…when I found the park empty and covered in dry leaves, I started to spin. All the red and brown October colors turned to stripes, and when I let myself fall, the ground humped up to meet me like a living thing. It’d been so long since I’d been happy that I’d forgotten how it felt. P 157
I do think it’s been a long time since I felt happy, or blissful. I can’t remember what it’s like to experience that pure joy that shines out of you like the sun, but I know it once was mine.
Yet right now, I am utterly delighted. I am certain that this is what being happy feels like.
Earlier this week I was at a meeting where we talked about cultivating happiness. As much as I try to avoid lingo and corporate jargon, I was intrigued. Our goal was to write down three times in our lives when we were truly happy. We were also to include a brief description, including others who were with us. I tried to skip over the obvious ones, because that seemed to simple. T’s birth, the day M and I got married, moving to Vermont— those would be too easy to list. Instead I wrote down: reading the Lydia Davis story aloud when I spent the week with A on Martha’s Vineyard, and photographing the graffiti on the top of the Eiffel Tower. I also wrote down reciting my speech to the audience when I (finally) graduated from college. It was a long and winding road that lead me there. The first time round I left after junior year, back when I was in my 20s. It took me over 20 years to finally go back and finish my degree. The memory of standing up to read Maya Stein’s poem, “Irreverent Baking,” is still vivid and fresh in my mind.
I imagine these thoughts are close at hand because we went to T’s graduation ceremony tonight. As I sit in bed to write this, I find that I feel just like I did after my wedding. Tired but content. I’m smiling because there was clapping and hugging and the word Congratulations was on everyone’s lips. Best of all, we spent the evening surrounded by our friends and family. We watched our boy emcee the ceremony with a confidence and panache that are all his own. He finished the evening by putting on his clown nose and leading the graduates in tossing their caps into the air. I knew right then—in that tiny fraction of a moment—that all the homework and the bus rides, the play practices and the essay writing had lead to this. The motion of the caps rushing up then fluttering back down is crystallized and etched in my mind. It was a joy to behold. That letting go, that is what happy feels like.
Afterwards there was ice cream, and this may be my favorite memory. Everyone standing around chatting while enjoying their favorite flavors. Some in a bowl, some in a cone, but it all tasted sweet on our tongues, right before the cooling rains started to fall. We exhaled a breath we didn’t know we had been holding that the storm would wait until the ceremony and the picture taking had ended. And it has. The flurry of activity has settled to a calm. But inside the feeling of happiness swirls on, which is hard to describe and even more of a challenge to dissect. I think tonight it’s being: elated, amazed, content, jubilant, in awe, proud and waving the cherished golden ticket for all to see, in equal measure.
And now. And now. Some of us will spend the night at a party with friends, and some of us will drift off to sleep replaying our favorite bits of the day. If you see me tomorrow, I’ll be the one with the big grin humming Pharrell, the Partridge Family, “Pomp & Circumstance,” “Walking on Sunshine” with a dash of “I Just Can’t Wait to be King”
Wishing you all glorious dreams tonight.