(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Monday, June 16, 2008

in search of my inner happy.

Life is strange. so is blogging. I started this post a week ago, and put it on the back burner. Yes that is the original title. I've done that occasionally. Some have ended up revised, finished, posted; others not. And then this evening, I poured a glass of Heitz 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon...(mmmm)...and clicked on Google Reader. For a bit of a catch-up. Hadn't posted today, it being a busy task-filled day. Had something in mind called France Hands. After seeing Our Juicy Life's post on happiness and reading her interview ... I had to wash my hands of my hands idea, take a deep breath and return to the subject of my inner happy. sometimes you just have to listen to the universe.

The other stumbling block is that my blog is intended to be all about turning one success into another. Corporate success, reinvention success, super woman extraordinaire; see kids ... you can do it! Admitting to a missing happy gene just doesn't seem to fit the formula. So readers beware. Kim's coloring outside the lines with this one.

ahem. (don't worry. that was an ahem. not a self-CPR cough attempting to intervene on a massive cardiac episode).

So. where was I? ah, yes. Many words have been used to describe me throughout my life. For every good reason, happy isn't one of them. Maybe as a verb. "Kim is happy with the project ... report card ... coq au vin". But as an adjective describing my persona ... my core being ... nahh, not so much. Now that doesn't mean I am morose.

I think the number of times I could count myself happy in the truest of senses would be achievable on my left hand. Now I'm not talking the above kind of happy. The I watched Chris Rock and happily laughed my ASS off. or the finally got a great haircut happy. the grooved out contentedly listening to any number of soul satisfying tracks by Billie Holiday or Django Reinhardt or John Coltrane or James Morrison or Al Green or Agustin Lara or countless others on my iPod. or had lip numbing, brain freezing, free flowing, mind blowing monkey *love*. (sorry kids, hide your eyes). All of those are a different kind of happy entirely.

I'm talking about the kind of happy that is giving birth to the 2 most beautiful babies on the planet. bar none. ask anyone. I honestly don't know how I pulled that one off and if I were to pray ever in life, it would be that somehow I didn't fuck that one up. (there's 2 of my limited digit list). Or the laying on the wooden bedroom floor of the house I had dreamed for and longed for and cried for and saved for and fought for until I was 37 years old and somehow fooled them all into letting me have. never mind I couldn't afford a refrigerator or curtains or much of anything else. We just played camping for a couple of months, putting a Coleman cooler in the nook where the refrigerator belonged. and then rented one. (that's 3. digits, that is). And maybe, just maybe, when the final papers arrived for my house in Brantome with a yellow sticky advising me that finally it was done. the kind of happy where when someone asks, "Are you happy?", you can wholeheartedly affirm without skipping a beat.

But even the above were targeted moments of happiness. To be honest, I really can't provide a definition of what it means to be happy. I've been very defensive about happiness. My daughter, in one of those classic mother/daughter rows once used my lack of happiness as proof of my motherly shortcomings. As much as I tried then and other times to deny it, ultimately I must admit she is correct.

There are a number of contributing factors. First off, I'm a good part Irish. yeah I know, leprechauns and rainbows. But most of the Irish I know only get happy-go-lucky after a toss or 2. We tend to be a bit on the dark side. Something to do with being stuck on the island with all of that rain, I suppose. My other part is mostly French with a dash of Austrian. None of these ancestral beginnings are exactly joyous in nature.

Another factor, that will perhaps provide fodder for future blogging, is the entirely dismal first 21 years of my existence. I have to say friends, that my first 40 years were just unbelievably hard work. In every sense of the word. Forgive me for not tap dancing my way through it all. (see what I mean, lack of happy makes one sound defensive).

Lastly. And most importantly of all. I'm really not sure I buy into the whole Happy thing. Now I hesitate in writing that because it might put off my audience. potential future friends. possible partners. people I might need in the future to provide me with employment options. I'm taking a risk with this one. Some certain number of you are likely to think less of me.

Well then. I read OJL's post with care and interest. I mean, how much more eerily coincidental? Was some secret force calling out to me. "look over here Mancha. There really IS an inner happy". When I dissect the 5 principals presented in OJLs post, there are certainly aspects I agree with. in theory. and in reality. and I think much of it will work for a lot of people. I probably could benefit from a little focus on numbers 4 and 5.

Many of my "yes's" to happy questions are in response to big ass, knock down, drag outs that are interspersed with shouts of "great, now are you FUCKING HAPPY?????!!!!" or "Are you happy NOW???". or how about the classic "NOTHING I DO WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY". whatever.

