birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

How to Be Happy

After a lifetime of trying to arrange my circumstances so as to support the happy frame of mind in which I wanted to live, I finally gave up sometime after passing the half-century mark when I realized that my reach was exceeding my grasp. I decided to simply pretend all those seemingly impossible to attain circumstances were in place and see how it felt.

It felt great. I saw how little the facts of my day-to-day life mattered; how beginning from assumptions of plenty, goodness, love, fitness, grace, could change the aspect of what had come before, rendering it moot. When I felt lonely, I imagined myself in the company of loving and supportive friends. When I was broke and ashamed of it, I imagined myself in possession of everything I wanted, and took the resulting opulent frame of mind into my day. It wasn’t really a denial of reality - it was just a shortcut to the result of a successful quest for love, security, respect, admiration, etc. Who knew you could jump the turnstile of happiness? Suddenly I did, and it immediately became a self-reinforcing habit.

And not just a habit that allowed me to go into the world suffused with a sense of well-being. It really did work in reverse to change the circumstances of daily life, albeit in ways I’d never imagined. Since I no longer felt compelled to measure up to standards I’d tried in vain to meet, I also no longer fretted over my shabby clothes, my sallow complexion, my advancing age, my lack of feminine signifiers. If I was as handsome and easy as I felt, I didn’t need to tie myself in knots about looking like shit. Maybe I did look like shit, maybe I didn’t - I’d never been the best judge of that - but I’d stressed over it plenty, and now I wasn’t doing that. I was moving through the world as a woman for whom beauty or the lack thereof meant nothing, because I already had what beauty would’ve given me. Relationships came almost too easily now that I wasn’t spending time cripplingly preoccupied with the impression I was making on others. I could take relationships or leave them, which seemed to intrigue people. I had to start turning down social overtures. Ditto with money; I didn’t fret about it, because happiness had become my priority; therefore anything I couldn’t afford above the level of the very basics looked much less enticing, because thinking about it threatened the air castle in which I was now living pretty much full time.


As If