Life, Adversarial

My relationship with life has long been a purely adversarial one. Fighting to survive will do that to you, especially while young. Lately, though, I’ve been wondering about a different way of approaching this whole breathing-and-metabolizing thing.

It’s why I did a nice big purge of the garage and some assorted other things, it’s why I’m so determined to get back into the game after injury put paid to running for a little while. Maybe I’m just rising from the pyre again–living is a constant renewal. Very few know that better than me.

This morning I ran across something that crystallized everything I’ve been working on lately. I could absolutely feel myself taking a different shape inside my skin and the world altering in response. It was a single sentence:

I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.

Katharine Hepburn.

What would happen, I wonder, if I treated being–just the mere state of existing–as fun instead of a dangerous leaping from one precarious foothold to the next? I tried this morning while running, and I have to say… it was pleasant, and not just because of the dopamine hit from cardiac exercise.

The prospect is nerve-wracking, since hypervigilance has been a survival tactic since childhood. Yet if living well is the best revenge, how much better will enjoying myself be? My motivation is pure spite, but I’ve got to tell you, spite works wonders.

So I’m starting a little project amid the burning of the world. I’m going to try to treat the bare state of existence as fun.

After all, I survived childhood and adolescence, worked my way through single motherhood and didn’t do too badly, clawed up from the deepest pits of depression, anxiety, and hell. What did I do all that for if not to cement my victory by enjoying myself? After all, I have the kids, I have the dogs, I have you, dear Readers.

That’s pretty much endless wealth.

It’s not going to be easy. Misery, like any habit, is hard to shake; there is a certain comfort in expecting the worst. Maybe I can expect the worst but still be happy in the meantime. I have sometimes worried that if my life was ever in a good place I’d lose fuel for writing, but to my very great relief, that is not so.

In fact, as Bukowski once observed, a human being writes better when well-fed. (He was a misogynist and the original quote contrasted living on candy bars with porterhouse steak and some whiskey, but it’s the spirit that counts. Or so I’m going to believe.) We do all sorts of things better when well-fed and not in constant crippling fear.

You’d think we’d want everyone taken care of, wouldn’t you. Life doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.

It’s going to be difficult. Working against forty years of habit means initial progress will be fitful. I think the risk is worth it. Optimists live longer, but that’s not what I’m after. My game has always been sheer endurance; if I can make endurance more tolerable it won’t be so much changing my habits as adding an extension to one I already have, which is ever so much simpler.

I’m looking forward to finding out if just being can be fun. I’ll report back in a bit–and if you have any data, feel free to share. Joy shared is joy doubled.

I’m excited to learn.