But let me say this. I don't think that LACK of the happy gene equals negativity. moroseness. Not at all. I believe, and many who know me I believe would agree that I'm a glass half full kind of person. A "let's get 'er done" gal. An afficionado of the "how can we" versus "why we can't" approach. That doesn't mean I'm a happy camper. I'm just not an affirmation and positivity kind of gal. Doesn't mean I can't appreciate those who are.

But I am not up for changing my core. My inner cloudiness. I write from my gut. I believe all writers do. We need angst. We need cynicism and sarcasm and pain and tragedy and dark clouds and tears. The well of tears is where all writing springs eternal. Except for self- help and new age tomes. Okay the well of tears and lots of booze. These are the life water of meaningful writing.

Take a look at Anne Lamott. I turned cartwheels upon reading my first Anne Lamott book. Hard Laughter. Rosie. Crooked Little Heart. that's some real shit, people. I crawled in the bottle with her. Fucking A, when she went dry her author's spirit died on the vine with her. Sorry Ms. Lamott groupies. It is true. Save for her Writing Instructions book; she went all dry and happy and self-helpy. Her story telling DNA done disappeart. If I want spiritual instruction, I'll fucking go to church thank you very much. (when hell freezes over).

The world's greatest Irish authors wrote from the scabby depths of despair. Yeats wasn't waxing poetic about the power of positive thinking. James Joyce wasn't gliding on happy to produce his work. I don't think Beckett's "More Pricks than Kicks" was extolling the virtues of smiling.

Don't get me wrong.

My soul needs to be around happy people. I feed on it. it is life affirming and like a trip to the beach in June. Ahhhh. basking in other's happiness. I find the fact that other people can so easily be happy a resolutely optimistic occurrence. Just as I view those who get married. I mean how much more fucking optimistic can someone be than to walk down the aisle, proclaim their love and troth their asses for eternity? Thank you OJL for reminding me just how important the confidently happy people of the world are to all of us.

There are times I have envied happy people. That upon self-reflection I am convinced there IS something wrong with me. Will I ever be happy with a capital "H"? or will I at least be able to describe a definition of what is happy? Because frankly, even after this verbal dump, I just do not have a clue. In pondering this matter, In reflecting upon OJLs recommendations, In reviewing my history ... tears flow.

but just as one needs sunscreen, I have my own version of happyscreen. I have far too many suitcases in my baggage collection to jump on the happy train.

I worked at a corporate enterprise once upon a time that adopted one of those catchy marketing phrases for advertising campains. something along the lines of "At Blankety blank blank, we don't want you just to survive, we help you succeed."

I'll take survival. thank you very much. that and a helping of looking forward, not back, today.


Randal Graves said...

Is there a happy?

For a long time I've instead wondered that if this mythical plane of 'happy' exists, are some of us shut out from it?

As you indicated, there are moments of happiness: children, a nice glass of something expensive, hot monkey love, a piece of writing you're happy with, etc etc. But true happiness? Sounds a bit too philosophical for moi.

Even having tried some of things in the post you linked to, I don't want to say the fleeting result (if it comes at all) feels alien, but unreal, fake. The opposite is more comfortable, despite its inherent turbulence.

Well of tears and lots of booze. Nothin' wrong with a bit o' the melancholy. I knew this Scotch-Irish shit would pay off. Of course, others' definition of pay off may vary.

La Belette Rouge said...

JNRR: When I see you I will hug you because I will be happy to see you and the second hug will be for this post. Amen, sister!!!

I am not a fan of the let's only look at the positive, only smile and try to put a positive spin on everything. That can lead to denial, repression and much worse. Their is duality to every experience. My hero, Jung said,"“Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.”

If we ignore the darkness we miss the light. The new age attitude of extreme positivity requires that we split off from our darkness and that darkness has to go somewhere and so then it gets split off from our consciousness and gets projected on others.

I could go on and on about this topic. But, what I want to say is that I couldn't agree with you more when you said, "But I am not up for changing my core. My inner cloudiness. I write from my gut. I believe all writers do. We need angst. We need cynicism and sarcasm and pain and tragedy and dark clouds and tears. The well of tears is where all writing springs eternal. Except for self- help and new age tomes. Okay the well of tears and lots of booze. These are the life water of meaningful writing." Really well said!!

Like you, Bird by Bird is my Anne Lamotte book and past that the religious nature of her writings haven't clicked for me.

Now don't hear that I am against happiness, not true. I am just a bigger fan of authenticity of any kind rather than trying to create a feeling that is not true. And, the truth of my experience is more complex than a single emotion. I often feel happy and dysthymic at the same time. And, as the great guru, Stuart Smiley said,"and that's okay!" This post made me happy.;-)

Our Juicy Life said...

