On happiness (and the exploding head of my inner Critic)

You’ve probably noticed by now that I have a strong internal voice that tells me I’m an idiot. I call him The Critic. I hate him. You might have a Critic, too.

On happiness (and the exploding head of my inner Critic)
Photo by Alfred Leung / Unsplash

I fumbled around for happiness, presuming without question that it was what I wanted — no, what I needed — and the fumbling was that stressed, idiotic fumbling of the drunk in the dark, anger prickling the cheeks, tongue fat in the mouth, hands dumb and numb.  I really did need to get happy.  It was attainable; moreover, it was easily attainable for everyone else.  Normal people slid into their happiness.  I saw them everywhere, bringing the warm weather with them.

I was an idiot, a fool who couldn’t grasp this basic human skill.  I couldn’t drive, either — something everyone else could do.  And there were more markers of my ineptitude, my failure to grow up.  The life milestones ticked by and I missed them, one by one.  Instead, I picked other things to do, stupid things, wasteful things.  I would investigate every dead end, every piss-splashed alley.

You’ve probably noticed by now that I have a strong internal voice that tells me I’m an idiot.  I call him The Critic.  I hate him.  You might have a Critic, too.  I don’t know where he’s come from, but his office hours start the moment I shut my eyes.  He pulls a sheaf of paper, on which are are meticulously catalogued my inadequacies (one of which is my disorganisation; he’s already started mocking me with his — how did he get so damned organised?)  He clear his throat and begins to read.

I really do hate him.

So, naturally, I try to drown him out, avoid him, run out of his office.  But he’s a shapeshifter, can bend space and time (because he’s fucking imaginary, the dick), so he gets me in the end.  He will be heard.

But recently I’ve stopped trying to run from him.  The other night I went into his office willingly and sat down.  I asked him for sugar in my coffee.  He was nonplussed, but reached into his desk for his papers.  Just a single sheet, this time.  Go on, I say, what have you got for me?

He splutters.  His mouth works, but no sound comes out.  Then his eyes start to leak, not with tears but with some sort of ectoplasm.  There is a whining sound, old-time kettle.

Then his head explodes.

His office is a mess.  But the door is open, and I can walk straight out.

It’s the running away that’s the problem.  So much of life is denial of reality, the pretending.  I thought that was for the best.  But to strive for happiness means we don’t have it.  To strive for happiness is to admit, tacitly but very really, that we’re not happy.

I don’t think happiness is that important.  But honesty — with oneself — very much is.

Once The Critic has cleaned his office, I’m sure he’ll invite me in again.

Next time, I’ll bring biscuits.