Percolating Happiness

 

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What is Happiness?

Are we aware of its presence or absence?

Is it organic?  Meaning it percolates within us, bubbling to the surface, and expressed through facial expression?  Or is it environmental?  Meaning it is outside of us, an experience we find pleasing and therefore are happy?

Is Happiness found in things?  The greater the thing, the greater the Happiness.  Where can Happiness be found?

Many great thinkers hypothesize that Happiness is an emotional state.

From 1958-2008 I’d always had a fairly good idea of what would/could/should make/keep/prolong my idea of Happiness.ahappy1

And yet its achievement was surely impossible: my Happiness hung inches out of reach like that carrot on a stick, the absence of it’s possession was goading, taunting, irritating; what was at first a quest for joy, soon curdled, and its promise soured.

The greek philosopher Epicurus emphasized that Happiness meant being untroubled and absent of pain.

Aristotle, the father of modern drama said of Happiness, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer “The two enemies of human Happiness are pain and boredom.”  He also said that humans have high expectations.  Man should lower his expectations and remember to aim low.”

If Schopenhauer is correct, then depression is percolating cup after cup of Happiness!    ahappy3

 

 

Life By Living

 

Life, as we know much too well, is plump with memories; old jokes but new laughter.

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An eternity of firsts: love, kiss, bike, pirouette, strike out, airline, stitches, lipstick, heartbreak, failure, beer, hangover,
diamond ring, varsity letter, loss, win, marriage, house, flat tirehook line and sinker, kids, grand kids.

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And yet, it is precisely these moments that quietly fashioned us like a sculptor casts his marble.
These serendipitous moments pop up like toast and reminds us that

life is really what we’ve learned by living.

Enough With The Melodrama! Gimme Something To Laugh About!

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I have come to the conclusion that my blog is dying for an immediate injection of levity!  I mean, really, how long can a writer expect to maintain (or, increase) his audience when he expresses (now routine) woe-is-me posts?  Many of you probably say to yourself, “Woe-is-he?  How about “Woe-is-me?”  I promised to myself when I launched this blog that I would write honestly, especially about subjects that were difficult to express in a metaphorical way.  My graduate school mentor once said, “Hell, anyone can write a drama!  Who isn’t capable of writing personal experience drivel causing readers or audiences to be moved and shed a tear.  Christ, just listen: puppy mauled by pit bull; dad in Iraq, won’t be home for Christmas; the homeless offering half of the little they had; and my favorite: someone secretly sells your <  input pet name and species here  > to save the <  insert anything that people can’t do without here  >. See how easy it is to write tears-down-the-cheek melodrama’s?acomedy2

“But comedy?  That illustrates one’s talent of 1) Undertanding what’s funny; 2) Understand clearly what’s funny to you most likely isn’t funny to strangers; 3a) Never! Never ever ever! write about Christmas (every reader or audience member is loaded with holiday memories which you’d need to best (which is nearly impossible); 3b) Never! Never ever ever! put a dog, any dog onstage at any time!  The audience’s attention and empathy will immediately be drawn to the mongrel show stopper, and Everything you’ve poured over for months or years will be lost to a furry, salivating, and misbehaving clown on four legs! 4)sense of humor which is an innate ability to see a humorous situation which will relate due to it’s familiarity to the majority of your audience; 5)  Timing.  It ain’t funny unless they laugh when you want them to laugh.  Laughter produces a pause in the action which swallows everything until the laughter ebbs.”

