There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.
What matters? I ask myself this question thirty times a day now. I am anxious in the grocery store trying to choose which bread to buy. What matters? I say out loud. The man next to me pretends not to notice my muttering. I have to talk out loud because the competing voices in my head want to chime in. If I say it out loud it becomes real, like God speaking the world into being. What matters? I say again and grab the whole wheat that I know is not really all that whole nor wheat but fits into the budget I’ve allotted for the groceries this week.
On the way home, a bright red pickup truck cuts me off, honking. He doesn’t know my life. He doesn’t know why I’m driving too slow in this lane. He flips me the bird and I’m at once angry and ashamed. How does that happen exactly? I want to give a death stare or scream at him. Then I want to shrug my “sorry” and look away. Instead I keep my eyes fixed on the road. Being angry takes a lot of energy. Love is better, but that takes energy too. What matters? I say out loud to no one in the car with me.
Someone I loved told me once that happiness is overrated and I believed him. That was my mistake—the believing. I can listen and I can hear but I don’t have to take those words into my skin and let them live there like a kind of scripture. But I did, and then one day I thought, “What if he is wrong? What if it isn’t overrated? I want to be happy. I’m worthy of it.” And that was the beginning of time.
For the last six months I have been navigating this wall of hurt and pain and sadness and existential crisis. What matters? What really matters? Each thing that crops up in a day I weigh against all the other stresses. There is too much of it. So much that I open my email and find myself paralyzed. I have commitments to fulfill, questions to answer, questions to ask. Email is the worst. Everything in my email wants a response.
I ignore it as long as I can. Does it matter? It strikes me one day that perhaps the response matters to the person on the other side of the email. We type our words into the box, seal it with care and worry and hope and hit “send.” Sometimes it matters. It matters somewhere, to someone, I’m sure. The response is a kind of loving.
Six months of asking this question thirty times a day brings me here: In essence what matters is kindness, care, love, happiness. Happiness matters. It does. I’m sure of it now. I speak those words into the air as I sift through the mail on the counter, keeping what’s necessary, tossing what isn’t needed. I say those words in the grocery store bread aisle. I’ll eat this because I like it; who cares that it’s not really all that whole and only nearly wheat? I’ll say those words out loud to the bright red pickup truck driver who doesn’t know my life. I’ll say those words just before I respond to an email from someone I don’t know who is reaching out for help, who is in a desperate place, and doesn’t know where else to turn. We don’t know each other. Someone told her to contact me, though I don’t understand why. I’m just barely breathing here.
And then I respond, because responding is a kind of loving. Here is what matters—happiness matters. I say to her in my response. I type it to her and I speak the words out loud as I type them—This matters. It does, I tell her, and I know it in my skin and bones, I know it in the air that holds the words captive around my head when I speak them. And that too, was the beginning of time.
Check out Angela's last post, God's Business.
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