Happiness isn’t grand. It’s a language I can’t speak, in a city I can’t find my way round, in a country I’ve immigrated to illegally. I’ve crossed what feels like an ocean with something that feels like hope, only to become wretched and tempest tossed on shore. Orphaned by the mother of exiles. A widow unto myself. An alien in a strange land. Unencountered and unwelcomed. The very least of these. I twisted my mouth into the shape of their happy vowels. Tried to mimic the sounds, but my stress is in all the wrong places. An accent thick with melancholy sibilance. A sadness that comes out too loud. I’m given away. I don’t belong.
Happiness isn’t grand. Instead, it is “is a path full of shit-heaps and shame”, Mark Manson says. If that’s true then, perhaps, it really is best to follow your nose. perhaps, I’ve been on the right path all along. “When you don’t know what you’re looking for,” my girlfriend tells me, “it’s difficult to know when you’re there”. A welsh born English teacher, with a knack for language, who spends most of her time teaching me. She is annoyingly optimistic, but also intelligent, resilient, beautiful, and brave. The fact that she smiles so freely with a heart so fully scarred is beyond anything I can conceive. “You don’t always have to know where you’re going”, she says, “but you have to step back and appreciate where you are”. You…are here, the sign reads. The starting point and the reminder, that where you stand may already be the place you want to be.
Happiness isn’t grand. in fact, it’s easy to miss it. Easy to pass it by. Without ever noticing. Without ever stopping to see. Happiness isn’t grand. It isn’t formidable or imposing. Aldous Huxley says that Happiness pales in comparison to “the over-compensations for misery “. To the overwhelming force and power of nature in sorrow, regret, and grief. He says that “being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt.” Happiness isn’t grand. It pales in comparison to strife in the same way that haiku pales in comparison to an epic. In the same the way that Basho might pale next to the Bard. It’s splendor is not in magnificence. Not in arches or columns. Not in gardens, fountains, or frescos. Not in streets paved with gold. Happiness isn’t grand. It is a quiet hermitage compared to Versailles. It’s the meaning of water taught by thirst; crisp, cold, and clean. A room of one’s own, perhaps with a view. The murmur of a kettle. A tangle of warmth and sheets. It’s sharing space without the need to speak. Happiness isn’t grand, and it isn’t always some place new. Happiness isn’t grand, it’s simplicity.
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