A talented writer knows that he/she must control set-ups and punch lines and laughter or else try their hand at writing historical non-fiction.  One comedic device is writing a common comedic situation (and the audience is in on the gag) where broad and stereo-typical characters

acomedy5develop hair-brained schemes which the audience knows will fail.  The audience’s or reader’s premonition is validated when our sympathetic buffoons and sad sack’s muddle past menial obstacles to find themselves nose-to-nose with the impossible-of-impossible obstacles requiring our “down-and-out” characters to change (catharsis) in order to successfully beat the odds.  At long last the characters arrive at the end of the book or play changed for the better, admired by the audience for being obstinate and tenacious in their pursuit, and, most likely, will have the dubious honor of water-cooler and happy-hour conversations.  An actors job is to bring a third dimension to what you’ve written.  Actors can’t improve a poorly structured play, just as an editor can’t proof read draft after draft of a premature novel.  It’s been said, “Good actors can make a good play great; but not even great actors can make a poorly written play mediocre.”  Judicious editing and the full understanding that as a writer you produce a product (play, novel, article essay, or fiction) just like a cow produces milk.  No where in the thousand upon thousand upon thousand of words you’ve laid to paper is a Sacred Cow.  Absolutely everything you hand over to a critical public may be arrogantly ignored, or it may be read, or after reading it coldly tossing it in the vicinity of the recycle can.  It’s then picked up by a vain and autocratic mailroom grunt with champagne dreams of big corner offices, hot hot hot secretary’s, and a humidor stuffed with Davidoff cigars writes you a letter highlighting the scripts weaknesses, and then, provides a colossal pile of his rewritten scenes for you to add to the script post-haste.  The talent to create a play or book which, night after night and joke after joke and laughter after laughter takes mechanical training and the unusual vision to see  funny behavior in colloquial and mediocre situations. And try as you might to write comedy without that Godgiven sixth sense of identifying humor in commonplace situations and change the menial to the amusing just might develop into a book or play that draws the attention, curiosity, and chit-chat of the general population to buy the book or see the play. But if your degree of creativity resembles that of a stenographer and you plow through or inflate or discover that the situation you thought was funny isn’t as plentiful as first thought you simply shorten the product in whichever genre you write, you might be the author of a funny play, or a funny story, or or a funny book.

But you won’t have a comedy. 

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A Patient Physician Waits For My Question . . .

Will this Failure affect my . . .  Durability?

In a broad sense, of course.  I mean, who can possibly predict someone’s . . . permanence, so to speak . . . not that death is, in any way, humorous, but if we did know, one could make plans . . . which is when I trailed off, consciously fleeing The Doctor’s adying1despairing and melancholic answer which, upon delivery, affirmed my inkling and, at first, felt promising, that is until the import of his answer felt as heavy as a saturated woolen coat.

My disquieting understanding was followed by remorse and the physician‘s shifting of weight left right left right; my attention lost to the ticker-tape listing of buoyant memories; then, hailing from afar like a sea boat captain, a nervous cough interrupts my avoidance with sharp and determined finger-snaps by a now brusque and tidy physician whose demeanor is demanding (disguised as cheerful support) takes the tone of an impatient boss, Is There Anything else, then?

adying4That’s when we resumed our assigned roles of patient and doctor.  Long gone was the arm-across-the-back-and-onto-the -other-shoulder fatherly imitation of empathy.  Tucking his humanity neatly in a breast pocket below his blue-stitched name and title like first graders whose names are also stitched but for opposite reasons: The Doctor: To tell you who he is and his department (lest you wonder): And first graders: To remind themselves who they are and what they wore.

Upon empathy’s discharge, a muddy silence quickly appeared swallowing the Doctor and I and filling the tiny room with despair, melancholy, and a dreadful load of confusion.  It reminded me of a time long ago when a generic teen-age girl gave me the sign to try for home, only to be quickly slapped by my host causing my retreat and a kind-of cease-fire and the same shameful silence which the Doctor cast by answering my foolish question:even though I was all-too-aware of the penalty, I asked the question with the same tentative, cautionary, and deliberate way that I behaved with that tart.  And coincidently the responses were eerily similar: the tart with a sharp slap and immediate rejection, and the Doctor with a representational slap and unsettling honesty saying It’s got the moxie, it’s got fervor and doggedness. It’s very rare to be strong and efficient; even rarer still to be too strong and to be too efficient.

