In the amazingly good new HBO TV series True Detective, one of the characters in his later lonely years reflects on a period in his past and notes that those were his happiest years and he hadnt even noticed them until they were over.
The concept of the happiest years resonated with me as over the last few months amongst other realisations of mortality and age, i had begun to understand and fear the loneliness of old age, especially those final years of a childless widower. Appreciating that these past years have been my happiest has only made what is after all only one possible future of many all the more bleaker.
Recently, my Facebook feed has been filled with studies and quotes linking gratitude to happiness. The implication is that adopting a grateful approach to life opens you up to appreciating and experiencing happiness. But I think rather that it is the opposite, that recognising happiness, its inherent fragility and how much it is dependent on factors outside one’s control that leads to gratitude.
It is possible to wrest moments and maybe even entire days of happiness out of bad times, I have done it before but it is only recently that happiness has come to me with no effort. When once I measured my happiness as the occasional light day amongst weeks of darkness, now it is the reverse.
And maybe that is what I truly fear, that one day it will once again be an effort to feel happy and that every happy experience I have would be such a break from everyday bleakness I would mistake that sigh of relief for gratitude.