What makes you happy? A philosophical discussion

If you could see – or, rather, not see – the view from the spare room today, you’d know why Lindisfarne’s most famous song is “Fog on the Tyne”.  And on this grey, cold, autumn day when I might quite reasonably be wishing I was somewhere warm and sunny, I found myself thinking, “I love living here”.  And I was reminded of being asked by our doctor, when I was being miserable about being dumped by some boyfriend or other, how my sense of gratification was.  When Peter explained that your level of depression could be assessed by how capable you were of being pleased by something, I realised that only that morning I had remarked on what a beautiful day it was.  So while I was miserable, I wasn’t depressed.  I am neither miserable, nor depressed, at the moment.  There are lots of things that would make me want to run down the street cheering, but most of those do involve sunny days and blue skies.  But the things that make us happy can’t always be quantified.  I tried to think of where and when in my life I had been most happy, and decided that the first few months of married life, in a cold semi in West Monkseaton, with no shower and no double glazing, were almost amazingly wonderful.  I think that is why I love Newcastle.  Its mean streets, covered in litter on Saturday mornings, its tarty looking girls and old men who smell, its smokers, its drinkers, its friendly folk, welcoming pubs and its passionate football fans, make this one of the most real places I’ve ever lived, and I’ve lived in a few.

Sometimes I feel rootless.  I was born in the county of Lancashire, but that is now Merseyside.  Grew up in Cumberland, which is now Cumbria.  I’ve lived in three Australian states – single and married – an island in the Central Pacific, Burma, Singapore and now I’m back where I began the first year of what’s been a thirty seven year partnership.  I’m a global citizen, a woman of the world (literally), and my trip advisor map shows a much travelled individual.  I can live anywhere, but I’m happiest when those I love are happy.

Should we try to go back, to relive the happiest times?  Can we recreate the places, the events, the situations?  No, of course we can’t.  We can never go back.  It’s why we’re told to make the best of things.  Not a particularly helpful thing to say to someone who can’t see a way out of the woods.  And if you can’t see your way out of the woods, it’s no good trying to find the beauty in a tree.

Sure, things could be better.  I’d like to have someone to go window shopping with (men just can’t enter into that feeling).  I’d like to think one day I will lost my fear of big roundabouts.  I’d like a holiday somewhere warm.  I’d like to get up in the morning and put on something other than track pants and slippers.  But I’m quite happy with the uncertainty of the future.  The three of us have always lived on the edge of uncertainty.  To the Chinese, living in interesting times is a curse.  To the O’Neills it’s an exciting challenge.  Can I live here for another couple of years and still be happy?  Who knows.  But I’m working on it.  I’ve got my Mensa membership, there’s a community theatre nearby, and my menfolk are both happily employed.  Next year we have visits from friends to look forward to, and a brief trip home to sort out the finances.  And then, if I were really motivated I could always write a book…

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