Halcyon Day

 

Halcyon Day

 

Over the last month or so I have set myself a challenge of mapping my mood using a spreadsheet. I take three separate readings morning, noon and night each scored out of twenty, and also comment on any unusual events during the course of that day. The purpose of this is several fold: to try and understand how and why and when my moods change and what(if anything) triggers the changes. I chose twenty as my figure, though usually people mark it out of ten, but I felt twenty gave greater scope for subtlety. Ten is a baseline for normality, neither high nor low, but an acceptable level to live at generally, zero being about as low as a human being gets and twenty being scrape me off the ceiling time. I am also trying to figure out whether there is a bi-polar element to my depression, though should this prove to be the case, I am not sure what if anything I can do about it beyond accept and work with it.

So far I have noticed a number of interesting facts from the data so far collected. First, I noticed quite quickly that my mood starts pretty low every day, generally below the acceptable ten and sometimes climbs over the course of the day quite steeply. I can’t be sure yet with the month of so’s data whether there are consistently any factors that seem to correspond with this climb, but the sharpest spikes so far seem to correspond with a certain kind of event. This sort of event can be summed up as being one in which I am able to express myself: either verbally in the context of intense conversation or by being able to write and express myself in that manner.

A curious thing though, because I discovered also that the scale I have used, 1-20, does not relate to actual happiness. Over the course of the month, I have discovered that this scale I set is utterly two dimensional, in that while it measures a score of the high or lowness of my mood, this is unrelated to any feeling of happiness or anything else. It doesn’t relate to energy levels or of satisfaction or anxiety: just high or low. It pays no attention to my periods of desperate questioning that bring me to emotional breakdown on a fairly regular basis, or of external circumstances, good or bad. In essence, it’s a measure of something I can barely define.

Let me illustrate. During the course of my life, I have had moments where I have been flooded with a bliss that comes out of nowhere and has no particular relationship with whatever is going on in my life at that moment; it’s like having your soul swathed in the softest silk or velvet, balm poured upon your wounds and your heart is held in a loving embrace by something much greater and more wonderful than you ever imagined. I had such a day on Monday. Nothing externally had changed. I still wrestled with the same questions, I still lived the mundane life, I still grieved with those who were hurting. But this velveteen bliss coated my internal consciousness and filled my eyes with a kind of compassion and love and selflessness. The faintest shreds of this remain with me as I write this, as a kind of record. It’s not like being high, or happy, or content or really anything I can suggest as a comparison, and it certainly had nothing at all to do with circumstances either internal or external. It just was. The last time I remember this occurring, was Christmas Eve 2003 and I wrote the following poem to try and record the feeling:

Deep bliss: a feeling of velvet inside,

An inarticulate rightness of being

Brightness of being right

And I cannot tell why or how this feeling comes

A simple certainty that all shall be well,

Now and always.

I cannot capture this feeling, pin down

and dissect it, tear its secrets apart

And reveal a truth I already know.

An image of bright butterflies

the lark rising with its song

A moment of pure knowing

beyond that of the intellect

And I sit here now, passive, creative:

Alive.

 

 

I named this post Halcyon Day because this is what it is. The Halcyon days are the days during winter when the seas miraculously become still and calm for approximately seven days amid the season of storms; the story can be found here  and for me, the kingfisher is a potent symbol of being oneself, and showing your true colours. Even as I write the memory of that feeling slips away, like a dream at dawn, so that only a faint memory remains with me, enough to remind me that it may come again.

You cannot live to pursue bliss, because bliss comes when it wills, not when you will it. You cannot call it to you, or recreate the conditions in which it was born. Like the wind, it blows where it will and is gone. But once you know it exists, you will know its touch when it comes again.

And come it will, I promise you.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Following an interesting comments discussion resulting from a rather intriguing post over at: http://retiredeagle.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/the-myth-of-happiness/

 And not to mention a conversation last night on the phone with J, I began to think about happiness.

What makes me happy? Actually, nothing. You can’t make (ie force) someone to be happy. It’s a spontaneous response to something and that something can be physical(ie material) or something emotional or even spiritual. And it’s a fleeting thing; you often notice afterwards that you have been happy. It’s often the absence of it that triggers the awareness of the state.

To chase happiness through material gains is futile and well documented. No amount of wealth and material goods will do the trick. To chase happiness through a relationship is equally  doomed; how often do you hear someone say, “I’d be so happy if I met Mr/Miss/Ms Right!” That sort of happiness, bound up in the being of another person is at huge risk of vanishing.

But there’s another chase that is somehow far more seductive.

Success.

I’m guilty as charged, M’lud. I’ve been chasing success as a means of making me happy for far longer than I dreamed I might and it was partly something J asked me last night that meant my thoughts on it finally crystalised and I woke up.

The previous post to this has been about the publication of my first novel. This is something I’ve fought, wept, battled, given up, beaten myself up over for decades. It’s meant everything to me.

But when J asked me what I really enjoyed doing, what made me happiest, I said “Losing myself in writing.” He then(very gently, because that’s the sort of guy he is!) said, “Well, why have you struggled so hard to get published when what really makes you happy is the writing?”

Hmmm. Good question. Don’t get me wrong, I feel happy to have got this far, got the book out in the public domain, but now there’s a sense of restlessness, of incompleteness that is beginning to focus on sales. It’s not a bestseller yet by any means. The feedback I have had from readers blows my socks off, but it leaves me hungry.

This is where the chase for success comes in. It’s never ending. When you’ve climbed one mountain, there’s always another taunting you to conquer it.

This doesn’t mean you give up. Giving up dreams is not what I mean. But it is about giving up our ATTACHMENT to them, our blind hope that achieving this crucial thing will make us happy. It won’t, except for a short time; not as short as the time new material goods keep us happy for. You keep going because it’s what you do, because the goal has a greater meaning than simple personal happiness. Because whatever you are trying to do is part of your path and no more(and no less) than that.

Happiness comes out of nowhere sometimes, as a gift of grace if you like, and it comes most often when we are in alignment with so many things in our lives. When all our talents and our hopes and our loves and interests all come together at once, then often that happiness that seems to drive us  to chase it isn’t far away.

I’ve been happy writing this. I hope you’ve been happy reading it.