I’m reading “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson, (aka The Bloggess) at the moment, upon the recommendation of Lana Hirshowitz, and although I initially struggled to decipher the twisting maze of her brain patterns, I’ve since tapped in and have found myself identify with the author’s self-professed craziness and daily struggles with anxiety.
The book is laugh-out-loud funny but one snippet I want to share with you is the day Jenny goes to a studio to record the audio for her latest book, when fear renders her voice a croak and she can’t get through it, so she calls her friend Neil Gaiman for help. As you do.
His advice to her is to ‘pretend you’re good at it.’ And on this occasion it works.
If only it were really that simple.
The old man and I had our usual ‘how we can change the world’ chat, or more poignantly, ‘how we can change our world and find fulfilment’ talk over a curry last night. I don’t know why, but both of us struggle to identify true contentment in our lives even when it smacks us squarely in the face. The most likely reason is that we’re both anxious people as well as privileged (see previous post), or perhaps it’s because we over-analyse everything, hence find it difficult to be happy with what we have, but it’s a trait I despise in myself, yet can’t seem to change.
As you know, I’ve erred close to the dark side over the past month or so and the old man has been victim to the brunt of my symptoms and last night his patience went out the window and he did his best impression of the asshole who refuses to accept that mental illness is little more than a state of mind and suggested that I suck it up and put on my happy face.
I don’t know how many times I’ve reacted to that sort of comment during these periods, that if he can indeed see inside my brain and really does know exactly what I’m thinking, perhaps he could fix it while he’s there. But having suffered at the hands of depression within his own family, I know that the ramifications of it scare the shit out of him and his enforced bravado is rooted in fear.
This morning I lay in bed and listened to him potter about the house, whistling and interrupting my lay-in occasionally with inane questions such as ‘where do you buy pegs?’ or ‘when are you going to get up?’
‘Why do I need to get up?’ I replied, rolling over lethargically, ‘it’s Sunday’. I had settled in between the covers with The Princess for the day, because I’m becoming increasingly aware that to prevent myself snapping at him all the time (his accusation last night), I need to enforce my own space. He, on the other hand, has changed into some sort of battery-operated toy that continually marches around the new house looking for things to fix and recently signed up as a lifetime member of the local hardware store.
I wish he could fix me.
I’m tired of pretending. I’ve spoken before about how I believe that we all ‘fake it’ to some degree at different junctures of our lives, but it’s different this time. In the past I faked being good at things for the purposes of my ambition, such as career progression, or in relationships – for example, the old man never realised how much I hated golf until after our honeymoon – whereas at the moment, I have to fake being happy, I have to pretend I’m interested in life, when a lot of the time it feels meh. For my marriage to survive. And so I don’t frighten my kids.
Fortunately, when I work, the distraction of meeting new people seems to dilute the doubts and they wait outside the door. Being busy prevents my tendency to over-think, the very behaviour that drowns out my responsibilities when I’m at home. Perhaps, in fact, this whole period is symptomatic of something greater, of this era of (near) empty-nesting, and I’m simply adjusting to having more time on my hands and finding some new purpose in my life.
Writing distracts me too. I’m sitting on the deck right now and the sun is streaming through the trees and the breeze is gently fanning my face and I know I have no right not to feel happy, which is why I’m going to try Neil and the old man’s advice and pretend I’m really good at being happy.