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.

Sweet Little Lies

It’s been a minute.

I apologize for the very small amount (none) of posts for the month of February, but lately I’ve been feeling a bit like an onion. Layers of my being have been torn off, and I have been dealing with the frosty breeze of truth against my new and tender skin. It sounds like a pretty lame excuse, but it took a lot of out of me. I would sit down to write and instead of the words I desperately needed to bleed, all that my imagination could give me were dancing hams.

I’ve talked a ton about self-esteem and the importance of identity, but life has a funny way of making you live up to the words that you say, and that’s what this month has been about. I sat down one day and tried to come up with a list of my attributes, and for reasons I still don’t understand, I couldn’t come up with any. When I finally stirred up one or two I could be sure of, my mind would always stop me before I wrote them in ink. It seemed so permanent, so final as if it were being carved into my skin where I would never be able to cover it. My mind would override my hands with doubt and I would be less convinced that I had any attributes to speak of. That page is still very much blank.

I’ve had the time to mull it over, and I have come to the conclusion that my identity, my core being is not at all what I thought it was. For an extensive period of time now, my soul has been neatly wrapped in a tight and unforgiving plastic. I used to assume that this was the fault of other people, but I can’t go on believing that, because it wouldn’t be the truth, would it? No, this plastic is so tightly wound that it would have taken total cooperation from my soul for it to be possible. This is how I know that the culprit is and has always been me.

When Eleanor Roosevelt said “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent,” she was bang-fucking-on. People will lie to you all day long. They will tell you that you don’t have the guts, the balls or the ovaries to do what it takes. They will tell you that you don’t deserve it, so you shouldn’t want it, shouldn’t chase it. They will tell you that your best will never be enough. Sounds daunting, right? I thought so, too. If I’m truthful, I didn’t ever think I’d get ahead of those people and their chatter, and so I stayed amongst them for fear of the walk of shame, the fear of failure, the fear of coming up empty.

Here’s the catch:

People will lie to you all day long. They’ll tell you that George Michael was in NKOTB. They’ll tell you that you won’t hurt yourself jumping off of a balcony. They’ll tell you that kale chips taste just like the real thing. If you went about your life blindly believing these things, where would you be? Well, you could be in a full body cast, eating a single kale chip before you violently spit it out, watching a television special on WHAM. And you will realize that they were wrong, they were wrong about everything. After that you will be slapped with the harsh reality that trusting this information lies with you and you alone. You realize that it was your mistake, and that’s worse.

The lies start as soon as we are able to communicate, when we absorb the actions, the words, the personalities of other people in order to develop our own. We don’t even see the bars of the prison we’re in until we realize that there is more on the other side, until we understand that success, beauty and skill is all relative. The prison is all of the misguided notions we carry about ourselves, the doubt that crushes our ambition and the mirror that makes us repulsed by our own reflection. The upside is that this prison is unlocked, should we make the choice to walk towards freedom.

I’ve realized that I have been walking around under the weight of lost hope and the barriers that keep me from progress, and it’s not anybody’s fault. The blame is on me for letting the words of other people under my skin instead of the burn of desire and the hunger to grab hold of it. What’s troubling is that I still feel fear for letting the lost hope, the barriers float away like a leaf in the midst of an autumn gust. I feel fear because I have no idea who I am without those familiar footholds to stand in. If I let go of all that is weighing me down, I might be lifted, I might be happy. It’s strange and funny that I fear greatness and success over mediocrity, but I think this is true for most people.

So here I am, peeled down to my core, stripped naked. It feels tragically hopeless and liberating all at once. However, I am thinking of myself like the onion. I am bare, but this is the nourishment that I have to offer. This is the flavour I bring to the lives of other people. This is my shot to contribute something unique to the world. Though there will always be people who wrinkle their nose at me, there are plenty who are willing to spread me around their lives and become entangled in mine.

Bitter and beautiful; that’s how I like it.

PS. I played “Careless Whisper” throughout the entire duration of this post.