His foot steps down the hall seemed to whisper apologies until he turned and they both disappeared.  And there I was, alone, all alone, all-by-myself alone except for the damned answer, of which I’d had some degree of premonition.  But hearing it in your head isn’t official thereby maintaining a small degree of hope.  And then I asked and then he answered and then neither one of us would ever be the same.adying2

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

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A few weeks ago I was incapable of simply managing daily routines such as bathing; I couldn’t process dual stimuli so if I was brushing my teeth and a faucet was turned on my attention went to the running water and my brushing slowed to a stop as though someone had killed the power. There was no conscious thought besides a gnawing, chewing darkness as though black velvet curtains had been suddenly drawn, shutting out the noonday sun. If I was present I was only present to the fact that I had, almost immediately fallen down a deep tunnel of which there was no light and no escape and no orientation. Or better, as though I had been swallowed by the immediate mud-slide of my life and in complete darkness and suffocation I simply held on to the one hope that maybe my prescription would act as a breathing tube offering me much needed oxygen as Nick, my psychiatrist and friends and family kept begging for me to hold on as help was on the way.

Two days ago I traveled north to Milwaukee to spend a couple of days with my older brother. We sat for nine hours the first day and six hours the next simply talking. Well, I talked and in a profound gesture of brotherhood generosity he listened interjecting sparingly opinions. It was an exhaasadguyusting experience met with fatigue, resistance and weeping, but I plowed through years of illumination, insights and epiphanies. It was the first time that I was able to track the experiences as they evolved much like tracking a lion or bear by using their footprints in a densely green forest. It was the first time that I was able to collect and sort, catch and dissect, speak and understand a monumental array of thoughts, failed expectations, compromises, distance and pain. My life for the past three years had been laid out before me like a table at Thanksgiving; every piece in its place awaiting their purpose.

Each day my energy has slowly begun to return and I grow stronger. I am still wobbly and use the assistance of a cane to walk; my gait is slow as I amble to the post-box or to the doctor; I often lean upon it when I tire or grab a hold of a fence or the arm of Nick.

But the most important, painful, and fool hardy admission was that I had erected my life cantilevered and precipitously atop a ravine simply adepressedman1for the view.  Then one evening a mud-slide swallowed me, my partner and his family, my career and others at work, my family and friends.   And now, standing at the base of change, the annihilation of my overlooked life, I now stand alone before this devastation, try to catch a glimpse of any familiar object in order to delay the inevitable: to once again try to salvage any pain my uncaged manic self inflicted

The Brain Breakdown

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A psychiatrist offered this analogy:

Your brain is like a computer which has a fixed amount of memory.

When your brain is occupied trying to process depression there’s a fixed amount available to use to process other activities, say memory or long division.  Eventually, as you heal, more memory is made available to concentration or routines or interest in life or, in my case, facing the ashen landscape called life to which a debilitating, manic, and, calamitous event crippled my job, my family, and my spouse.

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Nothing More, Nothing Less

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Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.”Kurt Vonnegut

My regret, as it relates to an incident which first occurred forty-five years ago, is a testament to the idiom, “What goes around, comes around.” It suggests that my intermittent regret is atonement for the pleasure discovered so many years ago. This regret appears when loneliness is in full bloom; this deep seated crater, evidence of a familiar collision between bond and betrayal. It’s then, at that point of emptiness, that my pleasing recollections tease like Saturday double-feature matinees. The collection of memories occurs as thirst, my unquenchable devotion; or reappears every once in a while like time’s patina on my beloved silver tea service.

