However, hosts made a point that struck me. Materialism keeps people at a baseline-level of happiness, evidence shows. In other words, getting something new is great for a few weeks, but then the charm wears off, and the person returns to their normal level. Hence, much like a drug fix, the person goes after a new thing. Life becomes cluttered but there is no real fundamental change or improvement is made.
And I wondered, what is my baseline level of happiness? Can it change or is it fixed? I feel fairly certain in is not fixed. However, I look around and so many people seem to be jubilant with things in their life. "How's the new job? -It's great!" "How is your new apartment? - It's so nice!" "How's that chocolate mousse? - It's terrific! And I catch myself wondering, and I really that much below them? Or are they exaggerating or putting on a front to hide from mediocrity? It's a bleak question I suppose, but I wonder how many folks are sincere in their expressions joy.
I have to admit a biased from where I am writing right now. Things have been going good for me: I got a new job that is closer to what I want to do in life, and I recently moved to a new apartment that I think will be a good change for me in many ways.
But the fact is, despite the many incredible people I have met here in Austin, and the friends I have made, there has recently been a profound sense of loneliness in me. It's a feeling that I've had much of my life, having traveled as much as I have. I've forged wonderful life-long friendships but distance is usually an issue, and I've hoped to make some friends here that are close, both emotionally and geographically.
But in nearly every case, things have remained at a casual level, and I wonder why. This is certainly not what I want in a friendship. I wonder what lesson I have to learn from this. I do wonder if I can keep being open with my heart with people I care about. Wearing my heart on my sleeve comes as natural to me as breathing, and trying to be more guarded is probably a useful skill, and one I'm not very good at yet. But I am realizing that my energy to spend on those around me is very finite, and less so if I care about someone who sees me as simply a casual acquaintance rather. In some cases, connections which I thought would foster potentially profound friendships has instead given way to deep misunderstanding and miscommunication and a painful attempt at learning the other person's language.
This is not at all to diminish the connections I have made here though. I am very thankful for the wonderful people I've met and friendships I've made, and aware that things do continue to evolve.
Today, while concerned about this, and no doubt stuck deep inside my own thoughts, I realized I had left my phone at home. This was irritating and it helped point out how much I missed my phone and how much I missed it.
But it should not have been a problem.
After work I stopped by my old house to pick up some mail that had been sent there. I got in my truck to leave, but got no further. The engine would not even turn over. A mobile mechanic was called up and he started working on my truck in the street to replace the starter. I was very irritated, and upset that I was unable to contact a friend of mine to let her know I was not meaning to stand her up to play pool.
Forced to sit by myself for a couple of hours and slow down while my truck was gutted, I turned my feelings inward, which was uncomfortable, since this feeling of loneliness now feels like broken glass inside of me.
As I was examining these feelings, I became more aware of the world around me, of the sun setting, of the breeze blowing the trees on the street, of the air becoming cooler, and of the fireflies twinkling on and off over the neighbors' yard.
And I had to admit to myself that everything changes: the light, the temperature of the air, the motion of the wind, and even the fireflies were not constant. And then I looked back at my feelings, and started to feel less of an attachment to them, because they are in constant flux, too. At the moment, they were feeling pretty shitty, but they don't tend to remain that way during the complete day. And even if they do, they go away when I sleep, where I don't feel anything, which alone means they cannot be constant.
And if it is not constant, it's hard to see how they can be personal. Everything moves on its own, but part of a bigger whole that moves. Instead of the idea where one feels insignificant, or that their feelings are a drop in the bucket, there was more a sense of life is simply being expressed in this particular way, at this particular moment.
And there was comfort in that.
So, maybe neither objects nor experiences bring happiness, because happiness too is an experience that comes and goes. But there can be peace beyond that. Nothing needs to be taken personally.
Yes, I am still lonely feeling. And I am still uncomfortable with that. But I started to remember that I have a right to feel uncomfortable, and that there is nothing wrong with that, or with going through an emotional low. I feel that in my life I have gone through a large number of them, but perhaps there is a reason for it. It doesn't have to be suffering, but rather a different expression of life in a given moment. It is not my intent to say that if you are unhappy you shouldn't do anything about it to try to improve the situation if possible or feasible, but once you give yourself permission to feel shitty, feeling shitty actually feels less shitty, and I think that allows joy to come in organically, rather than force fed through objects or experiences.