Saturday, November 29, 2008

curious girl ponders

when I shot this image yesterday, I was in the haze of a post-thanksgiving tryptophan overdose, happily shopping with the man I love in a beautiful vintage outdoor mall, just scored the perfect six midcentury modern dining room chairs for $250 and enjoyed the last lick of a pistachio gelato. my heart shouted, "yes! yes! it is!" I couldn't wait to post the photo here with inspiring words about wonderfulness and wonderment with lots of exclamation points. perhaps I would compose a list in support of the statement and ask you to do the same. it was just going to be simply wonderful. a veritable wonderfest.

after a good night's sleep (wonderful!), I woke up early and laid in bed thinking about life and whether or not it was truly wonderful. and by whose definition of wonderful? and is it life itself or our reaction to our lives that make it wonderful or not so much?

last week I had a conversation with a friend who I think is truly brilliant. she asked me the question, "if you could decide, at the moment just prior to life, whether to do it or not, what would you say?" I looked at her incredulously and said, "of course, yes." granted, the suffering I have endured is at the low end on the scale of human suffering, but still, I've had some events. these falls, assaults, bruises, dark days are what make me who I am. I don't know who I would be if I didn't experience them and, in hindsight at least, am grateful for them. I posed the same question to her and she said, "I think I might sit it out."

I was shocked. a day-long debate ensued on what makes a life worth living. I pulled in another friend (selected because of her bright, cheery disposition, a certain ally for life) and posed the question to her. to my surprise, she expressed some tentativeness and ultimately answered that she too would rather not. what is going on here?

a few months ago, I was half-listening to n.p.r. and a scientist was talking about the chronically depressed and suicidal. he recently completed some research that showed that this population is more accurate in their perception of life events than the rest of us. his research showed that happy people were basically living in a state of denial about the reality of life, that happy people did not score high when being tested on the accuracy of their perceptions to events. it was basically scientific support for the whole "ignorance is bliss" hypothesis.

just prior to this, I was going through a funk and someone loaned me the book happy for no reason. I tried to read it, I really did. but it really bothered me. who is happy for no reason? and do I want to be that? my personal conclusion was that the happy for no reason crowd is teetering on insanity and numbness, carefully avoiding the pitfalls of life (and apparently chronic depression and suicide).

I want to feel human emotion. I want to experience an imperfect human life. I don't want to live a "charmed" life, that's boring. I don't want to walk about with a silly grin on my face (whether or not it's for no reason or chemically induced). I will continue to take risks with my ego and my heart. I don't want to be happy all the time. sometimes you just need to be sad because really sad things are happening. sometimes you need to be angry because sometimes life sucks and people suck and they should know that their suckiness has an effect on humanity. these are the things that make our stories, that build a human life.

what I don't want is for my emotional state to be purely dependent on the events of my life so that I'm only happy when I'm experiencing days like yesterday. the n.p.r. scientist said that happy people have a greater ability to employ the wonderful human defense mechanism that is denial. I'd like a reserve of goodness that I can call on when the moments are less than bright. I think they call that resilience, not denial. that's what I'm aiming for.

life is indeed wonderful in it's complexity.

sometime in the future, I will need to look back at this and remember that my answer was yes.

what is your answer?


this was a long post. if you're curious about more discussion points and information, I've included some interesting links. make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and settle in. I can't locate the show I mentioned above, but have a listen here and here and a look here.