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The Blog of Nathan St. Pierre


Pursuing Happiness Saturday, April 12, 2014

I want to start by saying I know how self-centered blogs are in general, and I honestly cringe sometimes when I read the stupid navel-gazing crap I've written. But, this is something that I think has been a big part of my life for the past year, and I think it's something that other people can use as a lesson in their own lives.

It's amazing how hard it is for me to live in the moment. I don't know if it's an aspect of my personality, or if there's something about the way I've lead my life, but I find myself constantly worried about the past or the future. Actually enjoying things the way they are eludes me. Social anxiety is an amazing presence that makes you relive your previous embarrassments, and have a great deal of fear about the things you're going to do to embarrass yourself tomorrow.

But every now and again, a perfect moment of happiness strikes me. As someone who has always been more comfortable approaching the world from the stance of audio, it's no surprise it finally hit me in the form of sound.

The sound of the moment

It was a really comfortable afternoon in Seattle weather standards. The sun was out, the wind was cool, and the air felt clean. But as I walked down to the local barbecue place to pick up dinner (surprisingly good for Seattle, by the way, check out Cask & Trotter if you're ever in South Lake Union), the wind kept blowing my shirt around. I kept feeling like my fat gut was hanging out of the bottom of it, and I kept pulling my shirt down.

I squinted into the sun as I walked, because my sunglasses were lost during our move, and I kept worrying about where to cross the street most efficiently on my way down to the restaurant. I went into the restaurant and sighed, not looking forward to repeating the same everyday stressful moments on my way back. But as I was waiting there, the sound of the Mariner's game slowly faded into my awareness. I suddenly noticed the relaxed atmosphere of the room, a few families out for an evening meal. A guy on a macbook working on the menu for the site, and the waitress giving him crap. Laughter. Clinking glasses. I didn't realize it, but something was happening.

I thanked the waitress, who was very friendly and helpful, and headed out. The sun was behind me, and the wind had shifted. There was a slight breeze over the lake, and then it struck me all at once. The trolley emitted a gentle bell as it crossed the street. The sound of gulls and spring birds echoes above me. A vespa scooter rounded a corner in front of me, and a seaplane came around the lake for a landing. This was it.

The sound brings you home

It wasn't about a convenient set of coincidences that led to me being in a good mood. It wasn't about a few lucky incidents. It was about all of these things distracting me from all of my stupid internal voices shutting up for just long enough that I could realize where I was. I am home. After years of feeling like I didn't fit in, like everything was awkward and weird, I'm somewhere I like. It's not that I'm great friends with everyone I meet or that everyone agrees with my philosophy or ideas. As a matter of fact I meet way more people that I disagree with and are very vocal about it here. But I don't care, because I'm home.

I can't explain it at all, but all those things, the sounds, the light, the air, they combine to make something I haven't felt in a long time. To steal a quote from the film Garden State, I felt homesick for a place that never existed. In this case, it turns out I just hadn't found it yet.

So what does this have to do with me?

So how does this story in any way give you an idea of how to make your life better? It really doesn't, but I can tell you one thing: chasing the moment has only made it more elusive. Attempting to chase down the truth in some cases just exposes more lies. When I was in the grip of my very own worst behavior disorders, I randomly stumbled upon a revelation in the form of audio cues. I could have kept ignoring them, or staying in my own head, but I let myself be pulled into the moment. I let myself realize that I'm fighting myself, trying to find things to be self-conscious about. I'm fat, so what? I'm losing weight, and even if I weren't who cares? I'm healthy, and my wife loves me. I have to squint in the sun? Darn, god forbid I have to deal with the thing that keeps our planet from freezing over.

It's amazing how small your problems are when you let your mind be quiet. Try it if you get a chance, you might just like it.