i went out with a friend recently, one i haven't seen in ages--and by ages i mean years. it had been years. whole lives had passed between our last meeting. we went to a posh restaurant in the meat-packing district--one of those places that people say you simply must go when in manhattan. the girl who sat us wore a black dress, red lipstick, and a pill-box hat. the waiter spoke with a heavy french accent. we sat outside, at a tiny slip of a table. my dress tugged on my neck as i tried to find a comfortable (and modest) way to sit in the small folding chair. there was a garden across the street--with a large wooden table and sunflowers atop it. and the way the sun hit the stones of the patio caught my breath in my mouth.

there is always the moment, with old friends, when i must explain what i'm doing in this life.

no acting? why not? what then? writing? what kind of writing? and my answers become tedious and often vague because to answer them all well and truthfully and fully would be a whole (and pardon the language that's about to come) shit-storm of information. and some things are best unraveled slowly and carefully. so i gave some sort of (or i thought so) coy look and said, i've been learning how to be happy. i've figured out happiness for myself. and he looked at me incredulously and said, really, you figured that out? 

it's a bold statement. to say i've figured it out. i know. but i think in a lot of ways, i have.

i smiled, looked down at my latte (what else) and said, yeah, sort of, it starts with this (the latte). and a clean room--a clean room is essential to my happiness. 

i have a whole list of things. red lipstick. hoop earrings. a camera around my neck. live music. late-night conversations with my father. riding in the car beside my mother. trips to boston. sitting next to strangers on a bus. girlfriends that refuse to deal with nonsense. photo albums. any book by pat conroy (with the exception of south of broad--not mr. conroy's finest). living through fear. doing what i once thought impossible. the list is endless. or at least, that's the hope, that it should be never-ending.

but the list is only a sliver. i think what i've figured out is this: everything passes. and sadness does not negate happiness--it sometimes eclipses it, sometimes not. the two can live side-by-side. they can co-exist. there is a sadness in me this morning, as i write this, but that is not to say i'm not happy.

it's just that happiness is ever-moving and ever-changing and all i can do is be open to the possibility that every-once-in-a-while when i least expect it, i'll be so lucky to have it move through me and around me--to fill me and live there before it continues on.

do i have happiness figured out? as much as i can, right now. yes, i think so.

i've been feeling weary of my upcoming 26th birthday because i feel i've accomplished so little. i'm so near a number and so far away from any expectations i had for my life at this point. but realizing this last saturday morning that a little piece of happiness is mine, knowing i've just a wee of a handle on it? well, that's not so bad for a twenty-five year old nearing twenty-six, is it?