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On Happiness at the End of the Year
This is a newsletter about writing and creativity and productivity but also it is a newsletter about me because there’s enough of my real life in here that I have to admit that is part of it, too. I have noticed that every so often something happens to me, or I do something new, like living through a hurricane or painting my bathroom, and I end up writing about it. For whatever reason, I actively chose to reveal those parts of myself. But also there’s plenty of stuff I don’t write about that happens because it’s not wholly my story to tell or it’s not anyone’s business or it’s not that interesting in the first place. I try to be conscientious about these choices.
But can I tell you something deeply personal today as I finish the end of this year? I feel happy.
Why does it feel overly personal to say you’re happy? Part of it is that feelings of any kind lend themself to a sense of vulnerability. Another part of it (if you’re neurotic like me) is that it can feel like maybe you’re asking for trouble. If you say you’re happy, you’re setting yourself up to have it taken away from you. Part of it is that when you say you’re happy there exists the idea of unhappiness too, that maybe you weren’t always happy and have somehow arrived at a better place. And there’s the scariest thing we see sometimes online (or even in real life too): that people don’t want other people to be happy, as if it is somehow bragging, to be in a content state.
When did it become so dangerous or off-putting to feel good? I am goddamn reclaiming happiness.
Because sometimes I struggle, have struggled. With anxiety (it’s been better lately, but this summer was absolute trash) and with my writing (although if writing a novel was easy we’re probably doing it wrong.) I am certainly overworked. Also, there’s the world, the world, the world.
But for the most part, my life is simple and quiet and easy. I get up early, I read, I write, I walk the dog, I have a coffee, I think, I text, I spend too much time online, I buy a sweater I don’t need. Occasionally I get to visit another city, sometimes for business, sometimes for pleasure, and often I get to have a nice meal with a friend when I’m there. For all the trouble of the world, I am glad I get to go out in it, especially after all that time we couldn’t.
I am aging (we all are, every second of the day) but lately I can feel it more vividly, especially when I get out of bed in the morning. My memory isn’t what it used to be, although I can still remember who I love and why. But I remain sharp and productive. I continue to have things to say. Maybe even more things to say because I’ve accumulated knowledge all these years and now I have enough perspective to contend with it all. I challenge myself with my work. I strive to make things fresh and new and to tell different stories, while still trusting in my voice and skills. I have many more years left to live well, both physically and artistically.
In general, I live a pretty basic existence over here in New Orleans — I’m not running around living a dazzling, glamorous life like a lot of people I know in New York or other bigger cities — but I have so many satisfaction boxes ticked off in my brain on a daily basis, it feels like I have everything I need.
I saved all the glass jars I used all this year to make these, in case you are wondering what made me happiest today
Look, I always feel like I could be doing more. That is for real. I have this to-do list for life, and I just have to make sure that I’m accomplishing everything on the list (being productive, supporting other people, being conscientious about my art, loving the people in my life well) and then I can go on with my day. It is the way I maintain control of my universe, feel safe and secure. If I can check off everything on the list then I had a good day. If I can check them off, I can be happy.
And this morning I looked back on my year and thought: Be happy. Can you choose to feel this way for a little bit? And I thought: Yes.
Anyway, we’ve got back-to-back freezes coming this week for the holidays, and this city does not handle freezes well, so I’m stocking up. I made a lasagna and I’m going to my favorite wine shop today, and I will secure what I need for holiday gifts and for a little extra around the house. I’ve got some light reading to do, just a little bit of work to do before the end of the year, and then some friends coming into town. I can’t wait to see them and throw my arms around them and take genuine pleasure in their company. To be happy.
I wish happiness for you all too.
Leaving the comments open today if there’s something you’re happy about and want to share it.
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans (and sometimes elsewhere). This week’s donation went to the United Order of Tents of Brooklyn of the Eastern District #3.