Saturday, February 25

happiness isn't normal

Periodically, my mother feels compelled to ask me if I'm happy. I unfailingly reassure her that I am not, and remind her that this is not my goal, expectation or purpose in life.

Sure, from time to time, I have that fleeting feeling of all being temporarily well, a wonderful pain-free experience when I've had enough sleep, my hormones are not causing some sadistic havoc, and my husband and daughter are not hitting or screaming at each other. Oh, and it's a weekend.

Those infrequent moments are fondly contemplated, even relished if I'm conscious enough to truly appreciate them, but they don't come together often enough to be thought of as happiness in your general terms. And how could one truly enjoy them if they were there all the time, anyway?

No, I'm a firm believer in the Life Sucks / Shit Happens school of thought, and I remain pleasantly surprised by the exceptions to this rule.

Now there's a new self-help book, apparently a bestseller, which is notable for it's first sentence: "People suffer." Its premise: Instead of trying to make life's suffering and negativity go away, we should acknowledge that the crap will always be there, and concentrate on living according to our values. Of course, there's that tiny problem of never having been trained to identify our values, but only those things that (we think) will make us feel good. You can read Rebecca Traister's Salon interview with author Steven Hayes, or the Time article about his book and "new" theory.

Life is suffering. DUH. This is not news. Does the name Buddha ring a bell? But now they're calling it "third-wave" psychology, and "acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)".

There's nothing new on the self-help shelf -- it's all just good reminders inside fresh covers. One of my favorite books of all time is nearly 30 years old. It's called, The Road Less Travelled, by M. Scott Peck, and it begins like this:

"Life is difficult.

"This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult -- once we truly understand and accept it -- then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters."

Not that I'm so enlightened as to claim that it no longer matters for me, but I do accept the truth of this, and my goal, if I have one, is that some day it won't. Matter, that is.

did I say "random and disorganized"?

I'm sorry, what I really meant was "chaotic".

This has been my life for the past five weeks, in absentia from you, my small handful of faithful voyeurs, checking in to see whether I’ve been inspired or have simply expired.

It has been a miserable couple of months at work, but I believe the period of major intense hell has just come to an end, for the moment at least. The release of new documentation is behind us, along with the preparations for an international and our own local conferences.

And we seem to have also come to the end of our brief but nasty winter. Yesterday was HOT and the feeling of lounging around in summer clothes and bare feet was delicious. It's cloudy again today, but still very comfortably warm and our wonderful Israeli spring is in the air.

In the past five weeks I have grown very sick of my company’s management, and my own boss is not exempt from my disdain and loathing. I will not feel any guilt when and if I find a new job close to home. And there are lots of jobs out there these days; I think the odds are good.

Fortunately, I have one colleague who has been a pillar of goodwill and we have unfailingly supported each other throughout the hysteria of this horribilis period. Even to the point where I came to work during three days of piercing, pounding migraine agony this week. Thursday included the bonus of nausea, and I didn’t even want to drive, so dear mr. Squarepeg (who just wants me to go to work, dammit) drove me there and picked me up again at 7pm during the height of rush hour. Not that I got much done in that state, but I made the heroic showing and was there to back up my co-worker when he needed it.

What else happened this month? Yesterday marked 17 years since the day I met the future mr. Squarepeg in front of what was then Paloma Bianca Pizza (anybody else been around that long?) on the edge of what was then Kikar Malchei Israel, now known as dear-departed-Rabin’s square. I used to think of it as my square, when I would spend my mornings wheeling ms. Squarepeg’s baby carriage or stroller through the wide open spaces that I gleefully shared only with the pigeons and the pigeon bag-lady who talked to and fed them. Good times. Then we moved to the burbs, and eventually the square became synonymous with the attempted murder of democracy and the final crushing blow to our naivete. How young we were. Well, the future mr. S was anyway… I already had one foot in middle age, but didn’t know it, thank goddess.

Another event of the past month – please don’t hate me for this – ms. Pinky, our five-month-old beloved family member, underwent a double operation that I have coined “pedicure”: “ee-koor” is the Hebrew for spaying, and the “ped” part refers to the removal of her front claws. I have always thought the declawing of a cat was an unnecessary and disrespectful, if not cruel, indignity that I would never dream of inflicting on any pet of mine. However, this feisty little bitch was leaving deep scratches on all of us, and I believed it was only a matter of time until someone was going to end up with a scarred face. Sunny, our 17-year-old Siamese, though he repeatedly ruined lace curtains (which I mended umpteen times over the years until I grew tired of them) and continues to scratch rugs and upholstery, has never been a person-scratcher. Pinky, however, was wild and showing no signs of becoming calmer. And I never had a problem clipping Sunny’s nails, but Pinky would have no part of it, biting and scratching at the first attempt.

In spite of this, we were all crazy about her; I still don’t know why. When she’s sleepy, she’s so adorable, and when she chases ribbons or ties she does somersaults in the air that make us giggle, and when she fake-fights Sunny, he wakes up and doesn’t look like such an old man. But I knew I couldn’t live with her treating my legs like a tree trunk that she just had to claw to the top of. The final straw came when she sprung onto the back of one of our guests, leaving bleeding gouges on his back.

Against mr. Squarepeg’s wishes, and feeling terrible about it myself, I took her to the vet for her two-fer – two ops for the price of one anesthesia. She stayed there for 4 nights because one of her paws was still bleeding when they removed the bandages after 2 days. We missed her terribly and felt bad for her when we went to visit and saw her shaking her paws in the air compulsively after each step. But when I brought her home she was running around and jumping the same as usual, so I don’t think she’s suffered much. The best part is how we now experience her: no more fear of her sudden freaky power trips. Whereas she used to be the Terror, the Clawed Bitch that brought out the big guns whenever we played with her, she is now the sweetest little frisky angel who will hang on my shoulder and let me cuddle her most of the time.

Of course, our cats never leave the apartment … but yesterday she did manage to escape after many failed attempts, and we didn’t notice. Only after about an hour we started searching for her and couldn’t find her in the apt, so I went out to the hallway and started calling her. Sunny always responds to my meowing, but Pinky doesn’t yet. I looked down in the stairwell, and spied her lying on the landing one floor down. That was a scare, but what a relief to find her unharmed and not far away. I hope she’s learned there was nothing interesting for her out there.

AND ... I also acquired this new laptop in the past month, the motherboard of my old, second hand IBM having given up the ghost after a brief illness. This one is slick and silver, and very sexy. It’s made by LG, and when I start it up, it tells me that LG means, “Life’s Good.”

So, welcome to today: the first day of the new LG era.