I used to think that happiness was a point in time rather than a state. In other words, you could be happy, but after that brief moment you would feel something else. Whenever I met someone who claimed to always be happy I was skeptical, to put it mildly. They were people most often involved in sales by the way.
How can you essentially be happy all the time if you’re alive? If you are dealing with other people? If you are trying to navigate society and the world, if you are trying to survive?
Last night I was lying in my tent next to a creek. Two great horned owls called to one another immediately above me, and a third was calling farther off in the distance. The creek was filled with frogs with their nightly froggy chorus, and the crickets were chirping as if it were early spring, which of course it was.
I had spoken with my wife a couple of days prior, and she made it clear that things were over. Of course, how could they not be? I was the one who had behaved like a jerk, and I was the one who had precipitated and then continued onward with the separation.
But when you have been with someone for all of your adult life, and raised a family together, the binds are not so easily broken. Inside one small corner of my heart was the perverse and completely irrational hope that perhaps things could somehow, with magic, with therapy, with counseling, with tail of newt and heart of spider, be fixed.
Fixed? What does that even mean? People break up in so many different ways. Some shatter. Some crumble. Some petrify. Some simply slow down until they come to a complete halt. Stopped. No way forward and no way back. And of course how can you fix a thing that isn’t a thing? How can you fix a thing that isn’t broken? How can you resuscitate something that isn’t dead?
The answer, or at least one answer, is to set it down and move on as gently as you can. Such a branded word, “move on.” As if feelings and lifetimes are things that we simply graduate from, like high school. Shake a hand, get a slip of paper, listen to a song, and go on to the next place. Move on.
The realist in me knows that you can never move on, you only move in circles, orbiting those things that have greater mass. As she said to me, “You just want to be free, like a hummingbird, going from place to place as you wish, free, only free.”
The external things aren’t always the thing that tells you when a thing is done or when a thing is over. The spark in your heart, the tiny vibration on your heartstring, when that goes out, the thing is done, whether Your fault, her fault, the world’s fault, or no one’s fault. It just means it is over forever. It never comes again.
But in another way, when you realize it, you own it, and then everything begins to unwind. You realize you are still you, and the only thing that you have to do now is live. It is as simple or as complex as you choose to make it.
I lay there beneath the canopy listening to the night birds and the night sounds and the rustle of the water as it passed a few feet away. I had let the thing down, it weighed on me no more than the smallest of weights, a thing that my shoulders are certainly strong enough to carry.
I felt a profound happiness being outdoors, in the night, in nature, where I belong, where everyone belongs, and to where we will all return. I simply choose to return while I am still alive. And happily, at that.
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