Bobby Borden and the Hunt for Happy

Robert L Borden on a string, fluttering in the wind.

I watch him dance and I smile. I think about how nice it would be to dance with him, but I know better. I haven’t always known better, of course. I’ve only just learned. It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon on a Saturday in June, and I’ve spent the entire day chasing him around the park.

I felt the $100 bill brush against my wrist this morning as I lay in the soft grass, waiting for something, anything to happen. I reached for it immediately, my fingers turning to claws and my heart turning to an empty pit, ready to be filled. It darted away on a prairie breeze, taunting me, urging me to get up and work for the feeling of paper inside a closed fist. “Nothing is free.”

I knew this, and so did my feet, because they started to run. They leaped and twirled and pounced, trying to catch the bill. I came close numerous times, but never close enough before it took flight again. “C’mon Bob, don’t be a dick.” The sun flickered through the trees as I sat once more at a distance, waiting for the right moment. As it did, the light caught, blinding me a little too temporarily, and I noticed something just ahead. Invisible wire. I couldn’t touch it to verify, but all at once I knew this was not the wind, and not a windfall, either. Not pennies from heaven, but a prank. I raced alongside the glimmering streak, trying to locate the culprit, but the tears clouded my eyes until I could not separate the end of the wire from my beginning.

This is what an obsession with finding happiness feels like.

I keep looking for the answer, listening intently to anyone willing to let me in on their secret. It’s gotten so bad that I scroll through video after video on YouTube on nights when the bed is empty and closing my eyes feels eerie and lonesome. Search bar. Typing. H- Deleting. Typing. “How to Be Happy.” Go.

I put in my headphones, unsure if my best friend can hear this carrying down the hall. Hoping that she can’t. She knows everything about me, but in this moment I pretend that neither she or anyone else can guess that I have no idea what THE FUCK I am doing. “Exercise, it releases endorphins!” Okay, cool. I do that. I must be at least semi-close to my destination. “Travel, it releases prejudice and fear of the unknown!” Right. I can get down with that. I like planes and the idea of fruit that grows year round. “Meditate, it releases, like, everything!” I could probably benefit from letting my brain marinate for a while. “Just choose happiness!” Wait.

She says it like we’re at a movie theatre. “Junior Mints or Caramilk?” She says it like there’s a choice to make. She sounds like Cat Stevens in Moonshadow, telling me that she wouldn’t be upset about losing her legs. Are you fucking with me?! Still, I’m left feeling painfully inadequate that I don’t know how to make this non-existent decision.

I suppose part of me gets it. If the choice is “Go sing karaoke with that one friend you have who is bloody terrible and hilarious or stay in your bed and wonder why you have no social life,” Then it would seem that it makes sense what the happier option might be. But that’s not what Cat Stevens with a vagina said. Back button. Close tab. Imagine punching that condescending bitch in the face.

What she means I’m not sure of, but I know it can’t be the way I’m interpreting it, because I’m interpreting it as a slap in the face to myself and every other person who sees happiness as a dart on a map that can’t be reached by any form of transportation that we are familiar with. A blow to people who work their asses off, hearts vulnerable, open to receive it, only to catch debris.

I don’t want to make it sound as if I’m not content. I am, exceptionally so. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to evaluate as I wade through the how-tos of happy that are constantly put in my path. Should I want more? Should I be doing more? How do I know what it is I should want? How do I know exactly what life should feel like? Lately I feel as if I’m failing every time I get angry. Every time I do something that isn’t considered 100% selfless and efficient for everyone. Every time I have a shitty day, I cover it with the idea that I SHOULD feel gratitude.

Why?

Some days are shit, and there isn’t a trace of gratitude in my veins. Some days I don’t feel like thanking the universe for sprinkling fecal matter all over me, and I certainly don’t feel like thinking about all of those who might have it worse. I am unbelievably tired of everyone trying to solve the problems of other people with “Just think positive!” I know that positive thinking is an asset in overcoming, in becoming; I’ve seen it. But I don’t need to do it every minute of every goddamn day.

