Saturday, November 28, 2015

How to be happy

Every other "how-to-be-happy" article recommends giving thanks. I know that would be the case around Thanksgiving, but I recall reading this advice prior to the holiday. I was also recently skimming part of Mary Karr's memoir, Lit, and she talks about trying to get sober and not believing in God and so not wanting to do the twelve step thing where you have to have faith in a higher power. And someone from AA kept telling her to do it anyway, to pray to the universe. So, she does, she prays and she also asks for things, and she ends up getting sober and winning this huge chunk of money for her writing. But still, she doubts.

I've been trying to do this, every once in a while. It mostly happens at the end of the day, when I get out of the car and have to walk two blocks home in the dark, tired, in boots that pinch, hungry, cranky--I try to think for thirty seconds, okay, I'm glad I have most of my teeth. Thank you, universe, that I can walk. Thank you that I live in a small town that's fairly safe and so I will probably not get raped on the way back to my apartment. Thank you that I know I will be able to eat dinner later, and it will likely be some kind of pasta. Thank you that we have a dog, because last year at this same time, I convinced myself that Luke would be allergic and we would have to give the dog away. I worked myself into tears about this, imagining the scene of parting, saying goodbye to the puppy, and only seeing him on holidays (I had figured out that Dan's sister would get the puppy because Juliette loves him so). That didn't happen, and so I occasionally say thanks for Chaplin. Thank you that our heat works, thank you that, even though we have mice, we also have a contract with Terminix. Thank you that I have many people who love me. Thank you that I have enough disposable income to buy Burt's Bee's shampoo and conditioner (because they are amazing!). Thank you that we have electricity and a TV and I can watch back to back to back episodes of What Not to Wear (and, please, universe, let Stacey and Clinton still be friends in real life, even though they stopped doing the show together).

When I was little, I prayed every night. First, it was the child's version of prayer, "God bless Grandma and Grandpa and mom and Oscar (dog) and all my uncles and aunts and please let there really be a Santa Claus, for real." And then, as I got older, it was more specific, like, "Please let me run into Steve Crossett after class at my locker and please let him fall in love with me and ask me to go out on a row boat ride with a picnic after" (I've always been fairly specific about my request, so that there would be no confusion). But then it got to the point where it seemed only transactional, like, "I will try harder not to swear if I can get a new pair of roller skates." And then I had a falling out with God concurrent with my parents being one hour late coming home from a party, and it's never quite been repaired.

God now seems like a fairy tale to me, the thing we comfort ourselves with when confronted with the thought of that our consciousness could be snuffed out forever. At the same time, I hold on to the possibility that there are things in this world we don't yet understand, and maybe, maybe, maybe something more exists. Maybe there is a Santa Claus.

Here is an excerpt from Lit:

If you'd told me even a year before...that I'd wind up whispering my sins in the confessional or on my knees saying the rosary, I would've laughed myself cockeyed. More likely pastime?Pole dancer. International spy. Drug mule. Assassin.

I drive under a sky black as graphite to meet my new spiritual director...a bulky Franciscan nun named Sister Margaret, patiently going blind behind fish-tank glasses that magnify her eyes like goggles.” 

And an interview with Mary Karr from The Paris Review about writing memoir: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/5992/the-art-of-memoir-no-1-mary-karr

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