I came into work the day after finishing 50,000 words (hail to my nanos!) in HUNT!, my screenplay turned novel, in one of the best moods I’d been in in many weeks. I was elated, and everything seemed to be going right.
I started off on register but very shortly switched over to bar, and was soon thereafter approached by a woman in her mid-fifties. She smiled at me in a very motherly way and said “I wanted to thank you for your great attitude.”
I thanked her for her compliment and then told her I was so happy because of my novel. I made drinks and we chatted for a while, and then she glances over to my friends working on the register.
“I come in here every day,” she said to me, “and you are always over here, loud and happy, telling jokes and laughing. You make the drinks. These people, though…” Here she gestured at my coworkers. “They always have the sour faces. It’s rude. I’m a customer! I’m buying things from you! Be happy!”
She laughed and I, exactly like every time in my life where I don’t have a stored response for what someone just said, laughed as well.
I made her latte (decaf, nonfat, extra hot, no foam) and handed it to her. She left with a wave, and I waved back.
My mood wasn’t spoiled, but had shifted to more pensive territory.
Much uttered, I’ve always thought this phrase was idiotic. Telling an unhappy person to be happy is like telling a frog to not be a frog. The only thing that will happen is that both the frog and the person telling the frog to be happy will both be less happy.
It’s a silly comparison, but ‘be happy’ is a silly statement.
Happy is western culture. People strive to be happy. You ask someone why they’re doing anything they’re doing, and, when you finally dig through all the lairs, it’s because, in some way or another, they think it will make them happy.
If i get this boat, I’ll be happy. If I fix this tooth, I’ll be happy. If I get a dog, I’ll be happy. If I get a girlfriend, I’ll be happy. If I get this job, I’ll be happy. If I pay my bills, I won’t be as stressed as I was, which, in a small way, will raise my current happiness level from whatever it was to whatever it will be, though most assuredly more happy than now.
It sounds silly, but that’s how people think. Hell, that’s how I think. But it’s pointless, though… isn’t it?
I mean, come on. What even is happy?
According to google, happy is “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Pleasure is easy. It’s a neurochemical reaction in the brain, but contentment is harder to pin down, so I dug a little deeper. Contentment is a state of “happiness or satisfaction.” Unsatisfactory. Content was not much better, but satisfaction, “fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations or needs, or pleasure derived from this,” was very fertile ground.
And that made sense to me. Happiness is contentment which is fulfillment of something you wanted to do. It’s why men build monuments. It’s how sports work. It’s why bored housewives shop with no other goal than to find something nice. It’s how the economy works… hell, it’s how capitalism works… hell, it’s how life works..
It’s why I write. It’s for contentment, not only for completing something I worked on, but for showing it to somebody, who then says “this thing, this thing right here, this thing you spent hours on, this thing you cried over, this thing that is you, more than you can over know. This thing is good.”
But that doesn’t work if that’s all you ever hear. Happiness is a state that only exists because of all the work it takes to get there. It is the light to toil’s shadow. One cannot be happy without first being sad, which makes a baby’s first smile somewhat of a depressing event, considering what it must have gone through to realize things are now better.
You can’t have happy without sad, and you can’t first be happy without first being sad. That’s life. That’s why rich people aren’t in a state of bliss. That’s why people in heaven probably aren’t in a state of bliss. They’re probably just bored, because, and trust me, as a writer I know this to be true: good things are boring. Who wants to watch a movie about a guy who won the lotto, and then everything turned out alright? No? Now who wants to watch a movie about a guy who won the lotto, who is then kidnapped by evil aliens who want his winnings? Probably more people.
Happiness is sadness is happiness is sadness is happiness is sadness. When you’re on top, you can only come down, and when you’re at the bottom, you can only go up. One’s just a set up to the other.
So now I know what to say the next time a mid-fifties woman comes up to me while I’m on bar and says “you’re happy, and you know what? I like that. But that group of people over there. They aren’t happy. Why can’t they be like you?”
I’ll turn to her and I’ll say. “They’re just getting ready to be happy. Give them some time.”
And you know what? It’s such an odd thing to say that I fully expect her to have no saved response.
She’ll probably just laugh.