A big shout out and a bigger hug to Shasti Jain for being the muse. I owe you one.
“Write something happy” she told me.
Only if a statement that seemed so bafflingly simple was actually that easy to understand in reality. For hours I let my fingers hover over my keyboard, drawing invisible circles hoping to encircle thoughts and memories that I could hold down long enough to decipher. I figured, that for the longest time ever, I had never thought about this.
They say happiness is fluid. I’ve always believed that the definition differs like we all do from each other. Happiness isn’t a constant, it is dynamic; and after a certain incident or point in time, you feel its essence evolve into something completely different.
At 14, happiness was biting into delightfully soft homemade buns made by my Mum and losing myself to the molten cheese melting me and every little taste bud inside.
At 18, happiness was perfectly putting the idea in my head on a little piece of paper, watching countless hours of crumpled paper and wasted ink unfold and give way to something better. Happiness was finding a reason to be satisfied with yourself.
But then Mom’s cancer happened. Happiness was an invisible and frustratingly elusive thread I spent ages grasping for in the darkness. Happiness was compromise, it was settling for something less; happiness was knowing your Mom didn’t have to take the next chemotherapy, but never knowing if she was out of danger.
Happiness, however, also meant having to appreciate life a little bit more. It was going out for a quiet family dinner so often taken for granted, where the food on the table was for once, less important than the conversation that happened over it. Happiness was baffling, it kept changing and I couldn’t understand what exactly it meant to me.
After Mom passed away, the definitions blurred and faded. For the longest time ever, happiness was living without any more pain. Happiness was learning to curse at the storm and spit venom at the rain. It was about shielding yourself from anything that threatened to come too close; happiness was learning to fortify your own defenses.
Those defenses never break down. Those memories never leave but yet, happiness learns to adapt. Sometimes I sit at home and watch my fighter pilot of a Dad try so hard to fill a space that will never ever be filled again. Awkwardly, he cuts cheese into uneven pieces struggling not to murder his own fingers, but somehow that selfless effort to hide our pain makes me smile a little. It hurts, but perhaps like our experiences become a part of us, pain becomes a part of happiness and how we perceive it.
So, as I write on happiness and what it means to me, I can’t really give you one particular definition. All I can tell you is that no matter how fast the world around you spins and throws you off, you will find a reason to gravitate right back. Perhaps it’s something we are conditioned to look for. Maybe it is how it keeps us afloat when we’re drowning in everything around us that we seek it; so desperately, yet ever so quietly.
Is happiness learning to make the best of circumstances? I can’t tell. But what I can tell you, is that it will change again.