Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, et al., once declared, “Happiness is a warm blanket.” I didn’t know what happiness was when I read the book, but I was pretty sure a warm blanket wasn’t it. Maybe I was being a wet blanket. In my defense, I read the book on a 90-degree day back before I had central air. A warm blanket did not sound like such a great thing.
I have been thinking about happiness a lot these days. I seem to be happy. Weird.
Happiness is a tricky thing, especially for someone who makes their living griping about stuff. The great thing about writing down all the things you don’t like in the world is that it leaves your head once it’s on paper, sort of like a grocery list. Have you ever wandered around your house going, “I need milk, eggs, peanut butter and frozen spinach”? A continuing loop of “milk, eggs, peanut butter and frozen spinach” plays over and over again in your head. Then, when you write it, it goes away. That’s a lot like writing this column.
I will tell you things like, “I hate going over to a friend’s house to watch a movie,” or “I hate corporate buzzwords,” etc. Ad nauseum. Every Saturday for three years straight. If you don’t believe me, pick up a copy of “Below Average Genius,” and see for yourself. By the way, I do other things than complain. I also like to tell everyone what a big idiot I am. Those columns are oddly popular.
Once I write it down, it goes away. Every week someone says to me, “What was last week’s column about?” and I stare quizzically into the sky and finally cough up, “I have no idea.”
It’s a lot like writing down that grocery list. Once it’s on paper, it’s out of my head. The other day, I was at Giant Eagle and I realized I forgot the list. I came home with two bricks of frozen spinach, eggs and milk, and forgot the peanut butter. Luckily, I wasn’t making something that required both frozen spinach and peanut butter, because that would be gross.
Griping and complaining to you guys has helped me a lot. Knowing what happiness isn’t, has led me to what happiness is.
The other day, I was in the shower and I opened a new shampoo. I loved the smell of it. It made me happy. Then, I immediately thought, I am way weird for thinking that a shampoo can make me happy. I am now a little bit more forgiving of Charles M. Schulz.
I said goodbye to a dear friend with a long, lingering hug. I jumped under the covers on a cold night and I thought, “You know, maybe happiness is a warm blanket.” It’s a thought I’m much more likely to have over a long winter than during a hot, sweltering summer.
I wish happiness was some more quantifiable, less ephemeral thing. I wish there was a formula I could share with you other than, “write down stuff you hate and get it published.”
I guess happiness is where you find it, whether it’s a hug, a warm blanket or scented shampoo. Just start counting things that make you happy and before you know it, you’ll be happy, or, better yet, happier.