I like learning about how people do life.
Their daily routines, work habits, where they eat, who they hang out with, when they go to sleep.
The mundane, the details, the dull, gear-driven processes that hold up the shiny moments.
I love that shit.
There are similarities, of course: everybody eats, and sleeps, and does some sort of work. The work might be a job, or school, or a hobby, or unpaid work, or a creative expression, or a form of care taking, or—this one comes up often—the work of avoiding work. Everybody has insecurities and coping mechanisms and secrets and blind spots and inefficiencies and hopes and fears.
The similarities reveal how very much alike we all are.
There are big differences, too. And I love the big differences because they reveal that there are a lot of ways to be okay.
Leo Tolstoy said that, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
And I think he was completely wrong.
I think he was wrong because there are only a handful of things that matter. They have a consistent, important effect on the quality of life. If you get at least some of those things working for you, you’re going to be okay. Even in times of great unhappiness, situations beyond your control, tragedy, illness, worldwide pandemic, etc., you’ll be okay. The hum of happiness might get drowned out by the terrible/sad/scary things, but it won’t disappear. You’ll find pockets where you can hear it again. And you will adjust, and heal, and keep going, and the hum will grow louder again.
If you get some of those things that matter working for you, they’ll carry you into a life with happiness and it can look a lot of different ways. Because there are infinite things that don’t matter, and if you get things that do matter in place, you can play and adjust and experiment and take some things out and add some other things in and change the ratios and create your very own flavor of happiness.
Unhappiness, I think, is different. It’s not a color but an absence of color. It’s not a flavor but a blandness. It’s not a force; it’s an emptiness, a lack. And no matter what coating you paint over your unhappiness, the core of it—the flavor, the essence—is the same.
Unhappiness is like a sponge that absorbs everything it touches, turning it all into the same murky, sour goo.
Happiness is like a canvas that can be painted with new colors and shapes.
🥤 Have a soft drink. Also I’m not sure exactly what’s in the handful of things that matter but one of them is definitely a dog.