I was hoping for a magnificent catharsis upon my reconciliation of the incident and my fractional culpability; that my written admission might forgive years of verbal omission; that truth is lighter than shame; that recollection isn’t always significant and time’s forgetfulness would diminish the episode in the tent to childhood antics. But that humid summer night awareness arrived like an overdue letter, the content of which landed like a heavyweight’s right hook to the kidneys burying his fist deep so as to eventually become a part of me. But that is not the case. Instead of a breeze wafting past my memory and snagging itself on the thin fan blades of time, I discover that recollection and the question of responsibility are loans against my character, and which will one day, demand to be settled. That is, someday everyone will confront actions which involved someone else to determine what fraction of the incident belonged to them, and what, if any, reparations they needed to make. I’ll pony up whatever it costs to finally discharge this forty-five year debt. And yet, I remain suspicious as to the degree of honesty, because truth is an All In bet played foolishly by amateurs then followed by ruin. The same with truth; uncovering white-lies is hardly threatening. But to declare my behavior publicly after four decades of denial is dangerous and alienating. We as a society avoid the truth: Just tell me what I want to hear and keep the truth for Mr. Jones, nothing more and nothing less.

image“Let’s not burden our remembrance with a heaviness that’s gone.”William Shakespeare

It was a torturous July night, one which promised cold fronts: instead Mother Nature kept Hot and Humid to work a second shift; it was hot and quiescent and a blanket of humidity wrapped itself around the tent like a gauze dressing. A bright summer moon shot its light through the opened, netted windows and collected at the foot of our sleeping bags. ‘Ihe only sound was the whisper of a passing Impala or Nova as it whispered down Lapham Street. Pete and Jimmy were fast asleep on their half of the tent; Jimmy laying on his side, Pete on his stomach, both facing the wall. David and I were both lying on our backs staring at the tents’ nexus. The heat kept chained dogs to bay for relief; thank God for their suffering as it was the only distraction rescuing us from Serendipity; Our slow, repetitive breathing, and perhaps the scratch of a bare foot on nylon. Calm to kids was known as bored and bored kids look for action. But calm with David was breathless. Perhaps we fell asleep; perhaps I turned on my side to face him and found him naked; perhaps it was all an accident; perhaps it was a cosmic collision, a misdemeanor in which one of us crossed the double yellow line of personal space and found ourselves in the middle of an adolescent fender bender.

Perhaps it was calculated; perhaps appetite and thirst were presented at auction to the highest bidder; perhaps I signaled to the Great Auctioneer in the sky my silent bid and purchased a lifetime of homosexuality. But in reality it was, simply, memorizing David. Naked. Nothing more and nothing less.

image“We rarely regret of having eaten too little.”Thomas Jefferson

I don’t know if it’s my self protection but I need to complicate the simplicity of this moment: as though my whole life were riding on this one throw of the dice. I need to turn this into something larger than life; a Busby Berkeley production filmed in Panavision or CinemaScope; a film directed by Cecil B. DeMille. I was in desperate need of an epiphany; I ransacked my memory for the appearance of an oracle; I hoped for a deity’s prophecy which I could present to friends and family foreshadowing my unexpected interest in the physiques of men? Christ, there must be some significance that I can assign to the reruns of a deteriorating memory which has been nailed to my consciousness for twenty five years? It can’t possibly be as simple as being mesmerized by Jim’s baby brother’s exhibition of arousal. It can’t be naïveté when David rolled to his side, pleased by my curiosity. it can’t be as careful as two boys fingers dancing along ridges of goose-flesh. It can’t possibly be as innocent as that. Christ! It could have been any boy, any night, any chance glance. And I cannot remember if I touched David or if David touched me or what we did, if anything, while we were naked. Or if we just laid there undressed and studied each other. It seems hard to imagine that David and I would have merely laid there, inactive for ten minutes. It seems plausible that there was activity. But if there was, I cannot remember it. And yet I was fascinated. Much more than curious, I was drawn, I could feel my attention consumed, my hesitation devoured. It wasn’t that he was completely different than I, it was that he was simply different than I. He was thin and lean, I was husky; I was dark haired, hazel eyes, he was blond and blue. All I knew was that I wanted to have a body like his, and if I wasn’t going to have a body like his then the next best thing was to get my hands on as many bodies like his as I could.