In which good intentions mean diddly-squat

Do you know, I started this blog post in March. Is it still March? No. I’m past apologizing for my delinquency. Things happen, and given my attention span, things will continue to happen. Also, that attention span of mine — hopeless.

Suffice it to say, we’ve all been fine. We are fine. We’re dandy. Except for the fact that the Guy had the flu and was between jobs for a while (personal vacation), though he officially started as of last Monday. Hobbes had some kind of virus and then pink-eye, which incidentally resulted in the doctor removing a blood clot the size of my thumbnail from his ear — it’s charming, the things that parenthood forces you to witness, and also children are disgusting — but neither of those was serious, and the important thing is that I’m still healthy, so there you go.

Everything’s fine. Moving on, now.

***

In August (and September and October), I went through a strange funk where my usual sunny good-natured underwent an identity crisis, and became instead a desire to make everyone’s lives suck. From a certain point of view, you could call it a midlife crisis. Men try to feel younger by getting the stuff they would’ve liked to do when they were adolescents, but: (1) couldn’t afford; or (2) were too smart to do. Me, I went for the gift that keeps on giving. I did damage to other people’s psyches instead of my wallet, showing (if I do say so myself) an excellent grasp of ROI1. I moped, I whined, I complained at length until my coworkers started to bolt for the door the second I walked into a room. I took people’s fragile joys, crushed them to pieces, and then added a pinch of lemon juice and chili pepper for flavoring.

Which just goes to show yet again how much better women are at everything. Men only play at being teenagers. Women actually become teenagers. It’s all about the commitment. 2

Happiness is not one of those things that came naturally to me. As a kid, I must have been depressing subject for pictures. Photograph after photograph shows me standing in frowning disapproval next to some smiling relative or family friend. The ’70s were a great decade for everyone but me, apparently. “Look!” each family friend or relative seems to be saying. “What joy to be alive! The sun is in the sky, the Soviets haven’t blown the shit out of us, big mustaches and lapels are in — life is one grand, sweet song!” And down by said adult’s hip, there’d be a sullen little bundle of hair and cheeks, exuding the bonhomie of your average postmaster.3

I’ve always wondered if misery was a nature or nurture problem. Everyone’s cases are different, and my own parents were pretty awesome — but then, there are those pictures, and who can tell how freaked out they were with their very first child, especially given the fact they had me so late. Fortunately, Hobbes has set some of my own anxieties to rest; my childhood inability to grasp the intricacies of the smile do not seem to be a genetic trait. My mother occasionally comments on his cheerfulness, with the pensive awe of someone witnessing karma go very wrong. “He’s so nice to be around,” she told me once.

“But I was too, right?” I said. “I mean, I was a happy kid.”

“Mmm,” she said, regarding Hobbes in that reflective way again, and that’s all she would give me on that front.

Happiness was something I had to work at, and I didn’t work on it until later in life. I was too busy making other people sorry that I existed for the first 10 years of life. Then I spent another 10 years making other people sorry that they existed. It was a lot of work. I did it well. True, it didn’t leave a whole lot of time for mucking about with personal happiness, but that isn’t even in the Asian vocabulary, so it wasn’t that big a loss.

In my 20s, I decided to be happy.

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