Does it make me happy?

I have created a new mantra, “Does it make me happy?” If the answer is yes, I make it a ritual. Since I like driving around in my new car, I am making a weekly trip somewhere that is at least an hour’s drive from where I live. So far, I have gone to several small towns. Sometimes I buy something, other times, I just drive through.

Once or twice a week, depending on what’s playing, I go to one of the two arthouse movie theaters and see a movie. I also rent movies from the library. I buy books and read part of them or all of them, depending on my level of interest. Yesterday, I found two of Ayn Rand’s books that I had never read. As always, these two books are in alignment with what I have been thinking about.

I first read Ayn Rand when I was in high school, not because this was part of a class I was in, but because her books simply appeared in my life. One of the most influential books in my life, The Female Eunuch, was purchased for me by a lover who had rejected me. He thought it would be appropriate reading material on the plane flight to somewhere else, somewhere away from him. So, this book too, just appeared in my life.

My other new ritual is hanging out at a bakery down the street. Since it’s a popular place, I come early in the morning when I have it almost all to myself. New age music wafts through the air, and in the winter, they have a big fire blazing in the fireplace. I don’t bring my phone because whenever it rings, it’s bad news.

One of my cousins, who took care of her elderly mother until she died, said the hardest thing for her was the guilt. I have been struggling with this too, and have decided to put it aside for awhile. What happens is largely out of my control, but then, everything about her life has been out of my control.

The people I talk to say over and over, “It’s her life, not yours.” This is true and not true. How can any woman not be her mother? While I am not going through exactly what she is going through, if I live long enough, I will.

I saw a silly movie recently called The Lovers. It was about an older married couple who entertained themselves by having dramatic affairs. At one point, their 20-something son said to his girlfriend, “If I ever act like either of my parents, hit me in the face . . . hard.” If the girlfriend really did this, the man would undoubtably have a very bloody face.

I was fortunate, or unfortunate, in that I didn’t spend my early years with my parents. Fortunate in that I am not like them, and unfortunate in that I never really knew my early caregivers. A few people have hinted that I turned out like them, but I have no way of knowing how much or in what ways. They never married, and neither have I – this is the only similarity I am aware of.

When I see partnered people going through the things partnered people go through, I think, ‘what a lot of bother.’ For me, being in a romantic relationship was always more work than it was worth. Nice high, but too ambiguous and ephemeral to maintain.

The couple sitting next to me are talking about the weather. After each topic they discuss, they sigh and look away from each other. Now, the man is talking about his ungrateful son and all he has done for him. As his indignation grows, his voice gets louder. At the end, he snorts, “Can you believe it?”

Pema Chodron called this kind of thing, ‘repetition of our very important storylines.’ I won’t talk to my brother anymore because everytime I do, he repeats the same stories about how his life was ruined by so-and-so. It’s a form of self-hypnosis. When he’s not telling these stories to some bored listener, I assume he tells them to the walls.

“Does it make me happy?” No.

The two blathering couples have left and I am alone with the music. I will read Ayn for awhile and then go to a movie this afternoon. I have been wanting to see A Quiet Passion, the life of Emily Dickinson. I’m sure I will enjoy it more than The Lovers.

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