“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
I don’t know much about existentialism, or why some people are more resilient than others, or how to explain the unexplainable – but that is not to say I’m not interested. Conspiracy theories, alien abductions, coincidences that are just too eerie to be classified as “normal” (whatever that means) – I eat them up and go back for seconds. I’ve always been one of those chicks who pretends they think astrology is an absolute crock of shit, but as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, I read my weekly horoscope as part of the guilty-pleasure ritual that is Friday afternoon Who Magazine time. Yeah, the predictions are ridiculously vague and applicable to any number of people – regardless of whether they are a Taurean like me or not – but for whatever reason I read on with unbridled enthusiasm in the hope that some day, some aspect will prove true.
One facet of astrology that is equal parts bizarre and unnervingly applicable (to myself, at the very least) is the theory of the return of Saturn. I’ve talked about this in a blog post before, I’m sure, I just don’t recall which one or why. Anyway, long story short, the Return of Saturn is not just the name of an album from Gwen Stefani’s No Doubt days, it is a long-held belief that the alignment of the planets affects the shaping of one’s life. According to the Gospel of Wikipedia, “as Saturn ‘returns’ to the degree in its orbit occupied at the time of birth, a person crosses over a major threshold and enters the next stage of life. With the first Saturn return, a person leaves youth behind and enters adulthood. With the second return, maturity. And with the third and usually final return, a person enters wise old age.” Saturn usually returns for the first time when a person is between the ages of 27 and 31. I always thought I’d been there, done that, but maybe I’m a late bloomer. Saturn appears to have returned with attitude in my life just now, and she’s all up in my grill at the ripe old age of 34. Gah! She’s a manipulative bitch and I wish her away so that the waters and dust and whatever else – that needs to settle – can indeed settle.
I am very aware that the past six months of It Can Be Complikated have been a little more woe is me than la dolce vita – but let me say this: in the past two years I have been on a seemingly endless quest to find both inner peace and a sense of fulfillment; to be honest, it’s been the most exhausting journey I’ve ever committed to undertaking. As an example, last week, one of my lovely friends ‘nominated’ me to document three things I’m happy for each day, over five days. It’s a Facebook thing – all the cool kids are doing it, apparently – but I just couldn’t complete the task. I got overwhelmed with the sense of my gratitude not being sincere enough, with worrying that I wouldn’t have a total of fifteen things to be thankful for, with this all-consuming anxiety that people would judge the things I identified as being grateful for as unworthy. I know I’m a basket case. Facebook told me that too. I did one of those ‘How Crazy Are You?’ quizzes and came back “68% CRAZY” – which is the last thing an emotionally fragile imbecile such as myself wants to be told by my computer. Anyway, I digress.
There is a restlessness in me that has existed for as long as I can remember. It has affected my relationships and my propensity to self-sabotage, it has affected my ability to put down roots and feel settled in any one place for an extended period of time, and – most significantly – it has affected my sense of self. I’ve forever chased happiness like it’s some attainable, physical thing just out of arm’s reach. At an indeterminable point in the past month, I started to realize that my current approach wasn’t working. So I started to do what I should have been doing for a long time – I talked to people. Instead of determining that this was one of life’s riddles that I could solve alone, I let people in. I collected their views on happiness, on how to make major life decisions, on how to find contentedness, and I put them all in the pot to simmer away. Please understand that I’m speaking metaphorically here – there is no pot, there is no dangerous open flame anywhere in sight, I’m just creating a visual, yeah?
Anyway, in addition to collecting the opinions of those around me, I also started reading up on happiness and listening to audiobooks. Yesterday I was struck with an epiphany. Actually, in truth, it was Eckhart Tolle’s epiphany – but it felt like mine. Tolle is considered “the most spiritually influential person in the world”, and if you can get past the snail’s pace with which he speaks, he actually makes some really valid points. The epiphany that got me in a knot was that we cannot plan for happiness in the future – because “the future” is a destination that we never ever arrive at – we need to aim to experience it TODAY. I’m sure you’re sitting there thinking “No shit, Kate”, but for some unexplainable reason, I just hadn’t thought about happiness like this before.
I’ve spent my entire life working towards some sort of malleable happiness that exists beyond the horizon – if I go on a holiday to The States, I will be happier; if I move overseas, I will be happier; if I starve myself into size 10 skinny jeans, then I will look better and therefore be happier; and the list goes on – but I have finally come to the realization that I need to focus on the little things that make me happy today if I am to quiet the noise inside my overactive head. You know that scene in The Notebook where Noah repeatedly asks Allie, “What do you want? What do you want? What do YOU want?” That aptly expresses how I feel at this point in time. I just need to figure out what it is that I want, what it is that will make me happy, what it is that will give me peace and then the rest of the puzzle pieces will just fall together as they are supposed to. In theory…
‘That Scene’ from The Notebook:
A lovely cover of Pharrell’s Happy, by Foxes: