“I feel like I just went to my own funeral. I didn’t like the eulogy.” Lane Pryce, Mad Men.
(Note: I started this post before the Lane Pryce’s suicide on Mad Men but finished it after. The show got me thinking about happiness and how many Americans connect it to work and wealth, such capricious things.)
Happiness is strange. I feel it when the moment is already slipping passed; it’s like trying to grasp a kite string. Like when I am about to move again or when I am on my way back from a trip and I look out the airplane window:
You know what, I was happy there in that place, on that beach. That was nice.
And there it goes.
“You’ll never think your life is easy”
I don’t know who said this, but it’s so true.
You won’t. Until things get hard and you’re looking in the rear-view window. Or until you meet someone who has survived incredible things and you compare, although you really can’t compare, really shouldn’t compare.
Whenever I feel happy, my attention will divert to unemployment and finding a job in this economy or my inability to remember how to conjugate those darn French -oir verbs. Or the guy who honked at me because I don’t like to pull into blind intersections when there are kids and SUVs everywhere. Or all the things I didn’t have/don’t have/will never have. Like a perfect, bleached smile – a white picket fence of teeth. A private jet. An island.
You know, the little things.
Wanting. It’s a serious problem in America.
Since moving back to Seattle, I don’t have the stability of a biweekly paycheck. I made up my own job title: Music Maker. Dreamer of Dreams. When someone asks what I do, this is my response and it’s met with quizzical stares.
What I do. Such a silly question. What don’t I do? That’s the better one.
The worst is “What do you do with all your time?” I apply to jobs. I consider starting my own agency. I freelance. I walk the dog and pick up the dry cleaning and do all the house chores. I ponder. I almost never watch television.
It’s hard to be happy in America where opportunities flit just above our heads like butterflies. When you capture one, you instantly want another. I like ambition. I like drive. I have both. But I realize that there’s no end to this mountain we’re all climbing. That the wanting will be constant. That at the end, no one will say I wish I would have worked more.
The little pleasures are the hardest to appreciate, the hardest to see. (Does anyone skip rocks anymore or do we have an Ap for that?)
Don’t get me wrong. I love technology, innovation, products that make things easy. But it’s so pervasive. Our dinners aren’t interrupted with phone calls, but texts and emails and if we don’t answer those emails, our precious jobs will be in jeopardy.
Just being YOU never feels like enough.
I felt like I wanted less in Quebec. I am not saying it’s a perfect province, but the messages That I Am Not Enough, That I Need ___ weren’t drilled into me, from all sides, everyday. Or maybe they were, but I couldn’t read them. All those things I wanted (promotions, accolades, martini glasses filled with mashed potatoes) faded significantly when I took a flying leap out of the hamster wheel.
The yuppy in me says a beauty school is too risky for a haircut. The current jobless person says you spend What? On Hair?
I am excited at the prospect of a new job. I am eager to work. But I realize now that tying your identity to your job is like tying yourself to railroad tracks.
I realize I am better off in some ways without. I can be happy. While I hunt for a job, I will savor this time in my life, this unknowing. I will think of these months not in terms of without, but in terms of a surprise waiting just around the corner.
A job is nothing to live for and certainly nothing to kill yourself over. If you find yourself unemployed or in a strange place, don’t think in terms of without. If you don’t have many people in your life to call, go outside. Notice the way clouds slide across the sky in animal shapes. Feel the grass cool and moist between your toes. Then sprint. This is what alive feels like.