Well - since I'm referenced so much in this post I must comment. I am not a outside happy person...I don't go around with flowers, dancing, singing, kissing people, etc...but inside, yes I'm happy. I wasn't always happy....I was married before, I was lost, I was confused, I had anxiety and panic attacks as a child, I was fearful, scared and confused. But something changed and I can truly say that I'm happy...but not 100% happy, not all the time. I think my definition of happy inside what people see from the outside, it's how you feel on the inside.

I believe France will change you, maybe help you find your inner happiness. Being a writer you have to have turmoil and angst and anger to put all your emotions down on paper...but having them is good - doesn't mean your negative, doesn't mean you are unhappy.

I just think that if you look at things witha positive spin, you can feel good inside...instead of always finding the negative in everyting...that's all I'm saying...sure beat depression, which I went through and it ripped me up inside. Meditation helped me find an inner peace and inner happiness...but I'm always looking for more.

Our Juicy Life said...

i think all of you are missing the point....inner happiness is different from outer happiness. you can be happy on the inside, no matter how you look at things on the outside...it's ok to be who you are K, that's what makes you you, but being happy with that person is what I'm saying is important!

Je ne regrette rien said...

RG-so you're feeling me on the hot monkey love? ha-you hit on one of my points. Payoffs are an individual thing. What drives one may stop another in their tracks.

LBR-Your proper use of dysthymic makes me very happy! as do your other very salient points.

OJL-in writing my post, I ran the very obvious risk of offending, not just general audience but in specific - You, my new found online friend. The intent of my post couldn't be further opposite. I know and have befriended my share of truly happy people. Continuously happy, should I say. They are a paradox to me. I went ahead with this post because of the coincidental nature of our topics. Truly, it struck me that I had begun this piece regarding inner happiness and a week later, there yours was. It seemed almost a message. I do not disagree with your post and I celebrate the joy and contentment you have achieved. I am not making light of you or your chosen path. I hope to rub elbows with you in France (maybe a bit of that light will rub off on me as well) and chat about this further. When I read your interview and saw the picture of you and your husband, the happiness the 2 of you projected made me smile.

I just think I am of a different 'pack' so to speak. You know what I mean?

our juicy life said...

K - you didn't offend me...not in any way. I had to laugh that the response to your both, talking about my post were basically negative....can't we at least find some positive in being a little happy! I must disagree that being positive leads to denial. People are different, that's cool, that's what makes us interesting. We will rub elbows in france, that's a guarantee. It's strange how we wrote our posts at the same time. You are you...that's what I like about you....AND you seem like a happy person to me, I truly believe you are happy on the inside and will be even more so in France.

our juicy life said...

K - what the hell does my 2nd sentence say???? I meant to say "i had to laugh that the responses to your post were basically negative....." We spent time with some people the other day and all they could do was find the negative in us moving to france, nothing positive and it pissed me off...that's why I had to write this post.

Je ne regrette rien said...

OJL-wow, I had to reread your posts a couple of times before I realized that you were referring to your own post and not mine! see that is what happens with written stuff, things get lost in translation. My post originally didn't have anything to do with yours, it was a rambling stream of consciousness about my own quandary with the idea of being happy. Your piece just made it evolve some. I think we are both saying much of the same things ... I just think someone can have a positive approach and not be an inherently "happy" person. who knows, maybe it is all semantics?

And I hate people who seem to derive their happiness from raining on other people's parades. May the bird of paradise .... ha, and all that stuff!

looking forward to more dialogue! xx-K

Utah Savage said...

Jung, yes, someone beat me to it. All the really GREAT writers are DARK. Even the best stand up comics are DARK. Examine the dark places and you will find universal truths. Even comedy, dark though it be. Live in the light and you will be bored to fucking death.

Two children. My, you're a gutsy broad. I'd say it takes a fair amount of optimism to have children.

Randal Graves said...

utah, kids are indeed nuts. If I didn't have any, would I be happy? Naw, still a miserable bastard.

OJL makes a key distinction, inner and outer happiness. Though inner I've tasted less. I think the hot monkey love falls under the rubric of the outer. I'm sure there's a naughty joke in there somewhere.

The inner life is by definition, turbulent. For us, anyway, I'm sure there's some living, breathing, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood character strolling down the avenue as I type. I'm not sure I'd want interior 'happiness,' because then, how the hell would I write, how would I be me? I wouldn't be me anymore. LBR hit it, too: the negative has such a, er, negative connotation these days. It's bad. The hell it is. It's good. Like booze.

La Belette Rouge said...

Forgot to mention. He-weasel and I also call it Hot-MOnkey love. Hee-hee!(I just blushed a little bit.;-)

And, Marion Woodman ( a famous Jungian analyst) said that there are some people in this world who are just happy carrots and she advised to let them be and don't try to uproot them. I wish I was one of those happy carrots. I, however, am more of a turbulent turnip or a petulant parsnip. I admire and envy happy carrots. But, to use the words of Popeye, another vegetable lover,"I am what I am."

