Monday, 5 September 2011


Well, first, the boring stuff: After getting increasingly antsy and worried about not having work, I just landed a month of low-paid but easy and mostly-stress-free agency work. So that's good.

On a slightly more meta level...

I've been thinking about happiness. Because every now and then, I manage to get my head out of oh-fuck-shit-everything's-going-wrong mode, and start thinking things like, "Well, look at me. Here I am with beautiful children, out in the sunshine, and with no horrible job to make me miserable. This is quite nice. I can enjoy this."

And that's when the anti-happiness tzar starts shouting from the back of my cranium. "What?" he says. "Are you MAD? How dare you have fun? You're unemployed and completely crap! IT'S NOT ALLOWED."

The tzar is an embodiment of guilt and self loathing. I'm crap and don't deserve to be happy. But there's also something a bit more insidious: I'm playing a role. I tell people how crap things are and I want their sympathy, therefore I can't be happy cos that wouldn't fit the role. But... maybe I don't actually need their sympathy? Maybe things aren't so bad after all? Maybe this life, which on the face of it looks like a mess, is actually quite pleasant and stress free and not so bad after all?

But then I start worrying about money and the future and the fact that people have told me I'm crap at what I'm trying to do, and the stress returns and I can't believe I ever said I was happy...

Part of this is a typical me thing: I think in black and white. Intelectually I know the world isn't that simple. Not only do I know it, I appreciate its beauty. As a novelist I love the fact that you can have characters who are contradictory, who are both good and bad, cos that's real life, man. But despite all of that... somehow the basic me, the one who just reacts to stuff and doesn't think about it, wants everything to have a nice neat box to live in. And gets continually confused about whether I'm living in the Happy box or the Unhappy one. (both. I'm living in both. Why is that so hard to grasp? It's normal. I'M BOTH.)

But anyway, trotting quickly past the confusion of what box I'm living in, there is another issue: Why on earth am I even trying to be happy? Isn't that just the most bourgeois self-indulgent thing you ever heard? Happiness? Pah! Most people don't even have the option.

Why do I think such a thing is even attainable? Why should I deserve it? What's so special about me? Why do I keep chasing after it, even though it's so obviously hard to find? Why don't I just accept that life is hard and that's the way it's meant to be?

A few people have said to me things like, "No job is worth this. You shouldn't have to go through this kind of shit. If it's making you this unhappy, just get out."

And I sort of did. I got out of one particularly nasty job, but I'm still flailing my fists at the door of the same career, hoping they'll let me back in, with no guarantee that I won't end up in the same old shit. Part of me thinks, well done me for escaping one bit of crap and still holding out to minimise any more... but part of me thinks, who am I trying to fool? What makes me any different? Why should I get an easy ride? - and how presumptuous of me to even aim for one.

I spout a lot of hippy shit to myself, some of it mangled through a second-hand Buddhist sieve, but it generally goes along the lines of keep calm, be nice to yourself, chill out, stop worrying, cuddle your kids... and poor and calm is better than rich and stressed. But let's face it, that kind of crap is the preserve of the middle classes - those people who have nice houses and spare time and can afford to talk like that. OK, yes, I have no job and no money and neither does my partner. But we're not poor like really poor people are poor. We have a big house and a small mortgage. We have qualifications and skills and connections and Nice Families and the gift of the gab and a million advantages that the truly poor people just don't have.

The irony is that the middle-class-ness both opens the door to the pursuit of happiness as well as slamming it firmly in my face with a guilt-clad chattering glove.

So, you know. Happy? Me? Well I might be, if I would only let myself.


Dandelion said...

A bit of second-hand Buddhism for you:

Who are you to be happy? Who are you not to be?

Andy said...

Even poor people can be happy. Just because you have a nice house, a small mortgage, some kids and a partner and no job doesn't mean that you can't be happy too :-)
Life is sometimes fairly shit but don't let that stop you being happy.