As we enter the season for giving, I have been thinking a lot about what makes me happy. There was a time when I would have had a hard time naming anything outside of making love and making money. What a sad individual I surely was. As I grow older, I should be growing ever more appreciative of the beauty all around me, but recently, it seems that I have been heading in reverse. The challenges and drudgery of everyday life have dampened my enjoyment and tarnished my rose-colored glasses. I regret the loss of that childlike wonder at the world we all had before we became adults.
Earlier today, I was watching squirrels play as I sat in my office. I remembered when I was an ashy, roughneck little kid back in Philadelphia and I would sit for hours watching the squirrels through my bedroom window as they chased each other through the trees. I even named them all and hoped to one day get a real pair of binoculars so I could study them closer. I bought books on squirrels and studied all about them. My love of animals was not limited to squirrels. I studied every book on animals, wild and domestic, that I could get my hands on. I was a walking wildlife encyclopedia at one time and my dream was to become a zoologist and study animals full time. I even dreamt of being wealthy enough, with enough land, to have my own collection of animals running wild on my property. They were all so beautiful to me. I had forgotten that until recently.
I used to be able to stare at a beautiful painting for hours. I cannot count how many hours I spent wandering through The Philadelphia Art Museum when I was a kid. I would take girlfriends there and try to impress upon them the sheer beauty and wonder of art. When I was older, I haunted art galleries and went to art openings religiously. The art, music, and literary scene was my church and all of my friends were artists or writers. I refused to date a woman who was not an artist for many years because I could not imagine that we would have anything in common. It has been over a year since I have set foot in an art gallery and it had probably been many years before then. I can't remember the last time I've been to a poetry reading. I need to unfuck that. Art is one of the great joys of life. It is the breath and soul of human existence.
I have been absorbed in my job the last year and had forgotten the peace and bliss of physical exercise, running in particular. I knew I missed it, but I could not have told you why. I started running again and it is amazing how wonderful it feels. A cool breezy day and a few long miles of running is the closest I get to pure Zen.
As much as I talk and write about it, I think I had even forgotten the joy of sex. Amazing, considering how obsessed I used to be with it. But recently, it had begun to feel like work. Orgasms had been reduced to a mere biological function like eating or drinking. It was something I did just to relieve the pressure rather than something I luxuriated in the way I used to. I remember what it was like to make love for hours, never wanting to stop, going beyond fatigue. I miss that. It is one of the joys and pleasures that I had forgotten with age and responsibilities.
This economy has brought me to a place where even writing had lost it's joy. In my desperate struggle to survive this economic tsunami and keep a roof over my family's heads and food in their bellies, writing had become an economic transaction and nothing more. I give you a few thousand words and you give me a few hundred dollars and that's all it was. I had forgotten the joy of discovering the thoughts and experiences of my characters, of looking at a strange world through strange eyes, of seeing a story slowly unfold and take shape.
A lot of this is just a normal part of getting old. A lot of this is a normal part of being locked each day in an economical struggle for survival. It is hard to stop and smell the roses when you are trying to put meat on the table, but that's just what I need to do. Keeping one's nose to the grindstone is good for a while but you cannot go on forever that way. That is the road to depression. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and a suicide risk.
So I have compiled a list of the things that make me smile so that I won't forget to indulge them every once in a while. Here are a few of them, in no particular order:
My daughter's smiles.
My wife's laugh.
My dog's wet nose and rough tongue against my hand.
My mother's voice.
A letter from a fan praising my writing.
Making a stranger happy.
Making a new friend.
Helping a friend in need.
The smell of trees and flowers.
A cool breeze.
A thought-provoking book or movie.
A Prince song.
A powerful work of art.
A challenging philosophical debate that makes me question everything I thought I knew.
Running several long miles on a warm day with a cool breeze.
Running with my son.
Driving with the windows down, the wind in my face, and the radio blasting a song that reminds me of my youth.
Complimenting a beautiful woman and seeing her smile and blush.
Reconnecting with a friend I thought I'd never see again.
Sparring with another heavyweight.
Lifting weights with my son.
Hearing my son tell a funny story.
Watching my children grow older.
A nice ass.
Really large breasts.
Really, really, really, great sex!