Tricky word, that.
Trickier still to encapsulate in the span of a facebook post. I don't like putting such things up and out in public; despite my extroverted persona among friends I'm actually a pretty private person when you come down to it. Still, it was asked of me and I always endeavor to at least try to grant the requests of others, albeit with varying degrees of success.
There's a great line in a comic book that's stuck with me over the years. It comes from the oft-overlooked-but-still-pretty-good mini-series BATMAN: YEAR TWO. A lost love of Bruce Wayne's comes back into his life and he asks her if she's happy. She replies "I'm content. It's more than most people have."
Dennis Leary also put it another way, stating that happiness comes in small doses(like a cigarette, a chocolate chip cookie, a five-second orgasm). You smoke the butt, you eat the cookie, you. . .well, y'know. . .and then you go back to work. Happiness is something to be cherished and savored in the moment, because all too often it seems like life has the sole mandated purpose of taking a person with hopes, dreams, and aspirations and ruthlessly grinding their respective faces into a mixture of equal parts gravel and broken glass. We're all adrift on this planet spinning at ludicrous speeds through the black of space. The only certainty in life is that everything is uncertain. That the universe was here long before us and will be here long after us. Everything else is a matter of personal perspective. Happiness is a candle against the darkness, it keeps us going and helps us maintain. Happiness, courtesy, and deceny are the three pillars to getting out of this madcap existence--well, not alive, but at least with some semblance of dignity and sanity intact.
Here then, in no particular order, are the things that make me happy:
1) My family. I was born to loving parents, have a sibling who is easily the best friend I will ever have (don't tell him I said so, I'll never hear the end of it), and grew up in a community of relations that--while I don't see near as often as I like--I care about a great deal. There's the old saw about it taking a village to raise a child, I was raised in a community of witty men, strong women, and excellent peers who were and remain a comfort to me in spirit if not always in the flesh. Nova Scotia is in the heart, wherever I go she's always with me, and the family there I love and adore even if I'm not always vocal about it.
2) My friends. Old, recent, and otherwise. I'm an introverted extrovert by nature; I learned quick as my family moved about the country that if I was the Funny One, people would tolerate me, if not always accept me. Over the years I've made some amazing friends, all of them warm, caring, funny, and giving people who for reasons that perplex me still find time to tolerate a slightly standoffish pop-culture junkie loudmouth. I sometimes become irritable with being made to leave my solitude, but it's at those moments Common Sense tends to smack me upside the head and remind me "Hey, dickhead, these people care about you and want to spend time with you." That tends to put things in perspective.
3) The Fanboy Power Hour. Something that was started on a whim has actually become a source of pride to me. When we started out I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Now. . .okay, I still really don't know what the hell I'm doing, but I'm proud of the accompishment of not only starting something, but sticking with it for 3 years. It's a labor of love for myself, Ryan, and Cody, and while we may or may not blow up to Smithian or Wheatonian proportions, it's still fun to sit around the table, talk, and laugh with these guys.
4) Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror fiction. A lot of you never met my cousin Nathan, but you know the impact he had on Ryan and I in a big, bad way. Nathan was my age, but always seemed older somehow, more together. He was a fan of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and hip-hop, and those things have left a lasting impact on my psyche. Nathan helped turn me on to the Dragonlance series, to Heinlein, to Warhammer Fantasy and then straight on to Tolkien. He ran the first roleplaying game I ever played, and we watched ARMY OF DARKNESS in the basement of my aunt and uncle's place and my love of wiseass heroes was forever set in stone. Nathan pointed me to the path that led from being a kid who happened to read science ficiton and fantasy into a fan of such things, into a reader who embraced genre and wasn't afraid to read 'those weird books' as my mother called them(but who never once kept me from reading). Sometimes I sit and wonder what he would have made of today's pop culture landscape. I expect he would have dug it to no end.
5) Writing. Lately my schedule has been up in the air, but writing is so much a part of the background noise of my life that no matter how much life slings at me, I'm always working on something. The revisions on the novel, the short stories, they're all something I am intensely proud of. Yeah, I'm no John Grisham or Stephen King (hell, I'm not even a John Saul), but you learn something as you go through the motions and sit down to the blank screen or sheet of paper. It isn't about that. That is all extraneous bullshit. Because in that special, sweet spot you hit when the words are moving through you and the scene is spinning out before you and for one brief, flickering moment it doesn't feel like this is a creation of your mind but almost like a window into somewhere else. . .it's a feeling adjectives struggle to convey, but if you've been there, you know it exactly. I may never be anyone of note, but as long as I get to feel that feeling, like I'm fulfilling the function I was made for, in the place where I belong, I'll be a happy man.
6) Laughter. Being able to make people laugh is something I live for, and being able to joke around with friends is something that helps me maintain. If I'm making someone else laugh, if I'm providing a sliver of joy on a given day, my own worries seem a bit more trivial and a lot more managable.
And there you are. There's other stuff of course (comics, movies, Doctor Who, Babylon 5, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc), but those are the key things. The things I can rely on to make me smile even when the world seems to want to treat me like a disposable commodity, when the darkness is closing in and all reason says that I'm nothing like what I thought I'd be and its far too late in the game to try. When the shadows close in and I feel the old familiar misery trying to settle onto my shoulders, I think of these things. And I get by. Here's hoping you get by too.