If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s not a bad policy, really. Complaining isn’t beautiful.
But sometimes it becomes just a little artificial. Sometimes if you say nothing negative, you deny life’s experiences. That’s not very helpful. If I only see other’s smilies, then by comparison I feel lousier because it looks like I’m the only miserable sod on the planet. I’m fully aware of my own bad moments but no one else’s.
In that spirit, let me post a downer. It’s to make you all feel better about your lives, really.
Prepare for the whinge.
It sounds so minor, eh? “Bulging disk.” Like “saggy biceps” or a “pot belly” or other creeping signs of age. But it’s not minor. It has escaped its normal boundaries and moved into territory formerly occupied by a big fat nerve. Nerves protest as they get shoved into small-than-normal spaces, and by “protest” I mean that all the nervy bits connected downstream send pain signals screaming back up to the brain. What’s more, there seems to be nothing I can do about it. It’s probably been progressing for the last 5 months, which is how long it’s taken to navigate the Molasses-in-February pace of the New Zealand health system and get an MRI. It’s been five months since I’ve gone on a run. Two months since I’ve escaped to the hills. Five months since I’ve stood at the kitchen sink without pain. Minimal signs of improvement. All this just after I ran a marathon, and a good one! Oh how the mighty have fallen.
A crisis really makes you think. “What is happiness made of?”
Is happiness made of one’s body feeling good? The physical activity and strength I always had is gone, and in my more pessimistic moments I wonder if it’ll ever return. I can’t reach the wilder parts of nature that I love. Solitude, too, which I used to get while running and hiking, is a thing of the past. I’ve even given up on rollerblading. If happiness is made by feeling good, then I’m sunk.
Can happiness be made of friendship? Solidarity? Yes, but close friends living nearby are few and far between these days.
Does God give us happiness just because? Maybe, but He hasn’t been particularly communicative to me lately.
Can happiness be made of creativity? Yes, and thank God I still have that. I can still solve plant mysteries at work, I can still make Naomi a quilt, I can still write stories for Milo.
Here’s another question: Do humans get happier as we improve our situation in life? Or do humans get happier when we stop striving, when we resign ourselves to the limitations our lives, when we consciously start focusing attention on what we do have rather than what we do not?
I’m not sure, but having tried and failed with the first philosophy, perhaps it’s time to try the second.