I started the morning intending to write a story before the end of the day. Sometimes it is a good thing, sometimes not so good. All I know is that words need to be spilled and spilled they shall be. Today is no exception, plus I have a deadline to meet. My editor will have my head if I do otherwise.
I’m sitting by the window perched on the stack of crates I use for a chair. The red cushion that cradles my bum is worn from years of abuse. My writing desk is a DIY table with hairpin legs – I found them in the dump and setting it up was no joke – I am quite the creative genius (if I say so myself) my house is full of some questionable pieces. I let out a sigh, feeling utterly dejected. I really can’t think of what to write and my head can’t take anymore of my not so gentle knocks. If you see me with my hair in a messy bun (several pencils are in it giving the impression of a porcupine), my T-shirt with holes and reedy legs sticking out from my strawberry patterned shorts – you’d be hard-pressed not to remark on my general state of dishevelment. Not to worry, it’s a sign that I want to be left alone to work.
Sighing, I peel off the sticky note stuck to my chin (no idea how it got there). I had scribbled, ‘Talk to Angela’ on it. Yes! I forgot, ergo sticky note. I was going on about intentions and this one is rather important. Days back, Shay – my neighbor’s daughter – told me she wished she had the money to get the new purse that was a rave among the girls in her school. I also want her to have the money, heck; I would buy it for her if only Angela, her mother will let me. Now Shay is the sweetest thing and Angela does what she can raising her alone with her wages as a clerk down at the realtor’s place. I am sure the purse would put a dent in Angela’s budget and that is why she refused to get it for her, but Shay is tenacious, like most children her age and I worry about the outcome. I’ll see to it as soon as possible.
My desk holds my laptop, my journals, and a cup with more pen and pencils than I can ever need and another cup that contains the dredges of my tea and a pack of chocolate cookies. Everything is covered in sticky notes. My eye catches the ticket sticking out of the book I was currently reading, The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler. The ticket was for a concert last Monday night. James had passed it along saying it was our first official date. It can’t be me groaning like my period just kicked in. I put my head in my hands and groan louder. I’ve known James for two years now. We met at the gym and have become good friends. He has been anything but subtle about his intentions and has grown bolder since the jerk that was my ex- fiancé, Fred, left me for some bimbo from work. Dear heavens! I’m in a mess now. To hear him say it, was bad, and my brain remembers it word for word, which is worse – “I love you Alicia, I really do. But I love her more. I hope you understand.” Snap! The pencil I was holding is now in two pieces, which is good. I’ll poke his eyes out with them. Actually, the concert was fun. James was wonderful and attentive. Truly I have no reason to complain because I had a nice time. But I feel apprehensive about being with James.
I toss the broken pencil on the table and pick up The Art of Happiness, the ticket serves as a book marker for where I stopped the previous day. The book presents the Dalai Lama’s view on leading a happier life, augmented by Cutler’s observation as a Western psychiatrist. I stare intently at the phrase highlighted in green – The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness. I trace my fingers over the words, not sure if I expect it to jump out of the page. When it was first mentioned by the Dalia Lama, Cutler raised objections (as did I). If I can’t write I might as well read.
‘Are you happy?’ Cutler asked Dalai Lama in the book, and he had answered, ‘Yes. Yes…definitely.’ I can’t help but think that when I was with Fred I thought we were sort of happy. We had to be because we were in love, understood each other well, and made plans for our wedding (even though we hadn’t picked a date). Apparently it was not enough. I have never been under the delusion that life is easy, I mean happiness is overrated, right? All a person can hope for is a measure of satisfaction with their lot. I have my family (lately I have included Shay and Angela), friends, my work and colleagues. I’ve had moments in my life when I was struck with profound joy, no doubt that it was happiness. Still, to pursue happiness solely seems like an effort in futility.
Dalai Lama explains that through the discipline of the mind – in this sense he uses the Tibetan word Sem which has a broader meaning closer to “psyche” and “spirit”; it includes intellect and feeling, heart and mind – happiness can be attained. ‘By bringing about a certain inner discipline, we can undergo a transformation of our attitude, our entire outlook and approach to life…When we speak of this inner discipline, it can of course involve many things, many methods. But generally speaking, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this, one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness. That is the way.’
As I read I ask myself questions and my answers leave me restless. Am I happy? My honest answer is no…definitely no. At least not in the last couple of months. Not withstanding I have made great strides. I do not feel like a piece of wood adrift in the ocean or see gray clouds on the horizon. I’m on the mend. I cannot fault myself for my emotional dependence on the people I love and care about, but sometimes I wish it was not entirely so. It’s why I feel uneasy with James. I know I’m using him to buffet against the hurt and betrayal that still lingers. I have not brought under control my heart and mind, that one is true. It is wrong and he doesn’t deserve it. I will have to tell him the next time we meet that I can’t be with him. Not the way I currently am.
Catching my mind drifting, I place the ticket once more to mark the page I stopped and drop the book back on the table. I hear Shay calling for her mum and in a few minutes she runs out of the house. I give her a small wave when I catch her eyes and she waves back, hands high above her head, then she turns around and off like a rabbit she goes. Someone needs to bottle up that child’s energy and commercialize it. I pick up a pen and write on a fresh note ‘The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness,’ On another one, ‘Your state of mind is key’ and, ‘Cultivate inner discipline. I place them in my journal, and hope my resolve is strong enough. Instead of writing like I hoped for, I’ve spent the morning ruminating. Since Angela is around, I best talk to her now before I forget, again. The rest of the cookies I’ll give to Shay when she returns. I’ll continue writing when the fog in my head lifts, hopefully before the deadline.
"We begin, then, with the basic premise that the purpose of our life is to seek happiness. It is a vision of happiness as a real objective, one that we can take positive steps toward achieving. And as we begin to identify the factors that lead to happier life, we will learn how the search for happiness offers benefits not only for the individual but for the individual's family and for society at large as well."
The Art Of Happiness