Mary Anne's journal makes me jealous in a number of ways because she is able to take simple pleasures in a way that seems to elude me. I'm not saying I don't have any - I mean, I take joy in a good meal and so forth - but Mary Anne can sit in a room and just feel sensory currents wash over her, just take joy in being in that particular place in that particular way at that particular time. She can find more solace in a single cup of tea than I can find in a month of fine dining. Reading her prose about New Orleans made me wonder if she was actually visiting the same place I grew up around. I'm not saying I don't see good things in New Orleans - viz my first novel, which you will never read - but they are not the same things she sees. Amazing!
I was at first tempted to dismiss this with a simple -- well, I'm a hedonist. Or, well, I'm an optimist. But then I started thinking about what that means, exactly, and whether it's a trait that can be shared, or learned. It'd be nice if it could, because honestly, I really am one of the happiest people I know. And in part, that's because I've tailored my life pretty well to let me do the kind of things I like to do. But it's not just that -- even when I hated my job, I still had this kind of personality. The kind that can be made really happy by a cup of tea -- and in fact, is made really happy by a cup of tea every morning. Or by sunlight on the water. Or the way the air feels right after it rains.
Am I so unusual in this? I was startled by Todd's post; I guess I assumed that everyone basically felt this way, and that maybe I just talked about it more. But maybe not; maybe some other people really have a less pleasurable experience of the world. And if so, why would that be? We all have basically the same senses, right?
The only thing I can think of is that on some level, I *choose* to dwell on the pleasurable sensations. And concurrently, that I really avoid dwelling on the unpleasant ones. Which is perhaps not an entirely healthy thing -- if your hand hurts, you want to check to see if you've cut or burned it. You don't want to concentrate on how pretty the roses outside your window look. Or, more plausibly, you don't want to get back into an old relationship because you've managed to erase all the stressful, difficult times out of your memory and just focused on the good stuff...which you've made even better simply by being enthusiastic about it, dwelling on it, intensifying the experience. Right?
I'm really not very introspective -- or at least, I haven't been, compared to a lot of people I know. I've gotten more so, in the last few years of living alone. And this journal has helped immensely in making me more aware of what's going on with me. I know there have been umpteen entries in the last few days -- it's in part a way of processing everything that's gone on in the last chaotic few weeks. Recording and interpreting and exerting some measure of control, all at once. If I don't train myself to do this kind of thing, I tend to just exist in my body, at the mercy of whatever emotional whims come along, both highs and lows.
You tend to hear more about the highs because I was trained not to whine in public. Or at least to be funny about it if you're going to do it. It doesn't mean I don't get sad, sometimes very sad. For example, I mentioned that I was only awake for about ten hours on Sunday? What I didn't mention is that I spent most of those hours weeping, hopelessly, helplessly, off and on. That I called Kevin up and made him buy a ticket to come visit me and talk this stuff out more and try to come to a resolution. (He's arriving next Tuesday, staying through Sunday morning). I'm honestly not sure why I was in such an emotional state -- I felt fine when I got up on Monday. Happy. Content.
I asked Kevin once if I was low-maintenance or high-maintenance. He said that I was generally very low-maintenance with occasional periods of very high-maintenance. Sounds about right.
I'm rambling. My point is, I guess, that I'm an emotional person who (subconsciously, but very effectively) tries to dwell on the positive side of life. And that I've had to train myself to do a little more introspection and analysis, which has given me more overall perspective (and in some ways, more happiness, though it's of a more placid nature). I suspect people like Todd (and possibly Kevin) fall on the other side of the fence -- that the introspection and analysis come naturally to them, and that perhaps they need to train themselves (I'm not sure how) to experience the emotional and sensory pleasures (and sorrows) fully. 'Need to' is probably too strong a statement. But it might at least be worth a try. If they can figure out how. I suspect they'd find it intensely uncomfortable for a while, though.