Sunday, July 29, 2012

WE HAPPY FEW

Robert is the tall one on the right. Richard is the youngest, the boy in the middle, rubbing his eyes. That's me on the left, the big-eared kid with the striped jacket.

It was Easter, I'm sure. How else to explain the clothes? We weren't a dapper family. These weren't typical L.A. duds. And though we didn't do the church thing our parents dressed us up for Easter (there's a photo of us somewhere in pastel sweaters, too).

I miss my brothers. We don't talk enough.

Were we happy back then? I think so. I mean, it's easy to be (relatively) happy when you're a kid and the real world hasn't grabbed you in its jaws and started the thrashing that grown-ups call life. When you're a kid, the little things in life seem insurmountable. But we get over them. From a grown-up's perspective it all seems a little silly, the wailing and gnashing of teeth over small stuff: a bad grade on a test. Getting teased about your height. Being dumped by a crush.

Now that we're adults we get to focus on the really important stuff — but is it any different from the crap we dealt with in high-school, in college, in young adulthood? As grown-ups we fret about things like job evaluations, bad hair-and-outfit days, making ends meet, falling in and out of love. The stakes may seem a little higher now that we're All Grown Up, but in the great scheme of things it's all the same picayune stuff. Compared to matters of life and death, it doesn't matter. We just pretend it means something because we need to feel there's greater meaning to our lives than a bunch of little shit. There has to be greater meaning, right?

Not really. We are here, we live, we are gone. Others take our place. In the end the best thing we can do is to find love and balance in our little lives. The poet Miller Williams did a beautiful job describing it:
Some of what we do, we do
to make things happen,
the alarm to wake us up, the coffee to perc,
the car to start.
The rest of what we do, we do
trying to keep something from doing something,
the skin from aging, the hoe from rusting,
the truth from getting out.
With yes and no like the poles of a battery
powering our passage through the days,
we move, as we call it, forward ...
As we move forward, seeking balance between the poles in this crazy experience that passes for life, we also seek happiness. We wish it for ourselves and for the ones we love. We crave it, we hope for it, we think we find it, we embrace it — but when bad times happen, we too often forget what it felt like. Chuck Palahniuk is right"It's so hard to forget pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace."

Like most of my friends, I am guilty of overlooking the sweet and focusing on the pain of the past. It's a flaw I work to correct every day, and every day I fall short — but I'm getting there. Little by little, I'm getting closer to grace, closer to peace, closer to being the man I want to be.

My latest bout with depression has had an upside: it has made me focus on the sweet times in my past. Those memories have buoyed me in these dark days, helped me find the center lane of life. Helped me find balance in a mental tsunami.


Remembering those sweet times naturally evokes family and friends. Some of them are still with me; others have shuffled off this coil, and still others are Somewhere Out There, alive and hopefully happy, or getting there. Even if we parted in pain and turmoil, I think of people in that last group with love. I hope (wish) (pretend) they harbor some of the same fondness. Palahniuk wrote of scars created by pain. Shakespeare wrote of the scars I remember — ones created by bonding with loved ones in the tough times, when closeness counts the most:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.
Peace to my silent but still living brothers and sisters. Heartfelt peace and happiness. I love you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Be happy, Red. Be happy in all that you do and all you will accomplish. You have unfinished business with the silent but still living sister.