Saturday, 21 June 2014

In pursuit of happiness

     I’ve been feeling rubbish about myself lately. No obvious reason. Just frustrated with writing and blogging not going as well as I want it to, feeling dull, flat, insignificant. And when I’m already feeling bleh about myself, I tend to take the most pessimistic interpretation of things happening around me. It’s one of the things I least like about myself. But this lunchtime, I found something I’d written a few days ago, but not blogged because I thought it was rather too aggrandising and wanky. Sod it. If blogging it gets me out of this slough of despond, I’ll take that.

     I like to think when I’m driving,
     I like to daydream a little.
     I like to think about people
     The faces of the young and the old.
     I want to watch the whole story unfold.

     I love to watch people. One of my favourite things to do is to plonk myself on a seat in a public place (often a pub, oddly enough), draw out my notebook and scribble down what I see happening around me. It gets me thinking… About people, about behaviour, what we talk and act the way we do. What people wear, what they eat, what they say, their body language and how it betrays what they really think. It’s a source of constant fascination.

     When we were away in Sheringham, Alistair and I took full advantage of my mum being on hand to provide free wraparound childcare, and found ourselves in a beer garden. It was Bank Holiday Monday, the sun was shining, and the place was heaving. Alistair went off to get drinks; I pounced on a newly vacant table and set myself up in the usual fashion.

     Women in striped tops and cropped trousers
     Knobbers with designer handkerchiefs and sunglasses.
     Sulky looking orange women with blonde hair and tortoiseshell sunglasses, ignoring their spouses.
     Dissatisfied older women with wrinkly lips, highlights, and narked expressions, feeling old compared to the bright young things surrounding them.
     Lots of pointless and yappy small dogs on leads that are too long and getting tangled round legs.
     Children getting excitable/bored, acting up, and being told to ‘ssshhh!’. Parents then carry on talking. Children start acting up again…
     Fat men in tshirts with slogans and cheap polyester shorts.
     Sturdy walkers examining maps.
     Murmur of talk, but no laughter.
     No one is having fun.

     No one. Everyone looked fed up. Maybe because their table was overcrowded, or they were hot, their food was taking too long to arrive, their other half was pissing them off, they were sunburnt… I don’t know. But although there was a buzz of conversation, no one was laughing. Hardly anyone was even smiling.
Except for us. I was hooting with laughter at something (everything), and he was grinning away, asking me what I was twatting on about now in my notebook.

     Cogs started turning (creaking) in my head. About happiness. About laughing. About making a choice.

     I’ve had depression. Whole wasted years of depression, where I barely smiled. Crippling depression. Life-threatening depression. But now, I take the tablets, I had counselling, I’m on an evenish keel. But one thing that fucks me right off is people referring to my daily dose of 20mg of Escitalopram as my ‘happy pills’. They’re SSRIs that balance out my brain chemistry so the darkness fades and doesn’t threaten to overwhelm me. They help my mind stay clear. They don’t make me happy.

     I make myself happy. I make the choice to laugh, easily, loudly, and often. No matter how crap things are, I can force myself not to become weighed down by it. I can laugh, and lift my mood. If all around is sturm and drang, then I will laugh, and whatever it is I’m facing loses some of its power to reduce me.  It becomes a virtuous circle. You laugh, you feel better, things seem funnier, you laugh more, the people around you smile too. One of the nicest things anyone has said to me lately is that the first few times they saw me with The Blondies, they assumed I must be the au pair or childminder. Because we were laughing, always. And that made them smile too.

     Happiness is a choice. Make it. And laugh. LOTS.


Anonymous said...

*does happy dance with pants on head*

Lucy Benedict said...

Let's see some KITCHEN DISCO action!

Sam said...

You're right - happiness *is* a choice. I read The Happiness Project at the beginning of the year and, whilst it is an extremely personal journey of someone who is very unlike you and me in many ways, she does make some very memorable points about the way we can make ourselves happy - particularly if we feel like happiness is evading us - its a choice to just smile, laugh, be uplifted by a song, choose not to slump and whinge. And, particularly when you have small children its about learning to see the wood for the trees. I love that you seem to find joy and share that with your children - it is very telling that people think mothers are incapable of joy and shared joy with their children... X

Lucy Benedict said...

I think it's tough when your children are young, because life can very easily become quite relentless, and it's that much harder to find happiness because they're so reliant on you. I've found it much easier as they get older. Laughter gets us through most things...