This is a post about being happy, because sometimes being an adult is no fun at all. It’s a bit circuitous, but stick with it.
I left work last night (late) and phoned my husband to say I was going to be late. It was bloody cold outside and I had a four mile cycle ahead of me in temperatures appreciably below zero, and where I had left so late, it was completely dark.
As I left work I got a message from my sister saying she was sending me something that had to be signed for the next day so I called her to find out whether it *actually* had to be signed for, or if it just wouldn’t fit in the letterbox. My sister is sending me something because she is a nice sister, and had just heard that I have been asked to give evidence at my friend’s inquest. For those of you who haven’t read this blog much, my friend killed himself last May, so now there has to be an inquest to establish cause of death. You can read about my friend and my resulting charity exploits here and here. It’s a sad business.
Being British my sister and I complained about the weather – being in York, she has had a lot of snow. I complained how long it took to shift when we had it here, and commented that although it was quite cold enough to snow in Cambridge, we thankfully hadn’t had any. Snow makes it so hard to get to work. Snow is cold. Snow makes cycling a real mission.
As I spoke, of course it started snowing. Just what I need, I thought. I got off the phone to my sister and stopped. I love snow. I even went to Canada in the middle of winter for honeymoon because I love snow so much. Since when did my life become so defined by getting to and from my 9 to 5 that I didn’t have the time to enjoy snow?
I cycled as fast as I could down Adams road (pretty speedy considering it’s downhill) with my tongue hanging out like a dog, catching snowflakes. I looked like a cretin. But a happy cretin. Because doing stupid shit like this is what being happy is all about. I laughed out loud at how ridiculous I must have looked.
I think about my friend who died fairly frequently, and not just because in a few weeks’ time I will stand up in a courtroom and try to explain to a stranger why I think he killed himself. I think of him at moments like this to remind myself how grateful I am to enjoy catching snowflakes with my tongue. How much I love the view from Garrett Hostel bridge on my way into work (pictures at the top). How chirpy it makes me to cycle into work on a sunny morning. Because the last time I spoke to Burgess at length before he died, he told me that he went for a walk in Weston Park on a warm sunny spring day, listening to cricket on the radio (he was a massive cricket fan) but didn’t feel anything. He knew that the warm sun on his face, the ice cream, the children playing and the cricket should all make him happy, but he just didn’t feel it. The depression he suffered told him that these things weren’t enough to sustain lasting happiness, and refused to allow the connection in his brain to be made between enjoyable spring days in the park, and the resulting feeling of contentedness.
I try to remember this when I feel too much like a beleaguered grown-up and stop enjoying the little things. The logic is flawed: my enjoyment at these simple pleasures was never transferrable – I couldn’t make Burgess happy at the things that made me happy. And I certainly can’t do anything for him now. But I can take from this sad experience a sense of gratitude at what it feels like to be alive, and not feel as though that is an inestimable burden even when being alive feels like being cold, tired, and sad. Because even when we can’t see it – for whatever reason, stress, fatigue, depression, illness – there is so much to be happy about if you are willing to start small.