Ever wonder why life isn't going how you planned? Because you haven't discovered the truth.
I'm never happy, except when I am. And you know what? I find that to be a major pain in the ass.
I mean, why is happiness such a frat boy dickhead — so stupid and unlikable almost all of the time? Why does life have to be, like, eighty percent bullsh*t and only ever fifteen percent pure happiness at any given moment after you turn 12?
Don't even ask me what the other five percent of life consists of; I have no clue. Maybe sitting in traffic? Or waiting in line to pay for stuff? Maybe Facebooking? It doesn't even matter.
I suspect life is a dream. I really do. Our entire existence is a magnificent Technicolor dream, a movie, an intangible vision of spectacular proportions in which we can give birth and have orgasms and get sunburnt and nosebleed all over every tissue in the box.
Life seems so real because that's the nature of the dream. It has always seemed so valid, so tight before our eyes. But anything can (and will) seem real to a wad of clay when it's all we've ever known. And this life is all we've ever known, no?
No one remembers sh*t about before the womb. And no one has a speck of insight into even the very instant after we die. So don't come around here telling me it's all real and true. I hate to break it to you but none of this is real. You don't own the latest iPhone. There is no iPhone. You're not on the Paleo diet. There is no food.
I sound crazy, huh? But I'm not. Your job, your boyfriend, your flat screen, your parents, your dog, your bag of weed, your vibrator: none of them exist, except as part of the dream of dreams. F*ck.
The higher power is some insanely perfect combination of space gases, atomic energy, beams of light, wild far-out intergalactic fusion madness that seems like it's been going on for billions of years, when in reality everything relating to human existence is in the midst of an exploding fantasy that's getting sucked back into some kind of black hole.
OK, I'll lay off the whole dream thing.
It's just a notion I had to throw out there because it bugs me. I think about it all the time. What if I'm dreaming all of this? You have to admit: it's pretty great mind fodder for when you're sitting at your desk, staring out the window, pretending you're working, which is basically all of the time.
Dreaming is a survival mechanism. Even just hinting to ourselves that everything good, bad, and ugly is a figment of our non-existent imagination is a sweet kind of solace.
Every now and then, I dig being able to sit back on the hind legs of my kitchen chair as I stare up at the sky colonies of dust hanging off of my ceiling fan and I tell myself that even though I've somehow managed to create an epic mess out of most of the facets of my life by age 44, it's all good. None of it matters. Because none of it is real.
We ought to pretend we're dreaming all of this life more often. It might help loosen the load we're each schlepping around. It might help us understand, at long last, that it would be OK if we were happy with the way things were — or are. Because I don't know about you but I'm rarely happy. I have my moments, but deep down between my ribs there's always something missing from my world.
I can't even pinpoint what's missing, of course. I can't ever actually say, "Oh hell yes! If I had THAT going on in my life, I'd finally be happy at long last!"
Because that thing I feel like I'm missing all the time? Ta-dah! It doesn't exist. I created it in my mind. I dream it up on a regular basis and it doesn't even have a godd*mn name.
The secret to life is that you have to live two lives. You knew you weren't getting out of this sh*thole without me tossing you a secret to life, huh? Well here it is: You have to live two lives at once. And I'm not talking about your married life at home with your spouse and your kids versus your little lame-ass sadness pageant affair with the dude or chick from work who makes you feel "whole" again. That's just you being the idiot you've allowed yourself to become.
No. What I'm talking about here is this idea that if you're able to exist on two entirely different levels in this life, you will be much better off.
If you're able to function on the first level as the taxpayer, employee, registered driver, six kinds of insurance-purchaser, voter, law-abiding, college degree lemming you need to be in order to "survive" financially and socially in this overgrown Monopoly game of regular life, then you're halfway there.
That's the life you need to live, day in and day out, in order to exist without punishment, in order to conform and contribute, and not get tossed in prison or cattle-chuted down to the Hooverville under the overpass bridge. (It's there. Trust me, it is. And they know about you.)
The OTHER life you need to live, though, that's the sweet one, baby. That's the one that'll let you breathe. It isn't linked to money. It isn't linked to your job or your job loss. It's something almost unimaginable, a life in which you're allowed to be pretty happy all of the time and not worry much about anything at all.
No, I'm not talking about getting drunk, you ridiculous bastard. I'm talking about something way better.
I'm talking about standing in the sunshine, staring at your kids in the park, turning off the throbbing boiler room racket always pounding across your plane. I'm talking about the art and practice of forgetting all the bullsh*t in order to see what matters most.
Sound hokey as f*ck? That's because you're just living the one life. That's because you're just living the sh*tty life.
Drugs don't help. Neither does vodka or pale ale, or whatever you throw down your hatch in times of merriment or need. There's no prescription for this Second Life stuff, at least not that I know of. You just have to have a certain kind of belief in yourself. You have to recognize and understand you're a pretty damn cool human and that none of this mess you're all tangled up in was ever your intention. And hell, most of it isn't even your fault.
Life is designed to kill you as soon as possible. No one expected you here to begin with so almost no one really gives a damn if you make it through your 67 to 93-year life expectancy tunnel anyway.
But you're here. And you have to know the difference between your two lives. You have to step outside of your money-making workday career life as often as you can in order to stand out in the daylight and focus your eyes on the life you're living, instead of the surviving you're often forced to concentrate on.
I watch my son, Charlie move across the park on an early March weekday afternoon. He's two. He's beautiful. All wobbling soul and daredevil smiles. He heads toward the slide and I let him go because I want him to learn to do it on his own. Plus, I'm smoking a cigarette and I want my alone time.
Charlie hits his stride over by the BBQ pits and I clench my teeth so hard I can feel this freight train of blood start rushing through the dark passages behind my ears, down in my neck.
I close my eyes. I can still feel my son across the growing distance between us.
I understand perfectly for just a few moments in time. I climb out of my First Life and into my Second Life, and no one would ever know. I'm just this daddy dude standing alone at the edge of a park. But behind my eyes I'm so much more. Back behind my face, I'm happy now.
I feel the sun on my back and the pre-spring cool shooting through my skin and I breathe in the magic of all I've accomplished in this world, even if it's not much by another man's point of view.
I can hear my Charlie giggling as he hits the rungs of the ladder up the slide.
I can hear the birds chirping high up in the trees.
I can hear the breeze as it floats on by me.
And I can stand inside this space where things make sense, where I make sense, for a couple minutes of my life. And it becomes another life entirely. It becomes my better life, the one I always dreamed of having. Not the life where I have debt and sadness and loneliness and fear. The other life.
The one I turn on down at the park or laying in my bed at night. The one where I whisper to myself that it would be so unfair if this all turned out to be nothing but a dream.