Monday, October 15, 2007

Over the river...

...and through the woods, but not to grandmother's house I go. I'm planning a holiday vacation for the week between Xmas and New Year's to a secluded cabin near the river with a fireplace amid plenty of trees and open spaces beneath a deep blue Colorado sky, and plenty of snow, of course. I've been pining for the quiet and seclusion of the cabin and it suddenly occurred to me that I could have all that for a week or so just to recharge my batteries -- at least until I can afford a secluded cabin of my very own.

Usually when I go on vacation I end up going to a funeral or being sick or spending the whole time sleeping late, reading lots of books, and not venturing too far from my own front door. That's not a vacation. It's just a weekend at home where the phone could ring and my office reminds me that I could get in a few extra hours and do some more work. No. I want a real vacation far from the madding crowd where I can look forward to nothing but long walks in the woods or near the river and longer hours of the solitude I need to write. No phones. No Internet. No communication with the outside world except to go into town to buy food or check my email at the local Internet cafe or library. I miss the quiet. And it's what makes me happy.

Happiness. I forgot how that feels sometimes. Not the transient happiness of a moment or two, but the deep down sense of contentment and happiness that comes when I'm at peace with myself and not worrying about paychecks and laundry and bills and all the thousand little things that weigh down on me and press in from every side.

There have been times when I didn't think I deserved to be happy because I didn't measure up to some ideal vision of me or what other people expected of me. I was wrong. Yes, you heard it here first -- I WAS WRONG. It's not that the Constitution guarantees me the right to the pursuit of happiness; I've been pursuing it a long time. As a human being I deserve to be happy because that is -- or at least should be -- the essential nature of being human. Happiness without guilt or shame or someone else's expectations beating at me until I'm not sure if I deserve to live let alone be happy. Simple, easy, no holds barred happiness. I can barely remember the last time I felt that way and I miss that feeling.

It suddenly occurred to me while I was writing in my journal last night before I went to sleep that while I have missed the time I was in jail in New Orleans, it wasn't jail I missed. I missed the quiet and solitude (no, I wasn't in solitary confinement), the lack of responsibilities and duties and expectations (other than staying out of the guards' ways and following their orders), the freedom to set my my mind and soul free from everyday concerns to sit down and just write. I've had that same sense of contentment at other times: at the cabin, when I first moved to Hudson, Ohio, and a few other times. They all had one thing in common -- I wasn't plugged into the neighborhood or the community. I was new and didn't know anyone and there was plenty of quiet. It was during those times that I wrote a lot. I started and finished a book in two weeks and it was bought by a publisher. Of course, it was a work for hire but I finished it in two weeks and it was good and still sells quite a few copies.

I have a friend who dreams of being a hobo and I finally understand why. He longs for the solitude and quiet of wide open spaces without the constant racket of civilization or the pressing demands of being a member of society, a cog in the neighborhood wheel, an ATM dispensing cash and paying bills with a hundred or more items on his "honey do" list.

This must be what it's like to be a telepath, to have all those minds and thoughts crowding out your own thoughts until you can't think, let alone be productive.

This morning I took steps. I looked at several properties and rates and started sending out emails and filling out forms. I know the dates I want to go and I know where I want to go -- higher into the mountains near running water with lots of trees, wild animals and solitude -- and I found a few. They're not perfect because I want a small rustic cabin in the middle of nowhere but still close enough to a little town for supplies and amenities, but most of the places are for families and groups. I'm still looking but I have a plan for a real vacation and for the first time in a while I feel happy; it's a happiness I know I deserve. I don't doubt that now.

One thing I have figured out, besides what I need, is that happiness is not a prize for being good, making your bed, and eating all your vegetables, it's not a treat for swallowing your anger or making nice with people who don't care about you and probably never will, it's not even a bonus for doing a good job and being kind to animals and strangers (or your own family). Happiness just is and everyone who takes a breath, whose heart beats, and who is willing to reach out and take hold of it deserves it. Criminal, murderer, wife, husband, mother, father, kid, adult, good person or bad, everyone deserves happiness. I know where mine is.

That is all. Disperse.

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