Happiness… it’s been weighing on my thoughts recently. After 28 years, I believe it’s time to understand that defining what makes you happy is, in one way or another, defining who you are. I’m not getting any younger, and I am tired, no, exhausted, of being at the mercy of trends or clichés or tiny boxes inside people’s head. I have watched enough Hollywood movies and God knows how many thousand books to infiltrate my subconscious; perhaps most of them radically revising what is true to me and changed it to what is true to conformity instead.
Until now, I have so many frustrations in life --- the downside to a relentlessly overactive imagination. In some ways, what I have always considered as my greatest gift, has also been the biggest leech sucking life from, well… my Life.
And I’ve had enough. Watching Christopher Nolan’s Inception last night sealed the deal. I will not live my life in a dream within a dream within a dream. I will know what makes me Happy in this Life. And yet, I want to stay open to the surprises the Universe has for me. So I suppose, I could start by defining what will NOT make me happy, either because I really don’t want/need it even if I have convinced myself I do, or the time for it has passed and there’s no use mourning the train that already left.
1. Obscene Amount of Money
Growing up fairly cushioned is nice. Losing the cushion --- not so nice. Wanting the cushion back --- dementia-inducing mind-frak. We weren’t obscenely rich back then, but I grew up comfortably. And my life, right now, is so far from plush and comfy. It’s not half as bad, but it isn’t about having cars, and country homes, and multiple credit cards and shopping at Adora in GB5 every other night. In my head, I keep winning lottery tickets I never bought, inheriting money from aunts and uncles I never had, stumbling upon a windfall that will never come. If life was just as simple as playing The Sims where you just press Ctrl-Alt-Del then type motherlode and voila!
But do I need a motherlode? Nice but not necessary. I remember having a day where my salary was just enough to cover the groceries and bills and a little extra for a new book and I was content. I chalked it up as one heck of a successful day. So NO. Money I don’t need or require to find happiness. It helps me get there faster, but it will not keep me there.
2. A Supermodel’s Body
I have made my peace with this. I do not want Kate Moss’ body. I want Olivia’s. Except that I don’t know what Olivia’s body is. I grew up like this – fat. A slight incident of gene-splitting made me a bit taller than the average Pinay thus saving me from the fate of being a walking, talking teapot. But other than that --- I am fat.
Kids will always call out “Taba” to me when I walk down the street. Well-meaning busybodies will always tell me “Iha, Sayang ka.” Relatives will keep saying the only reason I am not married with four bratty, sniveling kids attached to my various limbs is because no man would want to marry a mini-van since they all want Corvettes. There may be grains of truth in their words (save for the one where I am “Sayang”), but --- please listen, I am HAPPY. My concern now is to be healthier and that includes losing some weight, but to aim for more than that is hokum for me. Being conventionally beautiful but miserable would greatly alter the Olivia you all know and claim to love. I am Big. I am Reubenesque, and I am just another version of Beautiful. Live with it. Because I can.
3. A Childhood Sweetheart
The first movie I was conscious of watching is My Girl, the one with Macaulay Culkin and Anna Clumsky. I was a bit like the girl protagonist in the movie -- tomboyish, unpretty, with a tendency to wax poetic about ice cream. In that movie, Clumsky finds a childhood sweetheart in Culkin’s character. And the idea of having my own childhood sweetheart was born. Except that the closest I got to childhood sweethearts are Michael J. Fox and a boy band member who turned out be gay (may he rest in peace).
Back when lonely nights were a reality – I sometimes find myself going back to this sore point. I have no sweetheart. No one will show up at my doorstep one day telling me he made a mistake, because we were so young (Liv, forgive me, we were 12!). No one will bump unto me one day in the grocery and introduce me, with a note of sadness in his voice, to his unlovely wife with unsightly facial hair on her chin and a Cabbage Patch looking kid wailing like Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler. And perhaps more bittersweet, is not having the memory of someone whom you shared chocolates, zits and Geometry with which could warm up cold, dark nights stretching endlessly before you.
Good thing, the better side of angels prevails after nights like these. True, I never had a childhood sweetheart. But I had a Childhood. And it was as golden and peach-flavored and rose-tinted as they could come. And some of us don’t have memories of puppy love because other types of Love were keeping your life full and hued. That’s why I have resolved that if I ever find myself being asked the question “Who was your childhood sweetheart?” my answer will be the truth.
“Everyone. And I was theirs.”
To be continued tomorrow….