Here’s To It

It’s New Years Eve.
I don’t usually buy into the hype that is December 31. I mean, yes, I put on a cocktail dress and proceed to get belligerently drunk, but that’s about as far as it goes. I’ve never been the type to make any solid resolutions, and if I have, they were usually carried off in a cloud of smoke before the ball dropped. However, I feel a bit of magic tonight, my friends.
I’m spending the evening bundled up in front of my screen, and I feel great about it. Tonight there won’t be any tights or heels or curls or company, and I think I need it to be this way. Something is tugging at me, calling to me to reflect. The more that I sit here reflecting, I feel the urgency behind my fingertips, so here I am. When I sit with the weight of 2013 in my lap, I recall just how heavy it was. I say heavy because it feels right, but a lot of the weight is made up of triumphant moments, the kind that never leave you. As I run my fingers along the months passed, I feel both fearful and delighted to leave it behind.
2012 was the year I refer to as “the Aftermath.” 2013 has been the year that I now call “Adaptation.” I feel as though I’ve grown into myself a little more as every day was taken down with the sun. I have been confronted with the truth, which has been bitter and hateful, and yet, full of clarity and immense beauty. I have come to understand that life can never be any one thing at a time, and in a way I feel grateful for its erratic patterns, I don’t know if I would find the world interesting enough to live in without the burden and blessing of feeling everything at once. I won’t let this year unfold. This year I want to unwrap it, finding whatever I find. And so it is that I will name 2014 “The Change.” I want to dive in headfirst, step off of the edge. I want to take accountability, make goals, and rise to meet them.
Like a great many portions of the posts that will be written tonight, I’m going to share with you my resolutions. There is a certain freedom (and fear) in putting them out for the world to observe. I don’t want to let life happen to me this year, I want to make life happen for me. So though they are few, here they are:
1- Expect nothing:
This sounds ridiculous when I see it on my screen. What I mean is that I do not want to walk through the door of the new year with expectations of what it may bring upon me. I think that these kind of expectations create limits, and limits are one of the things I’m saying “Auf Wiedersehen” to, for I no longer need them if I know the truth. The truth is that there are no guarantees for golden years, and I no longer wish for them, either. If I expect nothing, I am prepared for anything. Just because life paints guidelines doesn’t mean I can’t paint over and beyond them. I will move through the inevitable storms with desire for something more. Along with that hunger I will need to…
2-  Have Courage:
It makes me sad to think of the many opportunities that have slipped through my hands because I was too afraid to hold them. It’s kind of sick, isn’t it? The way some of us would rather fail by default than to fail as a result of trying; really, truly trying. I want to be brave. And if I can’t be brave, I want to take the leap anyway. I want to thrust myself into chaos, dance with chance, and, when I thrust myself into a number I can’t move through gracefully, I want to trust myself enough to follow the tune to the end. And with that being said, I’m going to need to learn to…
3- Accept Failure:
It’s just not feasible to imagine a future where failure doesn’t exist. It does. It licks bungholes, but it is a very real and necessary part of whatever this life is. I am going to try to imagine failure as less of a feeling of defeat and more like a minor hiccup. If I am failing, I am learning, growing. I want to be tall, like a sunflower under the sun of experience. I’ve been told that it’s okay to fail quietly, and while I’m sure that works for some, it won’t do for me. I will fail colorfully. I will fail with a face twisted into an “ugly cry” and a mouth full of foul words.
4- Embrace the Quirk:
I want it out in full force for everyone to see. I guess, mostly, this year (along with the help of the internet) taught me that my quirks aren’t all that quirky. They’re pretty normal, actually. I won’t hide beneath the blanket of normalcy. I don’t think it was concealing much, anyway.
5- Choose Life:
The final and most difficult resolution. While it’s fun to have grand, sweeping thoughts of finish lines and warm embraces, it’s quite another thing to apply this passion to everyday life. To wake with purpose, to choose to create these moments and these milestones under the weight of the pressure and the expectations of other people. To do the work that is required to feel a beating, grateful heart. This is what I desire and fear most of all. To choose life, to say yes, would be a feat to be celebrated.

Oh, yeah. I have to mention that I’m so glad to have you along for the ride. Thank you to everybody who clicked “follow.” Thank you to everybody who has had the great courage to share with me their wounds and given me perspective. Thank you to everybody who shown up to hear me speak when I was sure that I had nothing to say. I’ve always had the voice, but you gave me an audience. This blog has been the best journey I’ve ever started, and I can’t wait to share with you the trials and the triumph that awaits me in 2014. I can’t wait to see where 2014 leads you.

“Somehow, we’ll  find it. The balance between what we wish to be and what we need to be. But for now, we simply have to be satisfied with who we are.”