No email. No phone messages. No one in the house but me.
I realize it’s been a long time since I had breathing space, time to just sit and be still. There have been moments; pale, fleeting moments where I believed that this time, yes, this time, I’d find my narrative, I’d piece together all of the random events of my life and build a new story out of them. A story with a purpose, a message – a story that gave me hope for everything that had been, and everything that would be.
It’s that – that reflection – that you miss when you’re trying so hard to function, to be strong for other people, to safeguard yourself from pain – your pain and the pain you inflict on others – and that’s a tough thing, because it’s that quiet space, those still moments, when you remember how to live.
I’ve gotten suckered into a dreadful system the last three years of my life, a system that ensures I have a steady paycheck and a lazy mind, and every step of the way, every sunny morning, I’ve told myself not to get too content, too complacent. I knew that the moment I was truly happy, I’d lose everything.
I have been happy here, and there are things I’m very happy with now, but I’ve learned that we’re not here to be happy, or maybe that we’re not here to experience long, uninterrupted spells of happiness. Just as peace is merely the time between wars, happiness feels like it’s the time between woe, disaster, sacrifice, despair. It’s longing for those moments of absolute happiness that keep you going through the worst of it; the dark nights, the terrible days.
I spent a week in Juneau after I graduated from the U of Alaska in Fairbanks. I packed up a backpack and stayed in a low-slung hotel along the waterfront and watched the rain come in and the boats go by. I spent too much money on steak dinners and carmel corn. I took the little sky car up the side of one of the big sloping mountains that met the sea. I ate a mediocre meal at the terribly overpriced restaurant at the top. I ordered a lot of alcohol. I went to museums. I slept in. I watched the rain. I was alone. There were moments of happiness, and moments of depression and despair. Here I was in one of the most beautiful cities I’d ever seen, and it was just me, and I was spending most of it sleeping. Why was that? Fear? Depression? Anxiety?
I have lived and breathed and shit fear for so long that there are some days I don’t know how I would function without it. There’s no time to be happy when you’re always looking on and out, toward the next mountain, back at the hill you didn’t climb, the path you didn’t take, the road you should go down next.
This month, I was supposed to move to New York. The first year I was here, I’d decided to move to Denver. And yet here I sit in Hacienda Chicago in my perfect apartment, my comfortable room, this space I’ve carved out for myself in a new city so far from where I’ve come. I am still here because there is happiness in it. Some days.
There are no mountains to climb here, and all the paths are tired and worn. This was supposed to be a pit stop. This is not going to be the rest of my life. I needed a short break to recover from South Africa before I moved on. I wonder if South Africa hit me harder than I thought it did. I’ve been having a lot of dreams about South Africa, about hot nights and loud music and bugs. Always the bugs. I don’t know what the dreams mean. I don’t know why now.
I’ve been happy here. At times. Sometimes.
I’m not a fool. I realize the one thing you can never escape when you run off to new cities, new countries, new continents, is yourself. It’s why I try so hard to be the best person I can be, to never be satisfied with what I am, but strive toward who I could be. Sometimes I wonder if that’s dangerous. If I’m too hard on myself. And then I’m afraid of what I’ll become if I don’t push myself, if I don’t want more, better, everything, the world.
Because I’ve seen who I can be when I just let myself be.
I think I’m all right with never being content. I’ll be satiated waiting for those absolute brilliant moments of happiness, those shining moments between the long stretches of darkness.
I think that will be enough for me.