Thursday, November 7, 2013

Day 95 of 365: Happiness is Exhausting

As a frequent contributor to Thought Catalog, I find myself reading the essays on there more and more. It's a bit of a self-absorbed action: I'm published on the online magazine more and therefore feel I should read more essays there. One of the essays I read recently was called, "The Exhausting Pursuit of Happiness". The narrator talks about how, as a society, we are obsessed with happiness. We avoid sadness, frustration, anger, all in an effort to at least be content or satisfied. We move around the Earth like happiness is a destination, not an emotion that will occur as naturally as any other emotion.

And, because timing always works like that, my best friend posted a Buzzfeed article on how South Park makes us reevaluate our lives. In one of the bullet points, Butters declares that, even though he just got dumped, he loves life. Not in spite of being heartbroken, but because of it. Because he can experience happiness and sadness and love and heartbreak.

I've already gotten into the absurd world of image crafting on Facebook on this blog. People who post 1,000 pictures of their outing because they want people to think they're social. People who constantly update their status to tell people they love their boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, or husbands (or "hubbies"), because they want people to think that their relationship is something out of a fairytale. I know a whopping total of two people on Facebook who have children and were honest on Facebook about how frustrating and difficult having kids can be. And one of them is honest on Facebook only because her child has physical development issues and she uses Facebook to keep all her family and friends updated on his progress.

Shit, I know I'm not immune: I let MapMyRun sync with Facebook because I want people to know just how much I farkin' run (although not right now because of a muscle strain in my left calf muscle, but that's for another time).

But the image crafting on Facebook only drives the "happiness is the only important emotion" home. And this is why we have absolutely no substance in our network television shows. This is why shit like Twilight and 50 Shades will outsell books like The Road. The general public wants to be happy, all the time, and when it can't, it wants an escape.

So here we go: time to admit that we're not always happy. Sometimes we're happy, and sometimes we're stressed. Sometimes we're happy, and sometimes we're lonely. Sometimes we're happy, and sometimes we're angry beyond words. Sometimes we're happy, and sometimes we're just neutral in our emotions. To try to pretend like we're always happy despite being frustrated, despite being disappointed, despite being stressed, does us no favors. We deny a huge part of the human existence in an effort to never, ever, touch upon the harder emotions.

Some people could argue that saying you're happy despite the negative is showing optimism, but I disagree. There's a huge difference between seeing the good in a situation and swearing to the world you have this magical, constantly-underlying happiness. Because no one does. We'd be a considerably more peaceful and less territorial species if we did.

But this is what you can do: you go the Butters route. You're happy, you're sad, you're angry, you're bored -- and you love life because of it all. You love life because you can experience tragedy. You love life because you can experience comedy. You love life because sometimes the story walks a fine line between the two. You don't love life despite, but because of it.

And maybe -- just maybe -- if we all started acting this way, we could stop being so damn afraid of being sad. We can stop turning to things to make us escape our negative emotions and just embrace it all. And maybe -- just maybe -- gain better insight on what it means to be a human being.

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