by Jon Sullivan - 2023-06-18 - Jonism

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I keep waiting for my new found relationship with joy to crack.

Six years ago my life was in a stagnant and unhappy place. My happiness, if I even bothered to register it, was mostly alcohol based. I felt screwed over by my own self-centered actions and choices. I felt alone and unhappy. I felt ashamed of how I'd lived my life, how I'd sarcastically trolled my way through all of it. I had no plans. I just plodded through, as I had always done. There was beauty here and there. And I could negotiate myself into "happy", but it was mostly for appearances. I was counting the days. I was unhappy. As much as I denied it.

One weekend I decided a summer hike in the Mohave desert would be a good opportunity to meditate on who I was and get my life back on track. But not much meditating got accomplished, since the hike started with a traumatic brain injury. I think I've talked that event to death, but it is a good moment in time to set a breakpoint. System state before the trip = just running out a shitty life on autopilot. System state after = a long slog out of the swamp of apathy and self-loathing I'd let myself dilapidate into. A long journey of unhappy behind, a long journey to happy ahead.

[ Editor's note : The word "dilapidate" is fun here. First, should Jon be allowed unfettered use of a thesaurus given his mangling of language like this? Second, is this even a word? The dictionary is unhelpful as it does list it as a word, but not one that can be used as such. Every example of it used in a sentence uses the form "dilapidated". My instinct is to "fix" it. But digging a bit more, the word derives from the Latin verb dilapidare, meaning "to squander or destroy" which feels appropriate here. So..... I'll allow it. Sure. Regular verb. Why not. ]

The brain trauma led to a few years of introspection and reevaluation. It led to me confronting my lack of happiness. 55 years of life as an asshole had brought me to..... a hobbit hole with nothing in it but booze and rationalizations and distractions. I started, year by year, concept by concept, thinking about how I wasn't happy. Bringing it to the forefront rather than sweeping it under the carpet. Focusing on unhappy to tease out clues for getting to happy.

Which led to the Ireland trip and Sharon's wedding road trip. Both of which were magical and wonderful. But they were also very bittersweet. They put things in focus that I'd been trying to avoid for too long. I wasn't happy. Rather, I had brief moments of happy. I could visit happy, but I couldn't come home to it. The conclusion that something needed to change simmered in my mind constantly. But nothing really changed for a long time. I'd see bits of happy, reach for it, and it would evaporate.

Then it slowly did start to change. Sort of randomly. I quit drinking, not sure why. Then a link to a music video led me to BabyMetal, which led to joy. Which led to FFXIV and even more joy. Which led to Stoicism and it's logic-based joy dividend. Which led to Oregon. Which led to so much joy it frequently will not stay in and must be expressed as tears.

Which is worrying for a pessimist like me. Even after two years where joy on tap has replaced most of the unhappy, I still don't trust it. It seems crazy to me. And 10 years in the future, if it does fall apart and I return to pessimism and self recriminations, that outcome would seem obvious. A world where only happiness and beauty filter through is...... Impossible? Fragile? Delusional? I don't know. It doesn't seem to be losing momentum. Sleeping and cooking in my car next week will be scary and risky. It is literally [ Editor's note : NOT literally ffs........ Why do I bother. ] like a certain hobbit leaving the shire and heading into the unknown. But all I feel is excitement and wanderlust. Will spiders and lizards and bigots try to ruin my adventure as well?

Six years after the Mohave trip, I remain a broken and tired old man, but very happy. The happiness seems here to stay. I hope. That would be nice. But if it doesn't, it's been a fun ride. So I won't stress over it. Today's happy task is figuring out how to make fresh garlic naan at a remote campsite.

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