For one of the quizzes I took to gauge my happiness, I had to assess how much of each emotion I was feeling: Happy? Sad? Anxious? Frustrated? Joyous? Angry? Smug? Irritated? Wry? Brave? Sexy? Fragile? Exhuberant? Afraid? Silly? Nostalgic? Nauseated? Pretty? Pity? Charming? Oh-so-charming?
And so forth. One of the things I wrote about (although the section didn't make the final cut into the book) is how it's normal to experience a variety of emotions at once, that there's rarely pure, medical-grade happiness or any other emotion.
Take this weekend. I had such a good time that I can hardly describe it without swearing for emphasis.
We'll get to the goodness soon. But there was a chunk of time on Saturday afternoon when I was talking to my mother and Krissy (about something I can't write about without spoiling the end of Practically Perfect), and I was just ... sad. Here I was, on this increasingly rare occasion when we're all together, and I couldn't help but feeling sorry and sad with a soupçon of afraid, all at the same time that I was feeling relaxed and happy.
At one time, I might have beat myself up over this. Did you ever do this, this thing where you're at some event that you've been looking forward to forever and you thought that when the time came, you'd be ecstatic? And then you look around and you're happy enough but it still occurs to you, Oh. I'm still me.
Luckily, and if I can get neuroscience-y on you--and I think I can--our brains seem to take the imprint of the most intense experiences, and this weekend, the fun totally overrode the sadness.
When we got to Mom's house, she had a gift bag waiting on the counter. It was fancy and black with names of la-dee-da cities on it. I pulled out the wrapped box and unwrapped it. Inside was a large leather box that opened from the middle to reveal the most gorgeous pen I ever saw, lying on white suede. It was for me to sign copies of Practically Perfect.
I closed the box, and it made a satisfying thwack. It was the best gift I've ever received.
"This was the fanciest thing I've ever done," Mom said, laughing. She got it at a place that was about the size of her kitchen, the sort of place where prices ARE NOT DISCUSSED. Good god, I love my mother.
(Unfortunately, I did not seem to inherit her knack for gift-giving. Later, Krissy opened her birthday presents; from us, a small schmorgasboard of gifts. One was a compilation of of eighties' love songs, that, for the low, low price of $5.99, seemed chock full of bang for the buck. Bang like "Keep on Loving You" and "Need You Tonight" and "Sexual Healing." Jill brought out the CD player and we popped it in. The music started up and something seemed, well, off. The phrasing. The music.
I grabbed the CD case. In small letters at the bottom: "As performed by The Countdown Singers." Waiter? This isn't the cheese I ordered!)
Years from now, when I think about this weekend, I know I won't remember that little chunk of sadness. I know that I'll think of Krissy's 30th and remember my niece singing a song that she wrote and performed at her school talent show; the shaking of the booty with Brandon at the bar; the four of us in a group hug; Erin calmly ordering another round of shooters; the singing at the top of our lungs, the sleepwalking story; Mom making pancakes with the kids; Trixie; the best gift I ever received.
I'm counting on my brain playing this little trick. When it's some year like 2047, I will look around at the kids on their hoverboards with their robot dogs and say, Listen up, whippersnappers: Back in 2007? Those were some good times. Pure and simple.