Are you happy? I mean happy. You can tell me. I’m just an anonymous writer. Are you happy? Whisper it to me. You’re not? Well, what are you going to do about it? Are you just going to sit there like a chump while the rest of us are living in the land of sunshine with fortune smiling down upon us? Go out there and get you some happy sistas and brothas!
I used to believe I was on the cusp of being happy. I thought I was so close that if my Dad would just loosen the purse strings a little and purchase this one, solitary item of the moment for me, it would launch me through the entrance of the land of hope and sunshine. I wasn’t running a con game. I truly believed that if my Dad would just purchase this one pack of KISS cards for me, it would go a long way to helping me achieve my ideal state.
“No!” was what he said (cue the dark and foreboding music). He told me “No” on more than one occasion, and there were even times when he would follow that ‘No!’ up with a heaping pile of “Shut up!” (Cue the B roll, creepy B actor with bushy eyebrows that point inward, playing my dad in this reenactment.)
A part of me believed that the constant “No’s!” I received from him manifested into a personality disorder in which I wanted to buy things, but I was scared that I wasn’t worthy of them. Another part of me wondered what kind of man I would be today if he purchased everything I wanted. Would I be a spoiled brat? Would I have some sort of obnoxiousness about me that expected to be able to have everything I wanted (see deserved) regardless if I had to go into debt to get it? Would I be one of those “I deserve it” adult babies who permeate the culture? Another part of me knows that I would’ve had to work my through whatever psychosis my dad chose to inflict on me, and that I would probably end up in the exact same place I’m in right now.
The point is that most of us believe we are in some location on the emotional equator just south of happy, and some of us will live our whole lives down there blaming our parents for it. Most of us are not miserable or depressed in the sense that we need medical assistance. Most of us are just a little south of unhappy, and a little unsatisfied with the way our lives turned out. We had incompetent parents, we grew up in broken homes, we never had any money, we were bullied in school, and our grades weren’t what they could’ve and should’ve been, and if we were able to do it all over again … We wouldn’t want to go through it all over again.
We are who we are, based upon what we’ve been through? Are we happy? Could we be happier? What do you got?
Was I unhappy in that temporary sense that every teen is unhappy when their parent tells them no? I’m quite sure that if a talent agent spotted me in the dramatic aftermath of one of my dad’s denials, they would’ve had their guy call my guy, and said, “That kid’s got the goods.”
As evidence of the fact that my dad did buy me things, I was one of the first kids on my block who had all of the cards necessary to complete the puzzle on the card backs. Did any of the items my dad purchased for me make me happy? I’m sure they did, temporarily, but throughout my reflective examinations, I have found those moments conspicuously absent. I’m sure I received some sort of validation from those sparse moments in life, until the next time my dad and I went to the department store. The next time we went to a store, I had the same notion of being on the cusp of happiness again, and I believed his decision could affect whether or not I would end up in a land of sunshine once again. When he decided not to make those purchases, the cyclical drama would begin again. The question is, was I so unhappy that my definition of happiness was dependent on my dad’s decisions in department stores, or did I enjoy casting him as the bad guy role in the end credits of my psychodrama?
What I thought I was talking about, when I talked to my Dad about making these purchases, was definition. I wanted to be a somebody who had a certain something that someone else had. I wanted to be a have in a world where I felt like a have not, and I knew that those who have are happier. I was also talking about fulfillment, whether I knew it or not. I was talking about a patch, or a hotfix, to correct a bug in my operating system that I thought would help me live through the teenage, “all hope is lost” software program that I just downloaded to my hard drive. I thought was talking about helping him help me become a real player in a world of people that had such products.
How many otherwise unhappy people had parents purchase those KISS cards for them at that seminal checkout counter of their lives? How many of them walked away realizing that that was it. One simple pack of KISS cards was all it took. That moment may have occurred thirty-five years ago, but I’m happy now. I reached the point, after all those years, of fundamental happiness. I have no wants or desire any more. I am what you could call a fulfilled man.
“And Dad, it was those KISS cards that you purchased, when I was all but thirteen years of age, that accomplished that for me. I find it hard to believe too, but all I can say is I told you so.”
Are we happy people in a fundamental sense, or do we define fundamental happiness based on attaining things? If we experience fundamental unhappiness, we may not know what caused it, but we know we need things, and change, and things that change us. We need constant change. Change results in definition and redefinition, until we achieve the ideal state of being that we believe is forever beyond our reach, but one solitary purchase away.
