I’m trying to decide between meaningfulness and happiness. To help me sort out a few short term goals. I’m not kidding. Ask my friend Eileen. Or my friends Allison and Stephen. Have lunch with me this week or just read on.
I think I’m in an early-old-mid-life crisis. If it was only “mid-life” and not “early-old”, I’d be getting ready to live to 136 (68×2). Which I’m probably not. Going to, that is. Especially if I’m still struggling with questions of happiness and a meaningful life in the second half. I’m perplexed over which to aim for more. Or maybe neither? I usually go for “meaning” but recently I’ve felt like a little leavening would be a good thing. Maybe it’s the aiming that is pre-occupying my time and energy, not to mention the endless loops I take around the laptop course — email, Facebook, Instagram, Googling, saved articles on my reading list, occasionally my “desktop” to write — as if I were running laps at the high school track.
Do you know what I mean?
In lieu of getting a red sports car, I’ve been aiming at getting red frames to hold the new stronger prescription lenses I need. The other day I had to take the red frames back to the car dealer, er, optometrist. The prescription was close to correct, but too strong. The frames were also too large and didn’t fit on my face properly. I was getting dizzy, and having trouble finding the appropriate relationship between the sole of my foot and the curb. Like being stoned on something bad. After getting a new, slightly weaker prescription from my Kaiser doc, I drove back to Berkeley to the spiffy glasses place. The new style (read better fitting) I like doesn’t come in red. I could get them in bright turquoise? Ummm. No. Hot pink? Oy. Dull eggplant? Dull. Or black. No red. Sigh.
I hate that my life is full of this kind of problem. Well, it’s not just that. I”m also thinking to cut my hair. Short. I had short hair, curly and short, for a long time. I thought I was over it. I grew it out and blow dry it once a week which kind of straightens it. I know people, especially my mother, like my curly hair. Everyone likes what they don’t have. Straight hair is.. well… so… straight. And simple, not messy. Curly hair and a messy desk make my mind feel messy. I thought wearing it straight would ease, maybe even facilitate my cogitative processes. Really. Ya know? Not so much.
I think I’m naturally melancholy. I don’t feel shy about having intimate experience with melancholy. But a lot of it, like a lot of foggy days in a row, can wear a person down. I don’t care how hot it is, if the sun is shining, it helps. I’m much more willing to sit in the shade and do nothing if it’s really hot. Cold weather makes me feel like I should get busy — doing something. Living in San Francisco, I pretty much always feel like I should be doing something. That, plus in my neighborhood there’s almost never a neighbor wandering about to do nothing with. We need some verandas in this neighborhood and a little more heat that makes everyone so tired they’d be happy to sit around with me and do nothing together. Maybe take turns getting out of our chairs to make the next round of ice tea or cut up some watermelon slices.
Probably because of my Phoenix childhood I love light. At my grandmother’s house I remember watching “dust” particles floating through beams of golden light, watching the otherwise invisible atmosphere dance. This was as close as my childhood got to awe and spirituality. It was pretty neat, really.
My friend Jessica from CutLoose Outlet on Valencia St. recently bought a wondrously wonderful home up north. I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve seen pictures. I think we have a similar eye. She’s always noticing beauty and taking pics and posting them. This one she posted a few days ago is one of my favorites. It’s about the light. Not the bright sunlight in the back on the right (though it does remind me of source), but the other light, diffused. It seems timeless.
I wonder about how to incorporate joy (or happiness) and meaning in to more minutes of my day. Maybe I could give up negative thinking for Lent? Or Passover? Or something? I made a list of 20 ways toward more happiness. I agree with everything on the list. Then I mis-placed it. But found it again.
And who’s a better spokesperson for a meaningful life than Steven Hawking? “Stephen Hawking announces mission to Alpha Centauri”
Obviously he’s got one hell of a lot of meaning going on inside him that keeps him living far beyond the normal survival rate of ALS. And happiness? Maybe meaning brings a kind of happiness that our usual notions of happiness can’t begin to approach? Just wondering.
I’m writing this for myself. But also for others like me, who contemplate questions like these. I know I am not alone. And you are not either. Though if we all keep really quiet it can seem that way. That’s partly why I’m “speaking”. To sort it out, but also to send out a light beam signal as if to and from Alpha Centauri. I know it can take four light years to travel each way so I’ll try to be patient hearing back from you.
It’s a little late in my early-old mid-life to contemplate being a physicist, but I am still gob-smackingly inspired by them. (Do see the documentary Particle Fever if you haven’t yet. Here’s the film trailer.)