Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Guilt of Happiness

Today was one of October’s “bright blue days”—remember that poem from grade school days? Perfect temperature, beautiful sunshine, a perfect day. I played “hookey” from work and sat on the deck in the late afternoon, reading a book. Jacob said he‘d join me because he was doing his reading. He didn’t last long, however—bugs made him say the thought he go back inside.

I sat there, read a bit, contemplated the world a bit. So pleasant. And Jacob was perfect all afternoon—did his homework, visited with Chandry, wrestled my garbage carts (one very heavy) down to the street, and then brought in and opened three cartons of books from Amazon. The print copies of my mysteries are going away due to the publisher closing down, and I wanted to have some on hand. Now to find a place to stash them.

Jacob and I had dinner at the Old Neighborhood Grill—neighbors’ night—and had a fine time. I’m always proud to take him there because he behaves so well, carries on conversations with the adults, and generally eats his dinner—which he doesn’t always do at my house.

But sitting on the deck, I thought about the fact that many of us feel guilty if we’re too happy. I said something the other day about sandbagging ourselves, and I think it’s true. I don’t know if it’s our Puritan heritage or not—our country is so diverse these days that surely not all of us bear the burden of the Puritan world view. Though I suspect there’s more than a touch of Calvinism lingering in my Scottish bones. But why when I feel perfectly wonderful do I feel the need to curb that feeling? To somehow shoot myself in the foot. Is it that I know there’s so much suffering in the world that it’s wrong for me to be happy? Is it that I’ve absorbed that Puritan consciousness that we are all sinners? I was horrified one day one day when Jacob brought home a Bible verse to memorize that said we were all sinners and had let God down—heavy thoughts to put on a nine-year-old—or someone my age.

I don’t believe in an angry God. I believing in a loving one who wants his children to be happy and follow his commandments. Where does this guilt come from? Darned if I know, but I’m going to do my best to defeat it.

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