I haven't forgotten about the 15 Things posts I started up a few months ago, about the things I've learned since I started this blog. (Nor have I abandoned all-request days; just taking a little break.) The last post I did in this category was Things Go Wrong. That lesson would be a lousy one if it weren't accompanied by this one: I bounce back.
I was asked by a friend the other day if I considered myself a 'tough cookie.' I didn't know what to say. I'm not particularly tough: I feel things. I'm not barricaded against the world. But when I fall and scrape my knees I tend to get up pretty quickly and feel good again before too long. My natural state is happy, optimistic, forgiving. If I get sad or hurt I know it won't last too long. Does that make me tough?
One of the books I read this fall was How To Want What You Have. I'd read this kind of thing elsewhere but this book reminded me of something I've come to believe: basically, right now I am about as happy as I'm going to be. Of course I want things, lots and lots and lots of things, and I imagine they will make me happier. I want more money and a sense of safety. I want to fall in love and have a family. I want to feel professionally accomplished. I want to be a leader in my community. I want my yard to be less of a mess. I want to be in better shape. Blah, blah, blah. And of course I'm anxious about things: I'm not doing a good enough job on this project, I wish I understood that better, I haven't been attentive enough or persuasive enough or helpful or kind or generous enough in various arenas of my life. But the point is, although these drives and goals are linked to external things, the underlying feelings aren't. So even if I attain lots more money, a perfect bod, the acclaim of the people I most respect, and marry the prince of Spain, I'll probably feel about the same as I do right now. Excitement from good things wears off, as does the pain of bad things. If you can unhook from those big achievements and setbacks, and appreciate the daily constants that fill up your life, I think you can bounce back from most things.
I'm inclined to be happy in this world. I like the smell of it, especially here in early June, when I can smell my first roses opening, coming in the window over the chemical scent of the purple toenail polish I just put on and my steaming mug of Earl Grey tea. I like the sound of it -- the birds and the low gurgle of my refrigerator and my dog's deep breath as she lies twitching in her sleep. I like the kindness of the people in my life, and the surprise of a friendly stranger talking to me in a coffee shop who turns out to be writing a book about the maritime history of the world. I like the mystery of the tomato seedling that showed up uninvited in one of my houseplant pots and now has taken over, big and lush, with two small green fruits already showing and three dozen flowers.