The other day Erik’s cousin Cliff said to me, “Seems like you’re having the best year of your life (though you may not know it).” It’s something I’ve pondered quite a lot since we left home. What does it mean to be having a great time? What does it mean to be happy, to be enjoying life?
When I think about having a wonderful time, I think of the parties we used to host at our house. Dear friends, good music, delicious food, lots of laughter, Lyapa trotting around underfoot purring and hissing in the same breath. In retrospect these parties were all amazing, but at the time, there were plenty of moments when I was overheated, dehydrated, anxious, or self-conscious. Which is the great time: the mixed bag of joy and discomfort that is the experience itself, or the glowing rosy memory that’s been cleared of negativity? Aren’t they both?
I feel a little stupid that it never dawned on me before that you can have a great time even if everything isn’t perfect in every way. I suppose it comes of being a perfectionist, of always being worried about the future even when the present is freaking awesome. This is something our travels are really helping with, because when you’re on the road like we are — even as comfortably as we are — there is no way to make everything perfect. It’s simply not possible, and that’s something I’m forced to acknowledge (whereas at home it’s easier to pretend perfection is within reach).
I’m quite sure that Cliff is right and when we come home from our travels, I’ll look back and sigh with great nostalgia, “That was the best time of our lives.” And that’s partly why I write so openly about my days of self-doubt and loneliness and vertigo, because I want to remind that future self (who will probably find the realities of settled life crashing down on her within months of getting back home) that the best time of her life is not the time when everything goes right — that that is always a mirage — that’s it not even “I was so happy then but I didn’t know it” — but that the happiness and the great vitality of living exist even alongside sadness and confusion and the sometimes desperate anguish of just being a creature who’s never seen this particular day before and doesn’t know what to do with it.
This is the best year of my life… and so was last year, and even the one before, and all the ones before that. I hope I will always be able to say that, even if some years are sadder than others, even if I look on occasion to the future with as much fear as I did last Tuesday. This is what I am learning: happiness is not the opposite of sadness; they can exist together, and the overall result can still be as sweet and good as the endless sky. This is the best thing: being me, being alive, everything, all together.
A sublime realization…and beautifully expressed.
*bow* Thank you. 🙂
Ditto what Sherry said.
Thank you, Ré! 🙂 I’ve been a lot happier since realizing this, too.
I think one of the hardest things for me is recognizing that happiness that lies alongside all the sadness and stress of a daily life. It’s much too easy to focus, or simply see, the things that go wrong or feel wrong. I’m not sure why that is. But picking out those tiny pieces of happiness within a day is something I have to make myself do because otherwise I don’t realize that happiness is there. And not just happiness, but even those brief moments that feel like taking a big breath of fresh air and simply being okay in the moment. Thanks for making me think again.
Oh, thank you for your lovely comment. It’s funny, I don’t have a problem finding the things to be happy/grateful about in a day; when I’m down it’s more like I see the good things but don’t feel like they’re significant enough. Somehow I got it into my head that a good day is only a good day if it’s great all the way through, instead of recognizing that good and not-so-good usually come mixed together. That makes me think I’ve had an unusually blessed life so far, to not have figured this out sooner!
Hi Lisa! I’m traveling in France and catching up today – just saw the Toulouse Lautrec museum in Albi. Definitely put it on your list. His drawings are extraordinary so full of the feeling the expression of the characters he chose to draw. He loved to draw and paint.
Bonjour Carla!! Ooh, list updated. 🙂 Merci beaucoup and enjoy France!
“This is the best thing: being me, being alive, everything, all together.”
yes yes yes. i’ve been struggling with some things lately and this is another important affirmation for me to hear 🙂
Oh good good 🙂 I’m so glad it helps. I need the reminder all the time too!!!
I’m re- reading some of your posts and catching up. These are good observations. and good for me to remind myself. the ying- yang of life. It’s like how we remember something not so nice someone said about something you did or said but we don’t remember all the compliments that same person gave to us.
Thank you, Carla. Yes — it’s been so helpful for me to reread these posts, too, as we travel. Interesting how much my mood and perspective changes each time we move, and it’s really good to read how I felt before — or, if I’m in the same mood now, that I felt this way another time and got over it, and the same will happen again.