offers up at least one of the many reasons I drank all the time. I was looking for happiness. Unfortunately, after that initial buzz wore off and I was merely drinking to try to get the feeling back or to maintain it, I'd overshoot, have too much, and then happiness was the last thing I felt. I'd get angry, cruel, self-pitying, and all those things I normally dislike in others, much less myself.
A need for instant gratification was a part of it, too. When I felt lousy, I wanted something to perk me up and make me happy right then. Of course, life doesn't work that way. Not only is it folly to rely on someone or something outside of yourself to make you happy, but also happiness comes along on its own timeline. I've had to learn patience and to count to ten when I get an impulse. Happiness isn't really a constant string of joyous moments--it's more like a general outlook that comes from within.
I think what I feel now is genuine happiness. I'm not sure how to describe it. It's contentment. It's a feeling that overall, things are good and are going well. As for the things that aren't, well, they can't and won't break me. Some things I just can't control and I've learned to stop resisting when it's futile. I've learned to ask myself questions and root out the real issues behind the things that bother me. "Why does it matter to you so much whether they're your friend?" "Why does their opinion of me bother me?" When I find the answer, I understand myself and push it a bit further: "Does this serve you?" "Does this serve them?" "What's your agenda here?" I've been having some frank conversations with myself. I'm not a hero by any means; I have some failings as a human being. Real failings. But, those can be worked on. And there is a serenity that comes in recognizing that, a sense of overall well-being.
So, this morning I sang joyously in the car.