I once had a boyfriend who had a very simplistic philosophy on life. According to him (let’s call him Joe Bloggs), what could anyone want more in life than good food, good wine and good sex? Our relationship did not last long.
But although it’s true that Joe was a rather simple sort, he was also drop-dead gorgeous and had a hunky body which was good for cuddling. And other things. Hence us lasting together a few months rather than a few days. I liked it when people commented on us being ‘such a striking couple’. Ah, the vanity of woman!
And now, many moons later, I find myself reflecting on Joe’s philosophical words. Shall we take a closer look at those three precepts of his?
- Good food. That’s fine, as long as you can access it, assuming you’re part of the tiny percentage of the world that has easy access to good food. And even if you can access it, it still doesn’t guarantee happiness. What if you have an eating disorder? What if you’re one of these people who is constantly on a diet, meaning food has become your enemy rather than friend? What if you have serious allergy problems and food has become a synonym for DANGER?
- Good wine. That’s also okay, as long as you’re not teetotal. Or if you do drink (c’est moi), then it’s okay as long as you can drink in moderation. In other words, not end up polishing off an entire bottle during the course of an evening all by yourself, instead of a glass or two. We once had a babysitter who did that. (My children survived.)
- Good sex. That’s also fine, as long as you have a sexual partner. But what about all the millions who don’t? Or those who actively choose to be celibate? Monks, nuns, priests … and not only them. Chosen celibacy has become increasingly popular, apparently. But if you do have a long-term partner, what if the sex has dried up? Or, here’s a tough one: what if you were sexually abused in your childhood or youth?
Okay, so what would my own list be for Things That Make Me Happy?
- My children, obviously. But not necessarily my family. Family can be more trouble than they’re worth, and the unfortunate thing is that you can’t choose them. I wrote an entire novel inspired by the problematic relationship with my mother, which involved large dollops of toxicity as I left the maternal hearth and went off to marry the man she did not want me to marry. I think I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post that she wore black to my wedding.
- Playing the piano. I might not be a concert pianist, but my skills are impressive enough to give considerable pleasure to myself when playing. Or to my dog Bruno, who is a great listener as he sits on the rug by my feet.
- I was going to say ‘my dog’ for the next point, but on second thoughts, I think I’ll wait until he’s older and more sensible. At the moment he still wakes me up at 4.00 or 5.00 most mornings, which does NOT result in happy feelings. More like a string of f-words. But at least he likes my piano playing.
- I was also going to say ‘my writing’, but I’m not sure if that’s entirely true. When the inspiration is flowing, then obviously I’m happy. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes the dreaded writers’ block hits me so badly, the very sight of my empty laptop screen is enough to plunge me into a scarily deep depression. But I write, nonetheless, and can’t seem to stop – whether it’s my diary, my blog, or my novels. So presumably there must be some source of happiness there. As in, when my next novel becomes a bestseller, then at last I’ll be TRULY happy. Which makes me sound very shallow and materialistic. Should have stuck with Joe Bloggs and married him. Then we’d at least have enjoyed plenty of food and wine and sex .
- Nature. By this I do NOT mean partaking in a twenty-km trek through the Tatra mountains, but rather, imbibing the beauty that such aspects of nature have to offer. For instance, the frozen river opposite my living room window in winter. Or the sunrise – which is at least one good thing about being woken up at 4.00 am by Bruno the Beast. Or the sunset. Also over that beautiful, ever-flowing river.
- That beautiful, ever-flowing river, which I am lucky enough to behold directly from the house I live in. Never mind the traffic on the road; it’s the river I love. My Philosopher-Hubby also loved it. I can still picture him in my mind’s eye: standing in front of our living room window every morning, rolling his first cigarette of the day as he gazed out at the varied colours and textures of the water, depending on the weather and the season. I bet he misses that river. So he should.
- Cigarettes. Yes, I know that’s a VERY bad reason for happiness. But I only indulge in two a day, honest! That means I truly savour each one. In the garden. Unless Bruno the Beast spoils it by digging a hole by the rose bush just as I’m having a deep, introspective puff, meaning I have to use some more of those f-expletives as I chase after him, which quite takes away from the guilty pleasure of inhalation.
- Going to bed at night and escaping into the billowy depths of my goose-feather quilt, good book in hand. Good man in hand would be nice too. Not even necessarily good. But the book definitely has to be good.
- Getting through a whole day in which I don’t envy any of the following: all happily married couples; all successful authors; all young people; all people who have a beautiful mountain holiday home (just visited one of that category, and the owners of it are disgustingly happily married to each other); all people who are lucky enough to be born with an optimism gene (my first hubby was one of them, but I found it a bit much after a while); all people who … well, I think that’s enough envy for one point.
- I ought to think of a tenth reason …
While I’m thinking of that tenth point, how about letting me know your own list, dear fellow blogger? Then I might be able to borrow from it and at last master this elusive thing called Happiness.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep on writing.