upon reflection, everything's fine
We learned once in freshman year acting class that emotions in their truest form only last for seven seconds at a time. Hold on to the emotion any longer, and you start to look unbelievable, fake. Hold an emotion for any longer than seven seconds and that's exactly what you're doing- holding on. And we can all see it's not real.
I was taught this rule right at the beginning of all of my newness, right when the molotov cocktail of adolescent emotions and being away from your parents for the first time threatened to take me down, leaving me dead as a doornail in my air-conditioned dorm room, right at the moment when I thought I may not ever make it back to myself. This was what I needed to know. One long breath in, one out. Everything is manageable for seven seconds.
But this is not a failsafe.
On January 6th I was eight days into my seven seconds. Right in the middle of a beautiful work of anxiety Spin Art. I reminded myself of this surely immutable law- reminded myself that this wouldn't last longer than a big breath all the way in and hold and hold and hold and breathe all the way out. All clear. Open your eyes, look left and right, check under the bed and the monsters have made themselves a pillow fort.
My seven seconds lasted a month.
I tried everything I could think of. But most of what I could think of was self-pity. So I tried to think of new things.
Bo Burnham once said, in the middle of one of his comedy/clarity rants, that we've collectively forgotten that happiness is not default. Happiness is not a state of being. It's an emotion. And therefore subject to laws of the universe of emotions that say happiness can only exist in its purest form for seven seconds at a time. And yet there I was looking for the thing that would knock me back to center, back to less worry, back to not having private moments in public places, back to happy. But I kept failing, and the failing only made it worse and worse and worse.
John Green's latest novel contains the line "the problem with happy endings is that they're either not really happy, or not really endings, you know? In real life, some things get better and some things get worse." And anyone who knows me knows I'm an easy cryer, but the tears that this line (and admittedly, the whole second half of the book) brought to me were because of something somewhere that knew that searching for the happy ending was what was getting me into trouble in the first place.
When I looked down, I had Happiness clenched in my white knuckles, forcing her to make a home in a hostile environment.
No wonder it didn't want to stick around.
I say all this to say that the only thing that ended up working was not working so hard.
The moment I relinquished my hold, sweet Happiness gave me a peck on the nose and settled quietly into my solar plexus.
She was always just playing hard to get.
And every time seven seconds passes, I know I can find her again.
So, upon reflection, everything's fine.
Until it isn't again.
But all I have to do is wait for those seven seconds to be over,
however long they may last.