Yesterday I had the pleasure of walking down to the river for the first time in over a month. The sky was clear, swept with warm breezes, and the sunlight was brilliant but not taxing.
I feel immensely blessed to live near the banks of this river, and so I obligate myself to go there often. I started scolding myself for not visiting the river sooner–really, it has been over a month!– but then my Gentler Self reminded my critical self that it has been raining every day, often all day, for most of the summer. My critical self likes to forget these details so she can make me feel bad about myself. She’s such a bitch, but I’ve yet found a way to evict her from my head. So I just have to recognize when it’s her piping up so my Gentler Self can have her say. That way I can be happy while going to the river and sketching out this scene of a maple tree leaning hard over the fast waters. If it weren’t for my Gentler Self I’d berate myself the whole time. Notice that I gave my critical self an insult by not capitalizing her name. Writer’s Revenge.
I may sound like I’ve got multiple personalities. Maybe so. But really I think we all have some aspect of ourselves constantly on the critical war path against our deepest, truest selves . It is highly beneficial to label the critical voice and put a little distance between ourselves, and our happiness, and these relentless scissor-wielding naysayers. Watch out. They will cut you.
And the truth is, it hasn’t been a month since I’ve been to the river. It’s been a month since I’ve been to “my” part of the river. Last week I met my friend at night and we slipped down to a sandy riverbank and submerged ourselves in the ridiculously cold waters while the moonlight bathed the mist and the trees stood dark as giants by the riverside. Their crowns were illumined by the moon, and their shadowy arms held all manner of forest secrets. We carried one small candle flame that licked at the wet darkness in the sand. We laughed and dared to plunge our warm bodies in the very cold, fast water that gurgled and leapt in tiny waves from its banks. It was exhilarating.
I’m pretty sure now, as I right this, that one of the keys to living a happy life is keeping that critical voice quiet. It isn’t about money, or recognition, but about living life in a way that engages our bodies with the mysteries and pleasures of being alive. That is, at least, the answer that has bubbled through in my writing this morning. I’d like to test that theory. I’m leaving on vacation tomorrow. That’s the perfect time to test such a wild happiness theory. I’ll live the next two weeks in a way that engages my body with the mysteries and pleasures of being alive. And see what happens. Maybe I’ll have to rewrite a better happiness theory, or maybe I’ve stumbled on my best one yet.