Faint Chatting up the Hall

Happiness. I think about it from time to time. What is it? How often do we achieve it? I continue to think that we are far better at assessing our own happiness in retrospect and particularly when we are no longer happy. We look back at a particular time, from some present time when things may not be particularly great and we say to ourselves, “Man, I was happy back then.”

It’s just that when we’re in these happy places, it can be quite hard to recognize them or acknowledge them to yourself. For me at least, when I’m in a patently happy place, I tend to look at it the wrong way round. I think of it as a place containing remarkably small levels of unhappiness.

It’s a worthwhile challenge, I reckon. To be aware of when we are happy and not just save it up for wistful reminiscing after the shit hits the fan.

So, I try. Just now and again, not all the time. I’m not constantly running around with some kind of virtual happy-meter on a lanyard around my neck, clicking at things like Mr. Spock on some strange happy-ambiguous planet. Not me. Just sometimes, there might be a little stop-and-audit. Am I happy now? If so, do I know it?

I’m generally a happy guy though I’m never quite sure where the boundary is between being ‘happy’ and ‘everything going along really well. When I look back at those ‘everything going along really well’ times I invariably view them as some of the happiest times of my life, so I think they are happy times. It’s just like I said further back the page, happy is quite hard to call when you’re smack-bang in the middle of it. Like Jim Kelly in ‘Enter the Dragon’ “we’re all just too busy lookin’ good.”

What’s the point, Ken?

Ah, yes, okay.

I was lying in bed, one evening last week, having just finished my nightly read and in the midst of those muddy moments before sleep lands. Perhaps thoughts of happiness flitted through my mind on account of the last month having been a bit of a grind, flu-wise. I was feeling far better, and I think that ‘far-better’ feeling had got me wondering about whether ‘far better’ is the equivalent of ‘happy’. These kinds of thoughts are the reason why I generally read a few extra pages before attempting sleep. Better to fall asleep and have the book fall on my head than to get into some internal existential debate that might shoo sleep away.

As I lay in bed, I realised that I could hear noises up the hallway, right at the end, near the front door, where the living room is. The voices were chatting animatedly and laughing gently from time to time. The sound of this interaction wafted down the hall and into my bedroom.

Nothing weird or Halloween spooky here. Our two sons are home together briefly, one from Dublin and one from London. Grown up and adult, they still gravitate towards each other as they did as children and teens, particularly in the late evening when we older folk have shuffled off to bed and the house starts quietly ticking down towards morning. Their stays at home are brief, their simultaneous stays at home increasingly rare.

I lay in my bed and listened to the murmurs of my sons in the front room, the effortless way they talked to each other. I felt the warmth of my wife’s hip at my side.

And just before sleep, for once unequivocally, I concluded that, yes indeed, this moment was a happy one.


Anonymous said...

Aw lovely. It's good to be aware of it while it's happening.

Roberta Beary said...

Having grown children back in the family home, even for a little while, is one of life’s rare pleasures.
A lovely read, Ken. 💕

Jim Murdoch said...

Oh, this could get heavy. Happiness then. Hm. I don’t really think of myself as a happy person but that doesn’t automatically make me an unhappy one. I’m definitely in tune with the world’s sadnesses; they resonate with me but they don’t become me. In that respect I think I’m a lot like both Beckett and Larkin because it seems they were neither even remotely as miserable as you’d think based on their writing.

I tend to look at moments like the one you describe at the end as moments of pleasure rather than happiness because I can be as miserable as sin, as I was at the end of September, but still find pleasure in small things. It’s semantics I know and I’m not going to try to ruin happiness for you. I’ve known a lot of happy people over the years and mostly they’ve annoyed the hell out of me with their constant effusiveness. Perhaps it’s better you and I never meet in person; we might not get on nearly as well as we think we might.

Ken Armstrong said...

Oh we'd get on okay, I think. I'd be happy to see you and you'd find some pleasure in it too. 'See what I did there? ;)