I happen to be amongst those silly people who believe that happiness in and of itself is an admirable goal to strive for. Consequently, I understand how slippery a thing it really is. Happiness requires work, paradoxical as it may seem. It also takes a certain amount of self-awareness. How many go about their daily routines, resigned to the fact that they are living the life they always will? That happiness is a tree-hugger dream, and that honorable men and women work for a living and shut up about it? Let me tell you about the workload, the self-awareness it takes to cultivate happiness.
Last night, I ate a meatball sub for dinner. It was as delicious a meal as any man has ever consumed. I’d waited, and waited (somewhat impatiently) for my dinner. Suddenly, it was in my lap, steaming and beckoning.
I ate my sandwich, oblivious to anything around me, except perhaps the book I was reading. Two things happened:
1: I realized that, as I was fairly engrossed in my book, I forgot that I was eating as I was eating. I put the book down, and focused on my miraculous meatballs.
2: Even after this revelation, I assumed that I was squeezing all the joy one can possibly squeeze out of a sandwich. I was wrong. I realized that as I was chewing each bite, I was hungrily looking at the next meatball (the one not in my mouth). I was lusting after a meatball, wishing with everything that I was that that meatball was in my mouth- right now. But wait… holy shit. I do have a meatball in my mouth. In fact, it’s the exact same meatball as the one I’m lusting after.
After this little epiphany, I enjoyed what became a fantastic meal. I’m sure that, had I scarfed it down while reading, or had I continued wanting the next meatball, and the next, and the next, without realising what was in my mouth, I’d have missed the experience entirely. I slowed. I breathed. I tasted. And it was good.
Where else does this behavior manifest itself?
The answer may be astounding, if you’re truthful with yourself. Maybe when I go to the gym, I’m thinking of the coffee shop and book ritual that follow. Maybe when I’m reading that book, and drinking that coffee, I’m thinking of my workday. Maybe when I’m in the midst of my workday, I’m thinking of a conversation with my daughter. Maybe when I’m having a conversation with my daughter, I’m thinking of the gym the next day. Kinda vicious, isn’t it?
It’s taken time, and practice, and effort to reach a level of self-awareness that allows me to see these faults. That doesn’t mean it’s difficult; it’s not. It simply takes a conscious, unwavering effort. When I put the acquired knowledge to practice, though, the results can be astounding, and can lead to… wait for it… happiness. Happiness is here; it is now. It is only here, and only now. It is only in this meatball, not the next.