If you ask me, sadness and anger are just as important. They have had an equal part in my metamorphosis, in building my character. I would even venture to say that they have provided far greater incentive to reach for more than any great day I’ve ever lived in. On great days, I celebrate, and on shit days, I evaluate. That’s healthy, and to do otherwise would be to deny myself a basic human requirement. I wish we had evolved beyond the need for tear ducts, but we’re not there yet, so I’m damn well going to use them.

Nathaniel Hawthorne compared happiness to a butterfly. I think it’s so beautiful, and I feel in my soul that it is accurate. It’s fragile and fleeting, and a butterfly couldn’t inspire laboured sighs of awe echoing through the world if it were trapped and squished in our fists. It’s okay not to be able to catch it and make it a pet. If someone is building a railroad through the centre of your angry town, if they’re calling “ALL ABOARD: DESTINATION HAPPY!” It’s okay not to take the train. Walk until you feel like experiencing change, because there will ALWAYS be another one sending its joyful choo-choo down the line. And, if not, there will always be another plane, another electric car, another path.

I imagine myself watching ol’ Borden as he dances, and I imagine seeing a young boy finally catch him. The jig is up. I don’t feel jealous or inadequate. My only thought is “Well, damn. Good for you.” I get the feeling that the bill wasn’t mine to catch, and I lay back down in the soft grass, waiting for something, anything, to happen.

The Prize and a Handful of Pocket Change

Love is complicated.

It makes you breathe faster, it makes your palms sweatier, it makes you hum songs that used to make you sick. There is no bigger high than to feel lips against your lips, a fit of lust, admiration, maybe both. Of course, like all things, it makes even the radio impossible. It makes you wish that you had kept more of a barrier between yourself and the fire.

Retrospect is funny. It’s like your brain catalogued every intimate moment you’ve ever had and presents itself to you in your weakest form. If people claim to have died at the hands of love, I believe it. To watch love die is one thing, but to watch it go up in smoke against your will is entirely another. The kind of sorrow that love brings can only be matched by other chains, other forms of love. Sometimes I think that this is the only thing that can truly hurt us.

To remain upbeat in a world full of starvation and bullets and fire is a feat, especially if you can make it out without the cloak of guilt hanging over you. There are so many questions that need answers, but I often wonder if people would be satisfied with the truth. We create our own realities, tiny images on the big screen of tradition and history. Still, I wonder if there’s more I could have done. I didn’t ask to be born in one of the most beautiful, free countries in the world, so why me? Is there a point in asking this question at all? $3.00 a day seems meager and easy in comparison to what I imagine that those who are caged in their own circumstance might feel, what every day behind their eyes is worth.

On days like today, when I am unsure of my place and my power in the world, I write. I bleed. This is the only outlet I know that welcomes my complete and whole self. This is my sanctuary, my home, and my strength. A word can make all the difference between a beautiful song and a mundane statement. I don’t have a real ending for this post, all I have is my thoughts. I think, for once, that’s enough.

Where The Heart Is

I know I bitch about it all the time, because it’s cold and slippery and familiar, but I love my country.

Canada is a beautiful place to grow up, to make a life, to grow old. It is quiet but majestic, and I like to think that we create our own warmth around here. I don’t say enough how thankful I am to go outside into the vast nothing and, somehow, everything all at once. I can see the stars, I can catch a snowflake on my tongue.

There are times I dream of living on a beach somewhere, hearing the waves slap the shore and feeling the sun in the part of my hair, somewhere life is slow and simple. I dream of these things but I can’t imagine living where I couldn’t kiss a cold face passionately until it warmed like I gave it life. I couldn’t imagine life without the stillness of the first snowfall, the one that I always claim to have been dreading but is one of my secret and greatest pleasures in life.

Canada is a beautiful place to grow up, to make a life, to grow old. I think most people who live here would agree with me. In Canada I have rights and freedoms and the ability to feel secure in using them wherever they apply. I am free to to marry whomever I choose, to vote, to have an education and a career. In Canada I live as an equal. If all of this fell down tomorrow, and I had to leave, this is what I would remember.

