Warning: things are about to get nauseatingly self-indulgent around here.
Over the weekend, as we shared stories over a cup of coffee, I was bemoaning to a friend my lack of inspiration to write. I don’t have writer’s block, I said. If I did, I think I’d be stuck mid-sentence on something I was writing. Instead, I have ideas block: I have no clue what to write about. My mind comes up with nothing I want to sit down to put on paper. Or when I do, I think no one will want to read the brain fart I thought as interesting enough to share.
My friend, a writer, laughed at my dilemma but offered advice: prompts. She suggested a book she uses when she has no idea what to write about. Think of it as having a conversation with someone you’re with. They ask you one of 3000 questions and you give them your answer.
No, I said flatly. It sounds too much like spin the bottle or a dare.
Ok, she said, trying a different approach. Think of it as one of several questions on a long, expanded dating profile or social hook-up app. You’re trying to get a date with your answers, and if they like what you write, you get a date.
You mean, like an 80s Cosmo Sex Quiz?
Something like that, she replied.
So we walked to the bookstore across the street and I purchased the book she recommended, which, curiously enough, happened to be in the Sale aisle.
I’m not one for prompts or writing exercises. In school, I always choked when asked to write about my summer, what historical person I’d like to interview (Bette Middler three years in a row, and counting), or who the person I admire most is. Couldn’t my English teachers come up with something more interesting? Were they as uninspired as I?
And yet, years later, I’m turning to a book full of questions I’d rather not answer to jump start my writing so I can do something about a stalled blog. But having no better ideas, nor feeling inspired to look for another alternative, I decided to give the questions a try. So, while I remain stuck in Uninspired Land, consider this the first of 3000 things you didn’t know about me.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
If I ever felt happy I could answer that question, but ask anyone in my family and they’ll tell you I’ve never been happy. But never is a long, long time. And as I sit here thinking about it, I have to wonder: Is my family right? Have I never been happy?
Surely not! For an image does come to mind…and it involves the beach. I’m happy at the beach! Yes! Beaches make me happy. The sun, the surf, the smell of the ocean, a salty breeze. Beach days make me feel happy. Particularly when I’m there with friends, splashing around, enjoying the freedom from not having to go to work the next day, or thinking about bills that need to be paid. Beach days are fun!
Here in South Florida one beach in particular makes me happy: Haulover Beach. It is one of the nicer beaches in Miami. It’s an adults only beach because it’s a nude beach, so there are no children running around, making noise, or screeching like seagulls hangry for something to eat. Instead, you see naked men walking around, displaying all sorts of penile jewelry and accouterments that distract from what I’m reading on my Kindle and causes one to discuss the virtues of a piercing or tattoo in certain anatomical places. Haulover’s is a friendly crowd, frisky while in the water – if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m always in a good mood at Haulover. So a day at the beach is a happy one.
A perfect, happy evening will include yarn, knitting needles, and an easy pattern to follow while I listen to podcasts or an audiobook. This makes me happy too. I’ve knitted at the beach and felt very, very happy, so knitting at the beach would be another example of perfect happiness. There’s something to keeping my hands and fingers busy, repeating the same movement over and over again, repeatedly, letting my mind settle on the rhythm of the thing I’m doing. It’s comforting. It feels nice. And at the end of the evening I feel less anxious than when I started. Knitting is not an euphemism for something else. I mean knitting, actually. That other thing does make me happy too, but I do mean knitting in this paragraph. Just to be clear.
I’ve come to realize that happiness is something I do, not something I feel. It’s when I’m knitting, or splashing around naked men at the beach that I’m happy – or content to be precise. I’ve never felt perfectly happy doing nothing; in fact, when I am doing nothing what I feel is anxious, or guilty, that I’m not doing some thing. There’s that nagging feeling that I should be doing something that will make me feel restless and often lead to getting into some kind of trouble. Happiness, on the other hand, is doing something that relaxes me, keeps my mind engaged, occupied, and that in the end provides a certain comfort in having accomplished a task.
So, perfect happiness? It doesn’t exist. At least not for me. Happiness is imperfect. It’s knitting and making an error that ends up in having to start over again, having learned something in the process. Happiness is also going out with friends to dinner and poking fun at all the stupid things I’ve done in the past that remind me I’m far from perfect. Feeling happy is knowing I will never look like the hot, naked guy at the beach who spends 4 hours at the gym every day because I have other things I’d rather do than spend all that time at the gym. Perfect happiness is the first bite into the warm fresh off the vat Krispy Creme doughnut because the second bite is perfect guilt. And perfect happiness is having a friend who calls me on my shit, and still helps me overcome ideas block by suggesting I do something I have avoided doing all my life.
That’s 1. 2999 more to go.