I’m not one to complain about happiness, but I am bewildered by it.
I’m more afraid of the dust settling than I am of the storm, you know? There’s something comforting in the struggle – something familiar. Even the loudest crashes of thunder become white noise if you hear it long enough.
But now… life is quiet. Life is peaceful. I have a job that I enjoy, I’m in a healthy relationship, I finally found a space of my own, and no one who wants to hurt me has access to me anymore. And that should feel freeing. I’ve successfully run from every abusive situation. I got away. Not everyone does – and I’m so grateful. I never imagined I would get this far.
So why can’t I relax?
I’m still scared. I wait by windows, watching the clouds, almost desperate to prove my happiness can’t last… almost wishing to dive back into the eye of the storm. It hurts, but it’s supposed to hurt.
I’m afraid of how badly it will ache when this happiness ends. It’s almost paralyzing. I look at the happy little details, the beautiful moments, and I don’t know what to do with my hands. They’re hungry – they want to seize every second, to feel the texture of my life scratch against my palms. But I worry that my grip is too tight, my hands too greedy.. I worry that I will ruin everything I touch, if only given time.
I have to keep going, right? That’s the only way forward, the only way to build the life I didn’t know I could ever have. I’m going to let myself be afraid until I stop flinching. It hurts, but it can’t hurt forever.
I’ll be okay.
My sister taught me to view relationships logically. She calls her process the cost-benefit analysis and, when she first explained it to me, I thought it was too cold. How do you look at a friendship or romantic entanglement and sum up its worth? How do you justify letting someone go?
Recently, I saw a post on tumblr that reminded me of my sister’s lesson. To paraphrase, if we allow ourselves to cut people out of our lives because they’re a hindrance to our happiness, we must also accept that someone may cut us out of their life as well. It is, in fact, a give-and-take. Sometimes we are the monsters in someone else’s closet, despite our best intentions, despite our greatest aspirations. We’re going to hurt the people we love and then they will have the choice: stay or go. Sometimes, if they are afraid or hopeful, they will choose something in between – a grey area in which the ground is never still, never peaceful. When you linger there, your stomach is in your throat and you can’t fill your lungs fully. You are always out of breath, body torn between running away and bolting your feet to the floor.
I lived in that space for a very long time, longer than I care to admit. When I finally walked away, I swore to myself that I would not return. I also respect that others won’t want to be caught in that situation, which is a long way of saying that I only want people in my life who decidedly want to be there and I will never force anyone to stay by me if it hinders their happiness. I only choose people who choose me – I have no energy for anything else.
So, if you should ever want to leave me, I will urge you to go. There are very few people that I would chase
When I was a child, I thought happiness was like a rushing river – once I jumped in, it would carry me forever. It would rush around me, swallowing me piece by piece until only my face remained above the water, and I would be Happy. I thought it was a constant, a plane of existence that I never dreamed I could grasp. I could dip my hand in the water, sure, but somehow I never jumped.
I remember nights with my friends, all packed together in the basement, as we told stories and drank grape propel, and I thought, this is it. This is happiness! But morning always broke and with it some new symptom, some new heartache, and I felt happiness drip from the palm of my hand. I couldn’t hold it, not for any longer than a moment, and I felt broken.
But still, I grew. I changed my surroundings, both my landscape and my social scene. I cleaned all the poison out and waited, wounds open and weeping. I surrendered to good moments, good people who I knew could flit out of my life just as easily as they wandered in. I found joy in the mundane, in the smallest interactions between myself and the world, in wondering and laughing and trying to do good.
Slowly the moments built up. I stopped watching the river – stopped pursuing happiness as a permanent state of being. And I was amazed. The moments of happiness tasted sweeter and lasted longer.. some days I forget I was ever chasing happiness at all. I’ve fallen into it, head first, and I’m not afraid of its ending any longer. Somehow I know that I can find my way back, no matter how far I’ve strayed.
This summer is, without a doubt, the best of my life.
I’m excelling at my job, I am surrounded by endlessly kind and supportive friends, I get to spend an inordinate amount of time with a thoroughly lovely man, my art is lighter… This is the life I could not imagine for myself on my best day as a child. I cannot believe it’s unfolding around me.
It scares me.
I am not used to experiencing so much goodness at once. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real, as if I’ve stepped into someone else’s life with both feet. My anxiety makes me glance over my shoulder, almost shaking as I wait for them to show up and demand their happy little life back.
I feel like I could ruin it at any moment.
I am clumsy and too talkative and oddly aloof, detached when I don’t mean to be, altogether too far to reach and too close to escape. I am worried that I don’t have the tools to maintain this happiness, or that my decision to move to Denver will rupture it prematurely. For the first time in five years, I don’t hate this town. We’ve walked under black skies, our hearts in our hands as we laugh into the moonlight. My people have made Fort Collins beautiful and now I have to leave. I’m scared of what’s to come.
There is no neat ending to this story, only a gentle recognition that I am trying my best – that what is coming will come and until then, I’ll keep holding hands and laughing too loudly and treasuring everyone who has painted my life in these brilliant shades. I never thought it was possible to feel this whole.
I am so grateful.