I teach a yoga class for my friends on Sunday afternoons. Usually I get three or four people, but today almost no one was able to make it. One friend was working, another was out of town, and a third was eating deep-friend bacon-wrapped Mars Bars at the Ex. You know, the usual Labour Day weekend stuff.
My friend Susan, however, did show up, but both of us were having a hard time getting up off the couches in the lobby and going into the actual studio. We stalled ourselves by talking about Richard III and Anne Boleyn. We promised ourselves that in five minutes we would get up. We even tried bribing ourselves with a short practice and a long savasana.
None of this worked. We just couldn’t be tricked into practicing.
Instead we hung out, discussed about my favourite vacation idea (The Dead Author Tour of New England – it is going to be amazing), critiqued the trailer for the new Anna Karenina movie (you guys, I can’t even), and talked about how difficult it is for both of us to take time off – we both feel like we need to relax but then get stressed out over how much not-relaxing we end up doing.
Finally, Susan asked if I maybe wanted to go get a pedicure. I wasn’t super stoked on the idea, because I’d just painted my toenails a few days earlier, but agreed that we should do something. Something other than lolling around on couches, I mean. So we left and started walking north along Yonge street.
Trudging uphill in the humid, late-summer air, I suddenly realized what I wanted to do: I wanted to sit in the park, drink grownup drinks and read magazines.
Let’s do it, said Susan.
We sat in the park, we drank, we read excerpts of articles out loud to each other. We talked the way pre-adolescents do, about everything and nothing, mixing big, smart-sounding ideas with meaningless trivia.
At one point, embarrassed about confusing A Room With a View and A Room of One’s Own (don’t judge), I flopped back onto the grass and stared up into the leaves of the tree we were sitting under.
Whoa, I said, you have to see this tree.
Why, asked Susan, lying down beside me, have we been reading magazines like chumps when we could have been looking at this tree all along?
That was a fair question.
It was one of those moments where everything is absolutely perfect; a moment where you wouldn’t change a thing, not the colour of the sky, or the temperature of the air, or even the tiny ant crawling up your leg. It was a moment so good that I was already experiencing nostalgia for it, even while it was still happening.
It made Susan think of a quote from Vonnegut’s A Man Without A Country:
“If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
It made me think of the part in the Stand By Me when Older Gordie Lachance, who’s narrating the movie, reflects back on Vern (played by an itty bitty Jerry O’Connell) saying, this is a really good time:
“Vern didn’t just mean being off limits inside the junkyard, or fudging on our folks, or going on a hike up the railroad tracks to Harlow. He meant those things, but it seems to me now it was more and that we all knew it. Everything was there and around us. We knew exactly who we were and exactly where we were going. It was grand.”
Although I’m not sure that either Susan or I could say with any conviction that we know exactly who we are or exactly where we’re going, it did seem that the whole of what we were experiencing was greater than the sum of its parts. It was more than magazines and booze and the hazy, golden early September air around us – yes, it was all of those things, but it was also how easy happiness was in that moment.
I often feel as if I’m constantly chasing happiness, whatever happiness means, only to have doubt or fear or anxiety push it just out of reach. And yet, here I’d achieved it effortlessly. How did that happen?
Later (actually, a fair bit later than I’d originally intended), I walked home to my family. I opened our front door to find Matt and his brother Adam feeding Theo grapes. I mumbled an apology for my lateness, and Matt said, that’s okay.
He didn’t say it in a way that sounded angry or begrudging, even though I’d delayed everyone’s dinner by at least an hour. He said it in a way that meant, I don’t mind and I hope you had a good time.
After supper, as I did the dishes, I could hear Theo shrieking with laughter as he played with my brother-in-law in the other room. I thought, This is good. I am lucky.
And then, more than anything, I wanted to write this out. When things get hard again, as they inevitably will, I want to have this memory preserved somewhere outside of my head. I want it to be able to exist perfectly in and of itself without my mind distorting it. I want to have this here to remind myself that happiness is not only possible, but even, sometimes, easy.
I want to remember that I am lucky.
And if that’s not nice, I don’t know what is.
Oh, and also I found this amazing shirt at Book City. See? Lucky!