La Belette Rouge said...

p.s. Oh, the reason she warned this is that some in the Jungian world might see this kind of happy carrot happiness as a refusal to look at the depth or inner conflict or some such thing.

Utah Savage said...

Ok, I'm having an actual happy experience right now. Liberality just read the last, very long chapter of my book and gave it a rave review. Honest to god. A book I worked on for thirty years and just now finished publishing chapter by chapter and at last it's all up and guess who had the nice thing to say? The most critical of my commenters so far, has just declared I got it right! Go figure. So I think this happiness might last into tomorrow. That's pretty good for me. Fourteen hours of happiness, say. You could say the book is my baby and somebody just said my thirty year old baby is a great old broad. I'd be damn proud. i'd feel like a good parent and be happy in that achievement. I'm sure Randal or someone else with real parenting creds will come along to tell me that it isn't like that, but.....

La Framéricaine said...

It does seem to me that sometimes the problem might be with this one word--happiness--used in English to try to express so many fundamentally different states of being.

I prefer to say that I cannot abide "relentless cheeriness." That does not get my good housekeeping seal of approval as "happiness." Some of the least happy people I know persist in being "cheery." Gag me with a telephone book, to coin an old expression.

I doubt seriously that going to France will make anyone "happy." So far, all I've been able to suck out of it has been arduousness until about 5 years have passed and then it makes a great story. Hyperbole, yes, but not by much.

Don't believe me, I'm not a cheery person. My half full glass is definitely 3/4s full, that's never been a problem but let's call a spade a spade, France is not anything like the USA. The people are not like those in the USA, to think they are is to cruise for a bruisin'.

Maybe the best thing about going to France for any given individual American is that it isn't the USA. Nobody gives a shit about Thanksgiving there. There's no pressure to rise to the standard occasions for "happiness." There is a lot of pressure to rise to the occasion for other things, respect for tradition, for example.

Blessings and curses, mes chers, blessings and curses.

KiMignonne, just be yourself. Don't worry about being happy. To a great extent, for Americans, it's the same thing as being patriotic or honest. Just another label to slap on feelings that are much too nuanced and varied to be labeled with such a tiny concept.

I haven't read OJL's post, so my comments are in no way related to anything she might have written. Some wise one, or some wiseass, made a point about the difference between "happiness" and "satisfaction."

I feel enormous satisfaction with every word I rack up, every authentic sentence I manage to squeeze out--much like you must have felt when you wrested your home from the universe and birthed your babies and raised them to adulthood.

I can roll with satisfaction, happiness will have to stay benched until it rises up without coercion as a simple by-product of whatever I am doing at the moment that gives me a sense of profound satisfaction.

It is quite possible, JNRR, that happiness is a very specific cultural preoccupation, very unique to the USA and its insistence on "positivity" at the expense of genuinely feeling the range of emotions available to any given human being.


Bonne continuation,

Je ne regrette rien said...

U.S. - I think gutsy broad would apply for a wide variety of reasons. My darkest places are more than most could bear ... but their influence has formed that which is me. Touching on your 2nd comment, #1 dammit, she beat me to it #2 Hoo-Rah and Woo-Hah that is a protracted birth experience and if the last chapter is anything like the rest ... it is magnificent.

LBR- I've decided I am a contrary cantaloupe. tant pis!

To all ~ thanks for chiming in. I don't feel as alone in my choleric cloud. I'm beginning to discern that blogging is not only strange, it is strangely wonderful.

Je ne regrette rien said...

LF-I totally agree with much of what you've said. Trust me, I'm not relying upon France as my road to inner happiness. But I do think it will make me happy to be there. If that makes any sense. Along with frustrated and challenged and fearful and whatever else comes along.

meh, it is all of bit of a crap shoot, now isn't it?

DivaJood said...

JNRR, I don't believe constant happiness is either attainable or desireable. It strikes me that it would be boring to be constantly happy, like someone had a few brain cells removed.

Along the same lines, someone once asked me the following question: is it better to be deserving, or lucky?

I opted for lucky, because in my opinion, being deserving is not all it is cracked up to be - and we can be deserving as all shit and still not get what we deserve. Luck, on the other hand, is ephemeral, fleeting, and really terrific when it hits us. Like happiness, it is a thing to be savored when we get it, but it isn't going to be there all the time.

Je ne regrette rien said...

Diva-yes, I believe the constant outer happiness (to coin OJL) is nothing but 'merican propaganda. bastards! I like your thoughts on lucky ... I'd rather get lucky any day vs. be deserving.