I have been active on Instagram for 4 years and I have seen what I call the “injunction to happiness” time and time again. The dictatorship of happiness, or how to fall into depression when you fail to achieve it.
It seems that this injunction springs up in many places and goes well beyond the scope of Instagram.
Let us agree on this: happiness is essential. It is the state of grace that gives us access to brighter and more celestial dimensions.
Now, the real question is how we define happiness. And I do believe that this definition is very personal.
Within the limits of my own life path (which has been chaotic from the get-go but I do not think I came here for simple things), happiness depends on having a roof over my head (even if it is not to my taste), a plate full of food (even if it is just filled with pasta) and on the laughter and joy I find on the faces of the three children I accompany in this life, even during the difficult moments we have gone through together.
I know that all the rest doesn’t really matter. Be it, in no particular order in my case, letting go of unessential educational principles, having bailiffs knocking on my door or living through break ups. All these experiences are important, they are sometimes strange and disturbing but always formative. The only serious issue in my opinion is bad health, the kind that takes you away from your loved ones, and ultimately death too, of course.
Boiling everything down to the essential: life and love – that is my very personal recipe for happiness.
I think one can be happy in the shittiest of situations, and I am speaking from personal experience here, if one preserves the magical circle of life and love. What is the magical circle of life and love, you may ask? Very simply (and assuming that you are in good health) it is sustained by a seemingly futile but essential act: smiling. I smile, perhaps foolishly, all day long. My smile is the result of a distance I put between my personal core and issues – it’s the result of a very dark humor also.
In meetings, on public transport, I often find myself noticing that the faces of people who think they are not being watched, or who are not using them, feature what I call the “upside down mouth”. Their mouths pulled downwards, with deep, heavy commissures. A mouth that is not used to smiling and I find that sad.
There are thousands of things to say about smiling (not Joker type smiling, mind you). There are thousands of things to live through thanks to a smile. For my part, smiling has saved my life countless times. Smiling allowed me to earn internships I wasn’t allowed to apply for, to avoid the bailiffs taking my furniture, to escape street harassment (and it also genuinely makes at least people ask me for directions at least twice a day).
Smiling forced me to adopt a posture of openness, humility and honesty.
With a smile, nearly every dialogue is made possible. Conversations with people and dialogues with life.
Smiling allowed me to take a step back and face disastrous situations, simply because smiling forces a quasi-immediate neurological reprogramming that makes you feel happier. Obviously, smiling doesn’t save every situation but perhaps it carries within it the seeds of a better situation, simply insofar as it is the perfect embodiment of the posture we want to take in life.
However, beseeching people to be happy, and that’s it, seems to me nothing short of a publicity stunt (so quite empty, really).
The second question, which isn’t really a question, is about the linearity of life. Life isn’t linear. Thinking that happiness is a constant state seems like a mistaken belief to me. Believing that anything is constant is a mistaken belief. No one is perpetually happy or always at the top of their game 24/7.
We all go through moments of slack. We all have emotional wounds and it isn’t all that serious. I am the first one to repeatedly fail at many things, again in no particular order of importance: raising my children, my love life, my makeup, my pictures, or the timely and orderly payment of my bills.
I am not always at the top of my game, I often lack energy, lack the will to work day and night on my cases, and I give up on principles I used to think of as essential. It doesn’t really matter. I’ll deal with it tomorrow because tomorrow is a different day with different energy. The only trap to beware of is that of constantly saying you’ll take care of things tomorrow.
Accepting difficulty and pain, facing it with honesty, letting yourself feel without losing control, admitting that you don’t have the resources today but you might do tomorrow, they can all save you. You just have to accept that there are good days and there are bad days.
I don’t think happiness ever helped someone grow.
So let us also celebrate the bad days. They carry the keys to future dimensions you wouldn’t even have believed were real.
Max Mara coat – Weill jumper – Roberto Cavalli leather leggings – Dior shoes – Gucci handbag embellished with a Hermès scarf – Essedue sunglasses