I’ve been thinking about happiness recently. Dean Martin once said “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.” It says a lot about him that he didn’t believe in the concept of being both happy and sober, but it does raise some interesting questions.
We all need something to look forward to, be it the temporary change in our state of mind bought about by alcohol or chemicals, a takeaway at the end of a tough working week, a holiday after months or years without, a party, festival or wedding. At the risk of stating the obvious though, spending too much time looking forward to something else suggests that you’re not quite happy with how things are now. When at Uni I spent all my time looking forward to going raving at the weekend, it was because my life during the week seemed mundane. When I used to do a job I hated, I spent my time counting down the days to the weekend or the weeks until my next holiday.
During these periods my happiness levels tended to fluctuate wildly, but now that I’m pretty content with my lot they are much more steady, which in itself takes some getting used to. I sometimes find myself feeling like there should be something I’m looking forward to, and then realise that the bit that I’m looking forward to is now.
The steady state of relative contentedness hasn’t made life boring though, there are many moments of exquisite happiness in life, many of which are to do with either music or fatherhood. The pleasure I get from music is so varied and manifest that it’s hard to begin to list all the ways in which it makes me happy. There have, however, been a few moments in my life, where music has made me happier than I can describe. These have always been during live shows, those transcendent moments where the music becomes so beautiful, or powerful or transforming that it becomes like an out of body experience. There have only been a handful of times it has happened, but every gig I go to it’s what I’m secretly hoping for.
Fatherhood brings very different pleasures, ones which are very hard to comprehend or explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced them. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why so many people become parents when the pleasures are so abstract. The choice to become a father will always be a leap of faith to some extent, but the happiness is now very real for me. Holding my daughter for the first time, making her laugh, watching her grow and learn, it brings a very specific type of happiness, borne of pure love. It’s not all happiness of course, it is also tough and tiring and worrisome at times, but when last night I was holding her asleep on my shoulder whilst the sound of King Creosote on the radio drifted up from the kitchen, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.