In fact, my new catchphrase is, “I’m so happy!” Ask anyone. I say it so often; it’s almost embarrassing.
But what I mean is, I’m joyful. Even on bad days, even on the totally shit ones when my head won’t stop pounding and my kids won’t stop screaming and someone’s eating pizza and drinking beer right in front of me (!), I’m still joyful. I feel like I know myself better than I have in years. I feel more alive, more aware, more at peace, and more at home in my own skin than I ever really have.
Because the world is opening up for me. Because I have nothing really, no money or fame, no power or influence, no stakes to claim in the present. I have nothing on the line, nothing to lose, yet I have everything to gain.
I plant my flags in the future. I aim for the horizon. And even as I do this, I know that failure can’t touch me, can’t stain me. Failure is life, it’s a part of life. Fine, so be it.
I am loved. What else do I need?
Bring on the failure! Come, storms! I’m alive; you can’t kill me. I’m alive and the universe cares. I’m loved; I’m invincible.
In her wonderful children’s novel A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeline L’Engle writes of a dog called Ananda. The dog comes in a dark hour into the lives of the characters, wagging her tail, resting her head on their knees. One character asks, “What does ‘Ananda’ mean?”
And someone else answers, “It means, ‘that joy in existence without which the universe would be lost.’ ”
Anyway. That may not be an accurate translation of the name Ananda. But that is an accurate description of what I have.
That joy in existence without which the universe would be lost.
And I know, of course I know, that dark hours lie ahead. But this is the joy I want to keep, the joy I want to remember. The joy of being this age, in this time and place, of waking to life and love, teaching and learning. Cooking and reading and serving coffee and grading papers and holding hands and playing music and writing writing writing.
Meeting people I can smile genuinely at, knowing that they are as important in their existence as I am. That they, too, have gold and purple flags planted on future hills, flashing in the sun. Future glory.
I want to give everyone my Ananda. Be Ananda. Look for it. Hunt for it. Grope around in your darkness. Hold your breath and dive for it as for a great pearl.
Let her come to you when you need her, wagging her tail. Let her rest her head on your knee.
Let yourself be loved. So far as I can see, that is happiness.