You Know What My Dirty Little Secret Is? I’m Actually Happy

She probably just wants food. That’s why she lets me mess around with her.


We live according to a reality we sell ourselves. In other words, a fiction. I have been selling myself a taped recording of my life. It’s what I’ve been running through my brain for decades.

I have spent my adulthood scowling and griping, defending myself against “events” that wouldn’t make a blip on the radar of others. Usually scenarios of degradation and shame. I have forsaken my original healthy animal obliviousness.

If people think I’m a loser, fuck ’em. And if I think that about myself, more’s the shame. Because it ain’t true. I mean you win some and you lose some, but that’s all a trap of duality anyway.

I want to thank anyone who slogged through my last blog post. A Cleveland cousin, whom I rarely talk to, compared it in a private message to something he’s writing, his own “orgy of self-flagellation.”

If there’s one good thing that came out of writing and showing that, it’s that it woke me up. See, because the weird truth is that I’m actually happy. I mean, I have a pretty good life.

I was driving to work today, meaning Mayer High School, where I have a few months left to work a part-time gig before retiring from teaching — unless, in a witless paroxysm of hope, I try to land another (but full-time) teaching job in these parts — and it occurred to me I was enjoying my Sirius/XM and my CDs, I was enjoying the mysterious train of dream wisps and thoughts and memories that accompany this crazy curriculum.

What right do I have to depress people?

What power there is in the fact some people love me and encourage me not to give up!

And yet it seems I never have given up. When you die, then you give up. And even then, if you’ve fought the good fight, maybe your light shines on.

I joke around a lot about Rosa, my badly trained Airedale, who steals my plated lunch if my back is turned. I romanticize about her freedom from the Trap of Intellection. But it is a lesson worth thinking about. I am happy to realize that this simple, warm creature has an energy I can draw on, even learn from.

The other day I taught rather well, if I say so myself. I made my “bad” class read a short story aloud with me, and the discussion afterward was successful. I had the will and charisma and doggedness to do that. My teaching half-day done, I was emotionally drained, almost fell asleep behind the wheel of my Subaru Forester driving those damn 30 miles from Mayer back to Prescott. In my beautiful house in the foothills of the Bradshaw Mountains with its postcard view, I flopped on our great new red leather couch, armrest perfectly sloped to accommodate a languishing head and shoulders even without pillow, a great napping couch. I did use a pillow this time, settling in for the full nap experience, one of the pleasures if not necessities of age.

Rosa had other ideas. She jumped up and lay on top of me.

“Look how much she loves you!” Barb said, and, laughing, moved in with her camera.

Sometimes it’s my dog’s way of saying “Come on, let’s DO something!” Other times she just wants affection. I stroke her and smell her dogness. Maybe if I’d had kids I wouldn’t be such an old fool around my silly dog.

And yet wise. She knows there’s nothing you can do about life but live it, enjoy it. She doesn’t count her blessings, not consciously anyway, she lacks what we regard as a consciousness, but things roll off her back. She just is.

Sometimes she gets her paws up on the matching red leather reading chair where I’m attempting to get through this brilliant new thousand-page bio on Churchill, and though I indulge her by stroking under her chin and rubbing her neck, after a while I have to shove her off. It’s a blunt push. Like, get away. Her paws drop back to the floor, boom. What’s remarkable to me is that she’s never upbraided or “hurt,” it’s just like, “Right, down on the floor now,” and she goes snuffling about her new business. (I would be hurt, I would harbor resentment over being rudely treated.) There aren’t any recriminations or resentments. There’s an innocence in animals, present even among those who are abused, I imagine. They trust you. It’s kind of heartbreaking, which is why I became unbearably despondent the few times I lost her in the woods and thought I might not see her anymore.

Anyway, I wasn’t bullshitting around a few posts ago when I said I’m learning the art of happiness from my dog.

My gratitude list:

My wife, who’s kept me sober and working and content and well fed for twenty years, and deserves a medal.

My joy in teaching, because I do got game, and feel a connection even as I’m making their eyes roll sometimes, singing as I am the praises of Jane Eyre or (as now) The Catcher in the Rye or a good journalism lead with a hook.

An extended physical vigor which has enabled me to earn supplemental income in plain labor, and fuels my weights workouts and long walks with Rosa.

My ability to laugh.

My ability to listen! That’s a big one. You go to AA meetings, mostly discussion meetings, and sit there rehearsing what you would say in response to the topic somebody launched. You sit there getting wet palms planning your rhetorical gambit. Then you realize that the listening to the shares of others is the big thing. After a time you go to meetings not even caring if you talk. There’s a quiet thrill to realize you’re connected to the world through your relationship with others, which largely translates to your ability to listen to them.

All those who read my horrific post about drug abuse and the life predicament it’s put me in, thank you. I see now I wanted to get all that ugliness and remorse and pain off my chest so someone might be able to punch through my blindness and tell me what to do.

Perhaps the best advice I got was from Marty, my brother, who said not to take life so seriously. There was real wisdom. And from Becky, my beautiful English cousin. Thanks, Becky, for not tearing me a new one, Union Jack fluttering behind you. You could have laid me out with the obvious rejoinder: nobody in England would want to have a drink with a mordant depressive fixated on himself.

Let’s make this one short, and finish with a line that’s not original, but that one might expect from a nutcase who tried to be a religion major at Columbia University.

I was once blind but now I see.

Better than before, anyway.


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