This morning, I drove my guy bestie to the hospital. He’s (hopefully) temporarily blind in one eye after being hit with a hockey ball right in the eye socket. He could barely speak or sit up because he’s in so much pain. I’m currently unemployed and broke as fuck and I have very little going for me. But he called me to pick him up last night, and he was hoping I could drive him to his appointment today. So I did.
This wasn’t a particularly fun experience, nor was it enriching. When someone’s in so much pain breathing is a chore for them and half of their face is swollen into oblivion, it’s not ‘enjoyable’ to help them out. It’s a job. It’s a job to sit with someone in a waiting room, fill out their form for them and deal with their surly silent treatment. And yet, doing so gave me that familiar sense of happiness. Not because I’m a martyr, not because I’m sanctimonious, not because I have some sort of agenda, but because I realized that among a lot of more ‘superficial’ things that make me happy, doing things for the people I care about does somehow make me happy.
When my boyfriend finished his practicum, I went to a party at his friend’s house and everyone was talking about how your teaching practicum is a ‘relationship killer’. I told my boyfriend later that he did really well; what could have been a catastrophically terrible time to really begin a relationship, a time when I would sometimes go a week or more without seeing him, a time when he was inundated with long hard hours of work and I was doing absolutely nothing, save for watching from the sidelines and helping him however I could to get out of the woods, turned into a bonding time for us, and a test of how much I could assert my role as his girlfriend without feeling like a doormat, and how appreciative he would be of my actions and/or how accepting of them he would be. It was during these rough and tumultuous biggest four months of our relationship that we told each other we loved each other, met members of each other’s families, and became a real couple, and a team. A big part of this was me willing to do things like bring him lunch, pick him up and drop him off at school, be accommodating and read over his units and give him advice on how to proceed since this is an experience I lived over half a year ago. Doing so made me happy. I was never happier than when I could help him. Helping him helped us, and it helped me. It was where I found my happiness almost this whole year.
Happiness is this arbitrary term. When thinking of individuals with mental illness, you can be bestowed with all the good things in the whole wide world and still want to not be on this earth anymore. Conversely you can have nothing and be perfectly at peace and blissful with your life. You can be happy one day and unhappy the next. Everything could be going right, and your outlook (my outlook) could just be waiting for things to go wrong. Fortunately, doing something like driving my surly suffering best friend to the hospital and sitting around playing with my phone while they look into his blood-drowned retina can erase any bad feelings I may have been harbouring just beforehand. This confusing and non-linear (I work with ‘linear’ in most aspects of my life) structure of happiness makes me wonder, what exactly does make me happy? Truly happy? Not buy-a-lipstick-and-momentarily-feel-a-rush happy. Helping people is one of them.