The ironing and mending will soon overflow the laundry room and start creeping up the basement stairs. There are assorted bits of paper and notes about things I have to do creeping out of my office and starting to flow down the basement stairs. And I will shortly be in a position to plough and plant the kitchen floor. Tant pis! JG is enough improved to get himself to the chiropractor and I have an hour and the house to myself. For the first time in a month. And I am going to enjoy it.
We are looking after the YG's dog for the next week or so. At present she is reclined on her bed, ignoring her well-filled food dish and glaring at me as I go by. This is always her first reaction to being left behind but she soon gets over it and by this afternoon will be galloping along beside, ahead of and behind me, with the occasional pause to ostentatiously SIT in front of me, this action being a demand for a dog biscuit. We once had a dog that I named Biscuit because of her colouring; we had her for seventeen years and I do not recall her assuming the SIT position deliberately even once in all those years. She relied on stealth and her big, pleading brown eyes to gain her treats. And on standing on my feet while I cleaned up after a meal, especially one where a roast pan had been employed to make gravy. Mind you, the YG's dog is equally fond of gravy and I have a small portion put away for her. If my dogs were not well trained, at least I am.
I listened to a CBC broadcast last night as I drove home from the YG's place with the dog on the back seat. What I was listening to is a program called Ideas, which airs most evenings, 9:00 to 10:00 pm EST. The documentary that was on was a thing called 'Say No to Happiness' , and I found it fascinating. The premise was that the purpose in life for most of us is 'the pursuit of happiness' (whether or not it is explicitly written down, American friends) and that this is not a good idea. One of the focus points was this: that most people cannot define 'happiness' and therefore do not know what it is that they pursue, leading them to live shallow, facile lives.
It's a point, certainly. I have been thinking, ever since, about what I think 'happiness' is and what it is that I pursue in life. Um. I think that I am happy when I get a new book in the mail, especially one that I have been waiting for. Or when I curl up in my easy chair, late at night, with hot chocolate and the aforesaid book open in my lap. Or when the sky is a deep, vibrant blue and the sun flashing diamonds on the snow as I head off for my morning walk. Or when our daughters or granddaughter visits and we have crafts and laughter and cut-throat games of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit. These moments, though, are gifts and, like gifts, things that are not part of the regular routine. and they may be moments of joy, not simply happiness.
Am I a happy person?, I ask myself. Certainly I routinely try to seem happy. From the time I was a small girl I realized that my mother needed me to seem happy. I was her candle, burning in the night, and she needed me to do well, to be her sunshine, to bring purpose to her days. I guess this taught me to be outwardly vivacious and warm; it also taught me to need to be needed. And so I am content with myself when I am involved in some helping activity in my community, I feel that I am worthwhile when I do something for a member of my family, I try to be caring. I also enjoy sewing, knitting (if the garment is not too big), painting, photography, graphic design. These are things I do reasonably well and that produce a finished product that is satisfactory, if never as perfect as I intended it to be. But does content or enjoyment equal happiness?
It's not a question I normally ask myself - 'are you happy?' I wonder 'will this be interesting?', 'have I learned anything?', 'Was that helpful?'. Sometimes what I am doing, when I am writing and the words flow and the ideas come together, when I finish the last stitch on a neat little garment, when a meeting I attend goes well and people come together, I feel a mixture of, I think, satisfaction and joy. I live for those moments. And in them, I am alive.