Natalie’s prompt: When was the last time you were happy, really happy? Write for ten minutes.
Happiness means something different every time I experience it. Lately all that would be labeled “happy” has an undercurrent of sadness that jostles such moments back toward the hard beach of reality. I’ll smile at an anecdote during a conversation or when I see my grass starting to green up and my wife’s tulips reach toward the sun, but then I remember the bills that need paying, or the imminent layoff at work and ponder what life will hold for me if my name shows up on the list this time. Or my bad teeth. Then my gaze will darken, I’ll lower my head and swallow the laugh that used to be so powerful and contagious, and remember that I’m not supposed to be happy. The sirens will sing their song, the words of which are always annoyingly the same – “There’s nothing to be happy about.”
Recently I went online to sign up for fall classes only to learn that both the classes I needed, available at times when I could squeeze them in, were full. In desperation I sent an email to both professors explaining my sorry situation, and they both worked with me to get me registered. I even managed to sign up for a summer class with a professor and friend I adore and respect. So I guess you could say I experienced happiness. Though now I fret about all the gas that I’ll need to make the trip to school each day, and the fact that it’s been three years since my last semester of Spanish and I’m rustier than the Titanic. But the thought of digging deep and finding out if I’ve still got what it takes to do well in school, raise four kids, love my wife, work somewhere and pay for it all, while overwhelming, has a thin silver ring of happiness around the edges. And I guess that’s about all the happiness I can hope for.