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Why Is Everyone Laughing?

I always hesitate before writing an introspective, visceral piece like this one. My hesitation is not from fear of how it will be received, for I am beyond worrying about the slings and arrows of my fellow travelers. No, my hesitation is from a concern that many will feel compelled to feel sorry for me, for most of my followers, and friends, are caring people, emphatics, compassionates, and they will open their hearts to me and worry about me.

There truly is nothing to worry about. I am fine. Still, having said that, what ails me in a niggling, wiggling way, is most likely a common malady, felt and experienced and internalized by many, and it is for that reason that I pen this piece. Perhaps, if you all know how I feel, you will realize that it is perfectly all right for you to feel the same way. Much the same way that my articles, many years ago, about my alcoholism, and recovery (almost sixteen years now) brought comfort for many struggling with that disease, it is my hope that this article will resonate with some of you, and you will find similar comfort in my words.

Finding peace where it's available

Finding peace where it's available

A chat with a neighbor the other day

I saw a neighbor working in her yard the other day, while I was out walking Toby, and I asked, as we all do on similar walks, during similar meetings, how she was doing.

“Okay, I guess,” was her response, to which I responded, “just okay, not fantastic?”

She smiled, looked away for a moment, perhaps wondering just how much she wanted to reveal to me, and said, “well, you know, I’m never really totally happy, but today is an okay day.”

And, the thing is, I instantly understood what she was talking about.

We chatted for five, ten minutes more, and that ensuing conversation confirmed that, indeed, we were cut from the same cloth, and I found that oddly comforting.

A dark cloud hovers nearby

It’s been this way for most of my adult life, the feeling, when I wake up, that a dark cloud is hovering above me. I honestly don’t remember the last time I was truly, soaring-to-the-heavens happy. It’s been a while, most definitely. Almost every morning I wake up, push the dark cloud away, and get about the business of living, but I am fully aware that the cloud exists and is more than willing to rain down upon me if I allow it.

People talk to me, and I do my best to present a friendly demeanor. I interact on social media, through texts, on the phone, operating at 75% maximum happiness, and that’s on the best of days. On the worst of days, I retreat within myself and wait for the storm to pass.

Are people who see me, talk to me, exchange with me, aware of it? I doubt it. I am the consummate actor, thank you very much, and I’ve honed this skill, of “faking it,” for lack of a better term, over decades.

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When was the last time I was truly happy?

We would have to go back to 1969, the year my father died. Before January 9th of that year, I remember, very clearly, being a pretty happy individual, certainly free of thoughts I’m sharing with you today. After his death, the dealing with death occurred, then the responsibilities of supporting my mother, and my sister, and then marriage, and fatherhood, and dealing with pressures I was ill-suited to deal with, enter alcohol as a buffer/strengthener/supporter, and, well, it all went downhill from there.

And fifteen years ago, almost sixteen, I stopped drinking, but the happiness never really returned with sobriety.

at peace with myself

at peace with myself

Will it ever return?

I honestly doubt it. I’m pretty self-aware. I’ve studied myself pretty extensively, and I know what makes me tick. If, at seventy-three, I don’t know the secret to true happiness, I doubt it will ever arrive. I know, for a fact, that the travels we have planned, the Pacific Crest Trail and the cross-country bike tour, those things will fill me with great satisfaction, and I will find awe in them.

But happiness? If I were a betting man, I would bet on the black.

And that’s all right! My life is good. Life is good. I am able to appreciate the nuances of life, now that I am sober, and I am able to love myself and love others. That’s not a bad legacy, my friends; it’s a legacy to be proud of, and if it is missing just a tiny little piece of the legacy puzzle, the happiness piece, so be it.

It’s all good!


“Meeting America one handshake at a time.”

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