I believe that under the right circumstances, our hearts never really leave home, because home is the backdrop, the setting of life piecing us together, maybe even pulling us apart. That’s what Canada means to me, and I take great pride in where I live. How could I even begin to imagine, then, what it must be like to leave it behind? How could I begin to imagine fleeing the terrain under which I gained my footing? To start fresh in a country with a language I cannot understand but will be forced to learn at rapid speed, to adjust to the culture, the atmosphere, to being the minority? It would take a great deal of strength that I’m not sure I could muster.

I hear people complain about the “foreigners” that work and live among us, and I’m not proud when I say that there have been times I’ve been the one doing the complaining. I hear people become frustrated and even aggressive towards them simply because they are not being understood. How quickly we forget that the person standing in front of us, inconveniencing our day is not a “foreigner,” but a human being trying to make an honest living. A human being who cannot understand us, but understands tone and body language and knows he or she is being berated. A human being who is fully capable of feeling shame, embarrassment and sadness.

I’m sick of people associating bad customer service with ethnicity. Why don’t we ever evaluate how we could make this situation less frustrating and deal with it accordingly? Why is it easier to yell at the young girl across the counter instead of asking to talk to someone who is more equipped to deal with our request? Why are we so quick to anger instead of seeking understanding? It saddens me to see and to hear when I know that a lot of the people who were born and raised right here in this city believe they are above working in the fast food restaurants and call centres that they so often complain about.

 Maybe if we thought more about these people than the fact that they screwed up our dipping sauce likeeveryfuckingtime, we would be able to reach that level of understanding. Maybe it would be easier to teach them with patience and kindness that we would like bbq instead of plum. Maybe if we went the extra mile for them, they would return it tenfold. If we’re not happy with the service we receive, what can we do to change that? The answer is not “fire the fucking foreigners.” The answer is to address the problem, suggest more hands-on training for the employees and for Christ’s sake, remember that they are living in a world of people just like us, who yell at them and take our days out on them because it’s so damn easy.

All I know is that if you lay down next to me and press your face to mine, if I put my hand on your chest, we will discover that we are breathing, blinking, beating. We will discover that here, in our most raw form, we are equals. We serve equal purpose in the world. I have thoughts, some brilliant and some, well, otherwise. Your eyes dart around and I know you must have these thoughts too. If we are both thinking, we will find a way to communicate. We will discover that together we are a greater force than we were alone.

How beautiful.

Invest in Happiness

This week has been a non-stop thrill ride. Or a Bruce Springsteen song. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the most beautiful parts of my country and I am so grateful for the opportunity. It’s been a truly stellar experience, so much so that it almost feels as if I’ve sprouted wings. This week marks the first time in 2 years that I’ve felt peace within my mind.

There’s something about the road that makes me feel like a gypsy floating on a prairie wind. I’ve spent so much of this trip stopping to take in the sights and the serenity of nature. I think the most interesting part about it was that the most rugged of scenery was also the most breathtaking. I often feel the same way about people. Do you ever just sit and watch people as they go about, bustling through their day, taking no notice of your presence? I think it’s one of my favourite pastimes. Actually, the only time I bother with sunglasses is to see without being seen. It’s not malicious or judgemental; I just think that people are so much more beautiful in their natural form. I’ve seen a lot of people this week, people of all walks of life. I’ve seen friendly hitchhikers, homeless women with tired eyes, ambitious athletes, joyous street dancers and everyone in between. It’s weird, but I feel like I’ll miss them. They probably didn’t see me, but I was able to see pieces of myself in them.

My soul is on the loose, running wild and dizzy with freedom. So are my eyebrows. We’re on the home stretch now, and though I’m sad to think that the journey is coming to a close, I’m going home with a new lease on life and I know that I’ll bask in the afterglow for months to come.

 

How was your week, friends? Fill me in here, on Twitter, or Facebook. You’ll find the links in my bio. You can also follow me on Instagram @karleegorrie to see some pictures from the trip!