Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Search for Happiness on TV

Last night, I watched two movies. Mike and Nick were working with a friend on a project to get ready for Boy Scout camp and there were these two movies I knew I wasn't going to get to watch if I didn't take advantage of the time. 'Wild' and 'Hector's Search for Happiness' were the ones that had arrived at the library together. I thought watching those movies would make me happy.

I was excited about seeing 'Wild.' I'd read the book and thought the load of gear and incredible inexperience on the trail could make for a few funny scenes. I thought I would relate. And I had seen a great preview of 'Hector's Search for Happiness.' Simon Pegg. I love watching Simon Pegg.

Plus, since I was making dinner for the guys, I figured a plate of pasta and a glass of wine would make me happy too.

I started watching 'Wild.'

Unfortunately, the screenplay emphasized redemption from sex with strangers and heroin use. Not my thing, seriously not my thing. I get how being on a trek can cause a redemption, but I'm much more interested in a lower form of redemption, something there in surviving, surely, but more subtle.

Don't get me wrong. Anyone who can come back from a low that low should write a book. They should be proud. They should tell their story so that others in the same situation can see a ray of hope.

It's just that ...

I'm not entirely sure what it was. I guess I just wanted to be entertained on the order of Bill Bryson's 'A Walk in the Woods.' I wanted fluff, fluff with some redemptive power, but fluff still. I wanted to see how someone like the girl I had been years ago could go for a long hike and be redeemed even if she hadn't taken the heroin road. I wanted to see myself on that trail.

When I read the book, I managed to see myself on the trail.

There was a time when I was twenty three years old that I was sent on a business trip to Phoenix and I decided that I was going to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back while I was in the right state. I had a spare weekend after the training and my boss even said he'd pay for my rental car for the weekend. Those were the days, weren't they? I hadn't asked for my boss to pay for my rental car, but he paid for it anyway.

And then I proceeded to hike sixteen and a half miles in my Keds to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in one day with two cans of Dr. Pepper and two Snicker's bars in my jacket pockets. Those were the days.

Mike likes to use my example as a what-not-to-do when planning for time in the wilderness. I told him he should. But every time, he points out that I did it with perseverance and managed to get back up the trail. There was redemption in hiking that trail. If I could hike a mile deep into the earth and back in one day, I could do anything I set my mind to doing.

But the movie 'Wild' wavered back and forth between the kind of redemption I knew and something much more sinister. That movie did not make me happy.

So then, I fed my guys. A plate of pasta and a glass of wine later, I started the second movie. I almost never have either, let alone both carbohydrates and wine. I should have known better.

After the guys went back to work, I was alone again and feeling a bit fuzzy. Hector definitely worked better for my tastes in movies. Simon Pegg's character was a psychiatrist who wondered what made people happy. He was living a seriously ordinary life and it made him wonder, at first about other people's happiness and ultimately about his own.

I loved this movie. I sat in my muddled state and made a list of things that made me happy as I watched:

walking on my hands in a pool
watching Nick's left eyebrow
touching Mike's beard in my hands
looking at sunlight on water
watching Teddy run
walking in the forest
standing ankle-deep in an ice cold river
looking at Nick's feet
writing things down
feeling Mike lean in when he hugs me

Oh, I could go on and on and on. I really am a pretty happy person as long as I'm getting enough sleep. When I'm sleep deprived, my sunny life can be seriously worrisome. But that movie made me think about what makes me happy.

I loved this movie and waited for the happiness to hit me as the movie was coming to a close. It was a very good movie. It was a bit fluffy, redemptive, and I love watching Simon Pegg.

But it did not make me happy. Why not?

It turns out that watching a movie by myself can not make me happy. I can be happy enough watching TV with Nick and Mike. I can snuggle with Mike and stare at Nick's big feet, but watching alone doesn't cut it. So why did I waste my time? I'm old enough to have known that by now, but I did it anyway.

Sometimes I think of all the things I'll do when I have all the time in the world. It's a pipe dream that will never work for me because I'm pretty sure that time in my life will be when I'm alone. It might be hard to be happy when I'm alone and don't have any responsibilities. I'd better be careful what I wish for.

Still, if I'm listening to that happiness list I won't be drinking wine and watching movies by myself when that day comes.

Thank you for listening, jb

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