I have been happy lately.
So very happy. An adjective far more complicated than its two syllables suggest.
And also, perhaps not the point. Much better, maybe, to be engaged with life, to feel life deeply in all its shades – happiness, yes, but darkness, regret, curiosity and failure too.
But I have been happy lately. I have shrugged on its mantle. A forgotten coat re-discovered.
Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Arriving just as T. S. Eliot said it would.
Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
It slipped in quietly and not all at once; a cat winding its way around the ankles, a sunflower snaking slowly towards the sky.
I get sad in the winter. I lose my way. I feel as if I am losing feeling in my fingers forever and always, forget the way the sun alights on the bridge of my nose and how much I love the freckles that pitch their tent on my cheeks in the springtime, lingering long past their welcome.
And this winter was sadder than most. Perhaps sadder than all those that have gone before. Wetter, too – a thumping, angry rain. Pathetic fallacy, rung true. I would not mind the cold were it not for the wet and seething damp. Would not mind the cold, were it not for the darkness.
It is that – the darkness – which I cannot stand.
My dear friend Julia, who lives in Regensburg, has a theory. We are born one day apart, in February, and shortly after we first laid eyes upon each other, introduced by an acquaintance, we sat talking expansively on the street outside Café Lila – when a thunderstorm ensued. It was May and I can quite lucidly remember darting into the entrance way and waiting out the storm – Julia clasping unwieldy black umbrella and I with laptop clutched to my chest, fresh from the embracing cool of the Bibliothek.
I don’t mind summer rain, Julia said. Sommerregen ist mir egal.
Oh, ich auch! I said. Me too.
It’s winter I really loathe.
And from there, perched in a doorway of medieval stone, we spoke of winter and our hatred of the thing, of the darkness. Then Julia mooted her theory.
It’s because we were born in February, she said. For most of our very first winter, we were tucked away in our mother’s wombs, protected and warm, and so now, when winter comes, all we want – need – is to hunker down and hibernate, just like we did the very first time.*
I know, I know. It may sound far-fetched. Granola, even. I can almost hear you rolling your eyes. But I think there’s some sense to Julia’s theory. There’s also the fact that Julia is, independently of her winter theories, one of the wisest women I know.
For every spring, I emerge from my cocoon. Both literally and figuratively – I shed my winter coat and gloves, and thrust jumpers to the back of both wardrobe and my consciousness. I waltz lightly through the streets, in day and dreams. I remember, quite suddenly, how much fun there is to be had in life and how much I love the goddamn thing. I’ve spent the past few weeks in a blissful state of cherry-blossom-induced delirium. The way I always am in March.
Life has been so very good to me. And I have been so very happy. But perhaps, I have also been so very good to life. Seizing the day, and enjoying the moment: satiated on botanic gardens, folk concerts, dancing into the night with my dearest friends. Books of poetry, long walks in the sun. Family suppers, sister time, the cerulean blue of the sea.
I am happy.
So, perhaps, that is the point. And sometimes, it really is just as simple as those two syllables suggest. Happ-y. I am.
*paraphrased, because this conversation was two years ago and my memory is good, but not that good.