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The Good/Bad Paradox
Of the many things I expected to experience in the just-concluded Mercury Retrograde, there was a lot on my bingo card that I called: missing my exit on the freeway; forgetting to renew my car registration on time which meant I was charged a $40 penalty atop the already hefty registration fee (please DO NOT let me go on about how we have to pay to drive cars than we already paid for, DON’T) and then proceeding to almost miss my in-person AAA appointment to get said tags; ordering Postmates to an old airbnb I stayed in in Joshua Tree as opposed to my apartment; liking someone’s really old Instagram post; saying “happy birthday” on the wrong day; check. All check. But questioning relationships and navigating changes in them? These were items that weren’t on my bingo card but had to do my best to cope through anyhow.
You see, I like to consider myself as someone who knows how to cope well. I would even go so far as to say that if it’s one thing I know I am (categorically and objectively) good at, it’s coping. My headstone should read Here Lies James Junk, Cunt & Coper. Whatever the universe—or this godforsaken, gun violence-ridden, uterus-anathematizing, climate crisis-upbraided, hate-crammed post-capitalist hellscape we call Earth—has thrown at me, whether that be a Huge Life Thing such as shifts in relationship dynamics or simply the cost of living becoming increasingly higher as we speak (did you hear that? I think I just heard the rent of a studio in my city go up another hundred dollars in the time it took me to write that sentence alone)—I have always found a way to cope. And healthily, dare I add.
(Not that I’m slighting copious amounts of unchased Tito’s shots or doing lines at a frat bathroom as ways of coping.)
But there is something about the changes that have come my way in the past few months that has, in short, fucked me up. And I haven’t known quite how to cope with them. Is it that my handy dandy coping techniques have run their course and I’m in need of a few new ones? Or have I entered a new level of #adulthood in which some problems and changes are best handled by, well, not handling them?
The latter is what fucks me up (rather what’s been fucking me up), because if I ignore these changes that clearly bother me, how can I be happy? I like to be happy; I’m just like everyone else in this world. And that’s the conundrum here: how can one be happy if they’re not feeling 100%?
I’m not licensed in the psychology of happiness, or host a self-development podcast called How to Be Happy, but still I will instill in you some quasi-wisdom: your happiness need not be perfect. You can have problems and still be happy. You can have a deadline breathing down your neck and still be happy. You can go through a breakup and still be happy. You can go through a friendship shakeup and still be happy. You can be broke, broken, and still be happy. Your life does not have to be perfect in order for you to allow yourself to be happy. Read that again. This stupid ass world we call home has ingrained in our brains that unless we have a house on the strand, unless we’ve ticked off everything on our to-do list, unless we’ve gotten over all our trauma, unless this, this, or fucking that, that we won’t be happy. And that simply isn’t true. I think you and I both know that. And while yes, it’s good to have goals and ambitions in life, we have to remember that our happiness shouldn’t be a contingency. Because, really, if we wait until our lives are flawless and foolproof and furnished to our most liking to be happy, then happy we will never be.
If we wait until our lives are flawless and foolproof and furnished to our most liking to be happy, then happy we will never be.
But please don’t take this as me groundlessly anointing myself one of the cognoscenti as it relates to being happy, because I am one sad motherfucker. I have bad days, too. I have wallowing days filled with anxiety, with self-pity, with dragging histrionics. All I’m saying is maybe the bad in life is part of the good. Maybe what makes the good so good is because of the bad; maybe one cannot exist without the other. Or is that too philosophical for your liking? Because I’m going to be honest, typing that out, it’s treading a fine line for mine.
In October of last year I posted a letter on Instagram of thoughts I had in this very paradox I’ve just mentioned. It read: “I’ve been running around finding the good in life. And there is an abundance of it. The world is filled past the brim of it. The catch is that it’s offset by the non-good in life, and as humans, we tend to focus on the non-good than the good.” In the following paragraph, I wrote: “Life is constructed of moments. Small. Big. Glimmering. Radiant. And we all live these moments. From walking barefoot on the grass to dancing in the kitchen with someone we love. And this is all to say that this is it. And we have to remind ourselves that we’re going to make it, that our hard work counts, that we are worthy of everything, and that we will go through this. Whatever this is. Because if we hyperfixate on every little thing that needs fixing in our lives, we neglect to focus on what makes us whole.”
Have I found the good in life since then? I’ve found plenty. I’ve made memories I’m going to always remember with people I’m going to cherish forever. I’ve laughed, I’ve smiled. I’ve learned things about myself. About others. I’ve overcome challenges. I’ve discovered things about the world. I’ve been happy. I’ve made myself happy.
And so listen. I don’t know if there was another Mercury Rx at the time I wrote that, but it is lousy to know just how sometimes, what we thought we knew how to do, we actually kinda don’t. For me, that’s the situation in the case of coping; maybe I never really knew how to cope, or maybe I just need to learn how to cope better. But I know one thing: my happy-ness isn’t going to be reliant on how perfect or non-perfect my life is. At least not anymore.
So what is all this to you? I don’t know. Take what’s resonated, leave what hasn’t. But I will end with this: don’t let how good or how bad your life be what lets you give or not give yourself permission to be happy. You deserve to be happy no matter what your circumstances. And it is on you to determine how to make yourself happy. Your happiness rests upon your shoulders and yours only. And I hope you do. I hope we all do. Because, in the words of method actress Kim Kardashian, it’s what we deserve. Ad interim, however, I’ll be here, telling you what to do with your life without you asking, pretending I didn’t just desert this newsletter for months on end.
Rowing Blazers Polar Fleece Pullover – I’m a dirty slut for a snap-T, and this one hit every mark on my criteria. Color contrast of hot pink and hunter green? Check. Light enough for summer nights but heavy enough so as not to feel nippy when wind is in the picture? Check. Brandmark on the left chest corner and right arm? Check. Unfortunately sold out, but I’m sure it’ll be back. Be on the lookout.
Goorin Bros. Cash Cow Trucker – this hat doesn’t come off, not even in sexy time! (Just kidding! Ha-ha. Or am I.) I have it in a white Panther one, too, and I’m equally enamoured. The shape frames my head so well that I’ve effectively stopped wearing other hats but these. And at a fair cost, too.
bee biology Mixtape – this is a playlist I put together a few weeks ago to bike to. If you ever need to clear your mind, or just be in nature, or a playlist to drive to with the windows down, play this.
Lychee Martinis – you guys, lychee is that bitch. I mean, we been knew she’s that bitch, but I feel like over the past few weeks, she’s really been eating up all the other fruits in the cocktail arena. Make your own lychee martini or head to the nearest overpriced cocktail bar in your vicinity.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer – this was last week’s read and when I tell you I felt seen, called out, exposed: that’s what I mean. This Pulitzer-winning novel is the methodical telling of arid writer Arthur Less’ fiftieth birthday spent traveling all over the world. I don’t want to give too much away, but I didn’t expect to relate to someone who was white and 50 years old. And yet.
Til the next email,