I have a hard time just letting happiness wash over me. Almost every instance of real nice, swelling comfort I experience is followed quickly by a splash to the face, a subconscious nag asking that I practically say “hello” to it. And, of course, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too (what an annoying idiom); to poke at your feeling-good is to pop the bubble it floated in on. So, every now and then, when my mind finally catches up to the tangible fortune it’s running behind, and I’m overcome by “I am okay,” more often than not I end up popping that bubble.
- The feeling: “Wow, I feel really great! I think I get it!”
- The poking: “How did I end up feeling this good? How’d I get here?”
- The popping: “I’ve gotta bottle it somehow, so I can remember how I got here.”
- The pop: “There’s gotta be a bottle around here somewh—…”
I poke it because of fear. (Most things are also probably because of fear, and that’s not even a bit of negative melodrama; fear, alongside rationality, is a for-realsie cornerstone of health.) I’m afraid of change, specifically the change inside my head, and more specifically I am afraid of not being aware. Of losing my head.
And so I’m nervously wired to try to be as conscious as possible—to look into the edge of the torchlight—to be wide-eyed—to ask questions and to move. This includes being aware of myself, and that includes my feelings, like those happy-bubbles that pop when you notice them too sharply. I’m tightly-wound and I hold myself to this pretty strictly, and I’d be lying if I said that that rigidity has nothing to do with hatching the fear in the first place.
But then it only pops once I’ve ruined the feeling’s sacredness with a foray into its origin. I feel like I have to record it, and because you can’t plug your brain in to a spinning metal disc and have it etched with your current metaphysical being, that means to get up in that feeling’s grill and think about your feeling it, and to make something. You rearrange stuff, put energy in it, make it deliberate, or sorta deliberate, and it becomes a reflection of yourself. When I feel all put-together, I feel like I need to do that.
At first I thought it was so that I could take that comfort and stay there—to trap myself in the feeling-good. But now I think I’ve always known better than that. I know better than to want to get stuck in a feeling, no matter how good, or to think that that’s even possible. To be stuck in a feeling is to stop moving, and that, I’m pretty sure, is also known as eternity: living on one dot of time. It is the classic siren of humankind. It is the scariest thing I can imagine. Yet our instincts always draw us to it, because our instincts have a hard time seeing what’s worse than death.
I think I just feel a need to bottle it so that I don’t forget it happened. By creating something in its name, you lay a breadcrumb trail back the way you came, so in traveling it again you can summon its memory. You make a thing that reflects that feeling so you can feel what it felt like to feel it again, even if it’s just for a moment. Simple!
The feeling, the poking, the popping—it all reminds me that growth is not just a privilege, but also a compromise. We hand over bliss, and ignorance—at least as much as we found underneath the couch cushions—and we get velocity. We trade in a dull light that’s powered by its own volition for another that flickers farther into that Chimeroan-simile cave, but that we have to work for—one powered by our own volition. In return, we get to inflate ourselves until we collide with the world, but to let the bits that we roll over stick to us, and to think about them, and not to crush them, like a Katamari with you at the core. It means to pop bubbles and sometimes feel a hindered happiness.
It’s easy to forget that the fleetingness of joy—how a hurricane becomes a drizzle within minutes and then a drought within weeks and then a drizzle within weeks again—is one truth to hardcore rejoice in, because it only means that I’m moving, and that time exists, and that this too shall pass.