I am not naturally the most cheerful person. My parents tell me that my first word was 'No' and, although I don't remember the moment, I imagine it to be more of a first statement: 'No!' Nevertheless, I do make an effort to think positively. Often, this means minimizing expectations and managing disappointments. Trying requires good faith, and resilience when things don't work out. Those are optimistic qualities. But I get that describing them this way comes across a tinge pessimistic.
Some people literally overflow with enthusiasm for life. I love people like that, precisely because I am not blessed with this capacity for endless optimism. It makes me feel very good to be around those that are. They radiate; I warm my chilly hands at the roaring fire of their joie de vivre. I know no one is happy all of the time, but some people seem continuously contented. They have the talent of only giving goodness to those around them, with complete sincerity, even if all is not perfect in their worlds.
Sometimes, though, happy people can irritate the bejesus out of me. Maybe it's about proximity and familiarity. I love happy people that I know. Unnecessarily happy people that I do not know, however, can be a little taxing.
While I was writing this, I had the TV switched on, using it, as I sometimes do, as visual and aural wallpaper so that I don't feel too isolated and self-pitying about working on an editorial on a Saturday evening. A programme was on about 'normal' people who have to throw dinner parties for strangers. I tolerate it (OK, I rather like it) because it is intriguing to see other people's kitchens and how they try to imitate celebrity chefs while they're explaining what it is they're cooking ('I'm going to make my choux pastry in the shape of a swan...'). One of the amateur chefs on this particular show is terribly, awfully, most annoyingly cheerful. She sings (badly) all the time: while she cooks, shops, cleans up. She did a rendition of singing in the rain at her local grocer. She says 'Hallelujah' and means it. She smiles all the time and she has too-wide, too-frikkin-happy, bright-blue eyes. It's really rather unbearable. I can't work out why I'm so annoyed by her good humour. Maybe its because I don't know her and also don't really believe it. She's hamming it up for the cameras. She's putting on a show, clowning around, performing her idea of the person that everyone loves to love. I, for one, don't buy it for a second - she's bloody miserable. Coming to this conclusion makes me feel pleased, in a perverse way.
What makes me happy, besides that kind of perversion and, of course, getting my way? (This would be an ideal moment to insert a smiley emoticon). I like it when I get what I want. Don't you? I invest a lot of energy in hoping for things. But: I don't just hope I also work. I do my best, or as close to my best as I can muster, situation depending. I realize that I don't control everything that happens in my life. Other people - friends, lovers, and selection committees - make decisions that affect me. So there is no point getting worked up if I can't have my way all the time. I think that realizing this has made me a more relaxed person all around. Although I recognize that I might need to leave it to the people in my life to judge whether I am being completely honest on this point.
What makes me smile is feeling good. I feel good when I get the chance to take a bite out of that apple called pleasure. I mean real life, embodied, phenomenological experience. Like tasting a macadamia nut-caramel cheesecake that I baked, and which came out right after diligently following a recipe. Laughing hard and long at a very stupid, brilliant YouTube video about two puppets that have no idea what they are or why they are conscious of being 'alive'. Kissing. Enough said. Dancing badly to bad music around friends also dancing badly; all of us with abandonment. Sun or a breeze on my skin. Running - that nice I'm-in-my-stride feeling and also, even more so, that tingly post-run, in-the-shower meltdown feeling. All of these things are goodness incarnate. Living-in-the-moment makes optimism easy.
Life: yummy. ;)
PS: For this issue of ITCH, I thought I'd do something that I haven't done before: create a personal interpretation of :) by doing short interviews with some of my friends. These people, whom I know and like a lot, represent a lot of things in the world that I appreciate and smile about. I hope you enjoy meeting them too.
archive - issue 13