Monday, September 20, 2010

On The Good Life

My own questions to myself got me thinking -- in the grand tradition of questions to oneself. Seriously though, what do I want this blog to be? (Or this blog-to-be to be?)

I wish for the bite of Betsy Lerner, the humor of Sarah Bunting, the deep soul-searching lyricism of Cary Tennis. And I shun lame AdWords ads, trite subject lines, "lists" and "tips," as if anyone knows anything more than anyone else. Bloggers who clearly copied a page out of "how to write a successful blog", who cluttered the page with buttons and gadgets, who are clearly out to make a buck. What about being out to make a moment? What about being out to write good things about a specific topic? What about giving people something they can count on, a little nugget of inspiration or interest or unusual-ness or joy? What about a little ray of computer-aided connection drifting into all those bleak and lifeless cubicles?

The problem with blogging about/striving for happiness is that it's too confining. In some ways, too bland. How can we go around smiling all the time, like flight attendants, like a painted clown? There's more to life than cascades of ecstasy and joy. The goal can't be pure happiness. It doesn't make a good goal on the horizon, because it's slippery and hard to predict, hard to measure, describe, define.

Martin Seligman, positive psychology demigod, addresses this problem with the concept of the good life. It is up to each person what it means to live the good life.

To Scrooge McDuck it was diving into a swimming pool full of gold coins. To the image in my head of some 50's black and white gangster, the good life is what they'll be livin' as soon as they pull off this bank heist - cut to a nightclub filled with champagne and jazz and 50's bombshells in pointy 50's bras, men with slick hair wearing expensive suits...

But the good life is not be confused with life on Easy Street.

The concept of the good life allows for sorrow and struggle, death and taxes. It lets you whine, encounter suffering, overcome tragedy, grieve loss, pick scabs. The good life is not to be confused with the perfect life or the life of comfort and ease. It makes allowances for saving ones own soul. The good life acknowledges that we are not all walking around in a toothpaste commercial.

I consider it a small victory for my own good life that I stopped for groceries on the way home so the cupboard won't be bare; that I bought three used books; that Spangles and I ate our microwaved leftovers in the backyard by citronella candlelight.

Thinking about the good life made me think about another of Seligman's tenets, which is savoring. That positive experiences are made even more so by the act of relishing them. So I would like to take a moment to pause and relish life with good old Spangles (keep in mind he was in a lovey-dovey mood because I'd just brought home six miniature frozen pizzas and an eight-pound pork shoulder):

Spangles (after embracing me [I was wearing a cardigan]): This sweater isn't fair.
Me: Why?
Spangles: It's too soft and snuggly. With your inherent snugglability, it's too much.

Or, as I was puttering about and he was studying on the couch- "This is everything I ever wanted out of living together."

Or, after he came over and gave me a kiss- "It's a wonder I get anything done at all."

One must savor the fact that I have what every girl wants, which is to be adored. Here is a quote I came across as an epigraph in the used bookstore. It's from Tom Robbins:

"The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be, (b) that is the one and only way that the mediocre and vile can be transformed, and (c) doing that makes it that. We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love."

And you know what else? I have a niece on the way tomorrow. And a nephew who all on his own invented "walking like an eggie" by putting his shirt over his bent knees so that only his feet stick out, and walk across the floor. And another niece with eyes like shiny blueberries. If that life isn't good, what is?

What are you savoring today, Gentle Reader?


schoolmarmalade said...

I'm savoring kicking ass at my job.

And my apartment. And my bikeride home. And how funny and great my colleagues are. And how I get to read about your thoughts. Any much much more.


Ekkie said...

I'm savoring reading about someone else loving and enjoying my kids so much, and thinking about how lucky I am (and they are)!