“The last time you were happy about nothing. The first time you were afraid about nothing. Which came first?“
– Jean Rhys, After Leaving Mr Mackenzie.
What does it mean to be happy about nothing? Is a sunny day nothing? Is a branch full of native cherry blossom nothing? A garden full of tulips? What about on a rainy day – could I be happy then too? I see myself sitting wrapped in a blanket, a gardenia fragranced candle burning, lost in the pages of a Hardy novel, occasionally lifting my head to watch a trickle of rain race down a window pane. But what if I’m outside in the rain? I am happy if I’m well dressed in a windproof mac and carrying an umbrella, boots splashing through puddles, high on the scent of the earth enjoying its long drink. Yet a rainy day is often not like that. What if the rain is sudden and I’m wearing summer clothes, my shoes are letting in water, there is an artic chill blowing through the buttons of my shirt and I’ve a long day of being soggy and frizzy haired in front of me? Can I be happy then: when everything is a physical struggle and the end is so far in sight to focus on it brings no relief?
I need to declare that I am an optimist, a wild and reckless optimist. The sun blasts from my heart and even when it hurts, even when I’m fragile and breaking, I believe that the best is yet to come. But I think to be happy is to be delighted by something. When was the last time I was happy about nothing? I’m not sure it is possible: the world is full of little somethings to focus happiness upon: a lawn full of buttercups, a crow engrossed in learning to hop across a wall, the sound of bamboo rustling in the breeze. Where is there nothing?
But joy? Joy is the rose tinted corneas I see the world through, with its disappointments of artic chills and soggy feet, bank accounts that won’t stretch though the month, and the missed kisses that will never warm my skin again. This joy is the way I see the world, and the way I pick out my happiness.
When was the last time you were joyful about nothing? Now. Right now.