We are oysters in search of a process through which we can change our interiority to protect us from our internal intruders. It’s silly to believe that one pack of KISS cards, of course, as we need layers upon layers of calcium carbonate to shield us from the forces of interiority, until we create that pearl. This process is similar, yet different, from the outer shell we create to protect us from possible external intruders.
The intruder inside us is unhappiness, and to defeat it we need to undergo changes equivalent to those the oyster uses. We’re all animals after all, and we’re required to change, adapt, and evolve throughout life for our survival and for survival of the species? It’s natural, it’s science, and we’re not that much different from the oyster?
Are the changes we require biological, sometimes, but sometimes we just need some sort of change to give us a lift out of the tedium of today, regardless what we did yesterday, to give us a brighter tomorrow. If we’re unhappy, in a manner we define, how do we achieve fundamental and constant happiness? To what do we resort? How do we define ourselves, and if we make sweeping changes, are we ever happy in the aftermath, or are we in need of more change?
A friend of mine resorted to drastic change. She pursued it. She achieved it. She needed it. The drastic change was so elemental to her makeup that she believed it bisected her personal timeline into a B.C/A.D. demarcation. When she and I talked –after years of separation from the drastic change– she no longer wanted to discuss the B.C. (before change) life that I knew. That discussion seemed irrelevant to her compared to the A.D. (after decision) lifestyle that she was now enjoying. She was no longer the person I knew. She changed, and any observer could see that my attempts to relive our past bored her. Since it had been so long since we last spoke, however, the past was the only thing we had in common. It frustrated her. She found a way to make this conversation relevant, or enjoyable to her, by asking me how the characters of our shared past would’ve reacted to her drastic change … if they had lived long enough to see it.
The question that I would’ve loved to ask her –as if I didn’t already know the answer– is did any of these fundamental changes do anything to help her achieve greater fundamental happiness. An inevitable ‘yes’ would follow, for change is good, change is always good, but more change is better. Once she accomplished these drastic changes, was she able to wipe those memories of a rough upbringing off the slate? Yes she was. Did these changes accomplish everything she hoped they would? Yes they did. These questions would go to the very heart of why she decided she needed change, and very few would admit they were an utter waste of time, but the greater question would be was this change so complete that she would no longer need further, drastic changes in future? I’m quite sure that the next time I run into her, she will have undergone a number of other, drastic changes, now that she’s married a man that can afford them for her.
“Could you achieve the same amount of happiness without those drastic changes?” I would’ve loved to ask her.
“Yes,” I’m sure she would say, “And I did try them. Nothing happened. I needed change.” Fair enough, but how much effort did you put into taking inventory of everything you have that should make you happy, versus everything you could have that could make you happy, and how much have you lost in the pursuit of these total transformations?
If we run across the rare individual who admits that their transformational changes didn’t accomplish what they thought they should, they will have their remedy all ready for us. They will tell us that they need more changes, other changes, and a metamorphosis into something no one considered before. The point of all these changes is to save them from what they were, or to prevent them from becoming what they might become if they don’t change. At some point in this process, they invest so much in change that they cannot turn back.
Are we ever happy? I mean happy! Or, is happiness a state of mind that can achieve internal activation after a series of events occur in a very specific way that we define? We’ve suffered damages that leave us damaged, and we can’t fix them on our own. We have flaws, but there is hope. There is always hope. We can change, and changes can change us. We have the money. We have the technology. We can rebuild it. Better than we were before. Better…stronger…faster…happier. We can make more money, with a different job, a better job. We can have more love … more sex … better sex if we can find a way to change. We might consider having an affair on our spouse, as that could shake things up, cause some turmoil, and lead to couple’s therapy and renewal of sorts that could lead to makeup sex. An affair could also lead to a divorce, but what is divorce? Divorce can be messy and awful, but it can also lead to change, drastic change. We might need pharmaceuticals, and alcohol to help us through it, but it could lead us to refocus on our beauty and losing divorce weight, as we become more concerned with our appearance. We might buy better products and supplements that could lead to more gym time that will lead us to be thinner and happier, until it dawns on us that tummy tucks, collagen injections, and more colonics could change us quicker and better. We’ll need more boob, or better boobs, at some point that will lead us to feel younger, better, and thinner. We’ll have more definition, we’ll be more feminine, or less feminine, and more masculine, and who cares about gender specifics anyway? We could live the rock and roll lifestyle. We’ll have more “me” time, but that could lead to more alone time that could lead to more introspection and some depression. It always does. It will also lead us to focus on the fact that we need better appliances, more extravagant vacations, and more “me” time and greater self-indulgence, until we get what we deserve. Something different. Hey, I’ll try anything once. Change…happiness…change…repeat if necessary.