A Kind of Happiness…

For Meghan

I was asked to answer a question yesterday; a question boldly penciled into a green, spiral bound notebook. She handed me the paper and stepped away.

Her and I have a kind of interesting connection, as if an instant friendship is the only possible outcome to a connection of the eyes. We talk all of the time without saying a word, she is one of my greatest friends and before her, I never knew that it was possible to befriend someone so quickly or seamlessly; one of those connections that seems to make you believe in textbook reincarnation. Except her and I, in our other lives, were never lovers. She handed me the notebook and stepped away.

I think that I was her hamster that she had at the age of seven back in the mid-nineteen hundreds, most likely the sixties; my hair was just as wild and crazy, my cage constantly filthy, my demeanor possibly neurotic, but she hugged and squeezed me till the day that I died. Before that, I had been the ice cream man that she chased down every day with a quarter. Every time she would hope that I’d spot her the penny that it cost to get the cherry on top; every time she would leave with a red stem protruding from between her clenched teeth. This is that relationship made manifest in 2014; she handed me the college ruled sheets of paper, a half smile tugged at the corner of her mouth and she walked away.

“What does it mean to be and to feel Happy?”

I think I heard somewhere on a distant shuffling iPod that happiness is a warm gun. I don’t particularly agree with that sentiment. In fact I find that the more that I live in this world, the longer I am gifted with the ability to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide, the more that I feel that happiness is something that is found from moment to fleeting moment. As if each breath we take were an egg timer in which we needed to find reason to turn up both corners of our mouth and we found it easily in the free flowing sand as it pinched between the hips of the timer, but even that is not happiness in its simplest form. Even simpler than an inhalation is the exhale. An exhale of breath is so much more than just a way to release pressure built up in the lungs from breathing inward, when practiced properly it taps every nerve on the shoulder and forces them to turn their heads around just enough to get a nice stretch; ultimately, the goal of exhalation is to free the spirit and stretch the happiness muscles residing deep within the sternum.

Yes, that’s right, there are muscles of happiness. At birth, they are in your feet and calves, which is why babies laugh so heartily, the laughter needs to travel all of the way up their body in order to come out of their mouth. During adolescence they cross through the groin area and finally rest for a long period of time behind the abdominal wall, this is why we laugh with our stomach. As we age, the muscles get contorted and float higher up into our bodies. This is a cause for so many older people coughing all of the time.

The point is that all of the happiness that we feel is incredibly complex, but I wish it was simple enough to put into a scientific, anatomical diagram. The truth about being and feeling happy for me is that when I have it, or at least what I understand it to be, I want to take the egg timer and smash it on the granite counter top so that the sand spills everywhere and then my understanding of time will no longer be confined to the glass cylinder. My watch will stop and in one wondrous exhale, I will hold a moment. To me, I imagine happiness feeling like this, upon exhale, I am able to physically hold a feeling. Remembering what it tastes like to have ice cream for the first time or when, in the middle of summer, you were poured a can of soda into an already sweating glass of ice, remembering how you stuck your nose to the side of the glass to feel the carbonation tingle your nostrils. That feeling is what I can hold onto, but it’s a secret, and can fold it up and put it in the front pocket of my overalls so that whenever I feel bad I just need to rub my hand across my chest to remember that time is a man made thing that can be forgotten just as easily.

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