Yesterday I walked around carrying a secret smile, feeling content and happy as I rode to and from work and contemplating an evening with old friends who are in town from back home, and my girls. As I rode on the subway to meet everyone at our friends’ hotel, I got thinking about the idea of contentment, and how it relates to “happy.” Does the presence of the former always result in the latter? Because goodness knows “content” isn’t a term I’d use to describe myself; I’ve never been particularly content. But I have been happy for substantial chunks of my life.
Leaving my hometown and coming to this city was a product of that perpetual discontentment, but leaving behind certain people and certain familiarities was the painful part of that decision. Leaving was something I had to do in striving for my own happiness, but it didn’t come without consequence, psychologically and financially. But as I have been reminded each time I return there, the love of my people remains steadfast, and maybe that has, in its gentle way, helped me to find my ground here. I still get asked if I will come home, but they all understand why I am here.
They know that in some ways, DIScontentment makes me happy. I have this fear of becoming stagnant; of living a life of never changing, never growing. I don’t suppose all the moving around I’ve done is necessarily akin to growth and change – I know many people who have lived in a place all their lives and have evolved and grown in all kinds of beautiful ways. But there is this constant yearning to “move on” within, and maybe my physical moving around is a misguided manifestation of that. Happiness is often associated as the end product of the striving – when we all know it’s the striving itself that really causes happiness; the small, sometimes methodical steps; the actions.
Last year, in an attempt to live the notion that ‘happiness is the journey not the destination’ I turfed the quest of finding “home” in this new city and left it up to “home” to find me. I had some journeying to do in the meantime. It was the right decision. I still consider my current home as a “temporary place to hang my hat” but it doesn’t matter anymore. The discontentment has been sent back to where it belongs – in my mind – no longer directed at the walls and streets around me.
Maybe my feeling of contentment yesterday was because the “twain met.” The comfort of the love and history and fellowship from back home lived together in the realm of the discontented soul, gently tugging it back from the journey for a bit of a breather.
And I was still wearing that secret smile when I walked home at the end of the evening and went to bed.
It’s December 1st. Today is the birthday of one of the most important people in my life – my oldest (though younger than me) pal, Lynn.
Lynn is the most loyal friend you could ask for. We first met in kindergarten, and we're still like sisters today. She moved with her family to a city about 30 minutes away from our town just as we finished our first year of high school, but ever since then, despite those gaps in time – some larger, some smaller – we never let go of each other. And the best thing about us is that, EVERY SINGLE TIME we’ve got together, particularly after those longer gaps, we’ve marvelled at how comfortable and real it is together. Like time has evaporated.
Lynn, I know we’ll be still finding those times after the gaps when we’re 80. I can’t remember life without you pal. I can remember you and your girly sniffing into a hankie when you fretted about how you were going to get home from school on the first day of kindergarten. You still talk about that time a year later when I announced in grade one that my sister Jane was born.
I remember us mostly in the seventies. When CKLW ran Top 40 songs over the AM waves to our little radios – people like Paul McCartney and Wings, Gordon Lightfoot, Mac Davis, Terry Jacks and Elton John. I remember when we both had bedrooms covered in orange wallpaper. I can still hear the sound of the spoon stirring the tea when your mom brewed us a pot after school.
I remember when we stole a couple of cigarettes from your mom’s Rothman’s pack and took them and “smoked” them behind our school before the weekly watching of the Amherstburg Band practice. I remember both of our first kisses. I remember that we both got our periods two months after our 12th birthdays. When we had sleepovers at your house on a Friday night, we got to have coke and Lays chips. When we had sleepovers at my house, we had under-the-broiler grilled cheese sandwiches.
Happy birthday sister-friend. I hope you had a good day. If we don’t see each other real soon – I know we’ll both be comfortable in the knowing that when we do, it’ll be as fun and familiar as it ever was.