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Things That Make Me Happy

I've been reading over my last couple of lists and it struck me that a reader could reasonably infer that I am a dark and unhappy person.

It seems I am writing more "barely survived" this and "contemplating suicide" that and "many are my struggles" than I actually feel.

One could get the impression that I spend a lot of time hanging on to a dark and gloomy emotional precipice, hanging on for my very sanity, saved in the nick of time only by Metallica songs, brooding navel-gazing and the love of a good woman.

While that might have once been true, the real story is that it's been decades since life has been all that tough. My self-loathing and self-destruction are long, long, long gone.

In fact, life now is pretty fucking good. I've got a fantastic wife, a rewarding career and a cadre of lifelong friends. I live in a great town, have a super apartment and very little daily stress. I like my life; I treasure the unique experiences I get to have and I wouldn't trade for any other life in the world.

I am, dare I say, happy.

Sure, I want more money and recognition but I really am living my best-case scenario. The comfort and ease of my life now makes all that long-ago negative shit seem like it simply belongs to someone else.

And yes, sometimes depression and anxiety creep up, but I am old enough and smart enough now to know how to use effective coping skills.

Writing about that distant, dysfunctional time is easy. It is a rich vein of material; the anguish and struggle from back then are dramatic and memorable. My current life of watching Family Guy every night at 6 and going to the farmer's market on Thursdays is much harder source material to use in building a compelling narrative.

I like pessimism and doom-and-gloom because it is comforting to think everything sucks from the outset so there is nothing I can do to make it any better. But the truth is that happiness requires responsibility, and I ain't so big on that. My happiness requires perspective and gratitude, healthy attitudes I am still learning.

Happiness also takes work and practice; it doesn't come with the instant gratification I think I deserve. I have to always remind myself how good I have it and how far God has brought me.

Here, then, are things that make me really fucking happy:

1. The Elephant Riders.

It happens about once a month or so: I'm on a walk, iPod on shuffle, turned up really fucking loud and a deep-cut song I haven't heard in years comes on. And it just sounds fucking great. It takes about three or four seconds for me to remember why I loved it in the first place but then, suddenly, it takes me back to all the great memories I have attached to it.

I feel high with giddiness when I rediscover music like this. I get overtaken with, "Goddamn, this is a great fucking song/album/band" and a whole new appreciation for the music washes over me.

I usually go on a three- or four-week bender of whichever band it is until I rediscover another new song or album. I've had resurgences of Clutch, Buddy Guy, Iron Maiden and AC/DC in the last six months almost by accident. My favorite part of finding music this way is calling my brother and bullshitting about what a fantastic jam XX is.

2. Drama-Free Zone.

I am totally free from interpersonal conflict bullshit. I am happy to see the people I am involved with now. I can go anywhere I want without worrying about who I might run into and what I might have done wrong to them.

I don't have negative relationships anymore: no more avoiding certain places because an ex-girlfriend might be there; no more staying out of a certain part of town because I ripped a landlord off; no more screening phone calls because I stole something.

My life is filled with healthy people, living really interesting lives and I am so glad that I get to be involved with them. Best part is, I can go all over the country and find friends in a lot of different places.

3. To The Bat Cave.

I have the man cave of my dreams. For the first time, I've found a place where I can be physically and emotionally comfortable writing and, as a result, my output has really exploded.

My wife and I live in a giant apartment, and I have an entire room for my office. This is the first space I've ever had - as a child or an adult - dedicated solely to my work and creativity. My isolated little office is a cocoon for me to think great thoughts, write masterpieces and cruise YouTube alone.

It's the only space I've ever had with my sole decorating imprint: I picked out the English Pea Green paint, the childhood pictures, the mid-century modern Danish teak desk, the Rolling Stones poster and the Metallica calendar all by myself.

I believe that my office is the main reason I've started writing again (outside of the years of painful therapy but this is a happy list).

4. Freaking Sweet.

It makes me happy to have a fellow Family Guy quote fanatic in Beachwood Steve. We put together a grant proposal for an investigative project using only quotes from Family Guy. Well, not really, but pretty damn close.

It does my heart good to have someone else validate my obsession with this dumbass show. I know that I am not alone in the world when someone else can rattle off mindless and juvenile inanities unsuitable for all occasions. I am comforted and held warm by the camaraderie we share when we discuss last night's episode. (I'm also talking to you Ms. G.)

5. 4 For A Dollar.

I love finding great garage sale deals and steals. My wife and I have a little online vintage resale shop, the point of which is less to make money than to justify our own junk-store buying. I get a little tingle in my dingle when we find a cool piece of retro stuff - either for our store or for the house - for next to nothing. A couple of days ago we found an entire, absolute mint set of 1960s dishes for cheap at a yard sale. We can't decide if we should keep them or sell them. Ah, what a delicious dilemma to have.

6. He Ain't Heavy.

Any alone time that I get to spend with my brother makes me happy. He lives in Virginia and we don't get to see each other very often. When we do get to hang out, there are usually wives, children and lots of other people involved.

But once or twice a year we get to hang out, just the two of us. It might be as much as a couple of days on a fishing trip or as small as ride to the hardware store. However much time it is, it is certain that there will be dick jokes, lots and lots of music and too much food we shouldn't be eating. I am rarely happier than when I am in my brother's truck, radio volume bumping and playing the "check this shit out" game.

A couple of weeks ago, he came to my house and we sat in my mud room with a couple cups of coffee and watched it rain and talked about heavy metal and our garden. I will remember moments like that on my deathbed.

7. Old School.

I love the thrill of making connections with friends without involving electronics: playing cards, taking a walk, chatting over a fine glass of Chablis. I didn't like living in D.C. but there was one thing that I miss like crazy: we used to host a game night for some of our friends and it really was a ball. Every couple of weeks we'd have eight to 12 people over in our tiny little apartment, a case of wine and a dish to pass and just go nuts. I remember laughing until I cried some nights playing Cranium.

Those game nights reminded me of the best parts of my childhood: playing card games with the family over homemade caramel corn and root beer Kool-Aid.

8. Serves Two.

I love to cook and when life isn't too crazy, my wife and I make a special dinner on Sunday afternoons. When it all comes together and we end up with a winning recipe that we get to enjoy, well that's just the total package: love, companionship and great pasta.

9. F-Stop.

Getting a great picture really snaps my shutter. I fancy myself a little bit of an amateur photographer. I won a photography scholarship to college, took one class and switched to journalism because my waiter salary was not going to pay for the $700 worth of class supplies and equipment the course required.

But I've started to pick up the camera again, and while I am no Gordon Parks or Sam Taylor-Wood, every couple of months I get a decent shot. We've hung up a couple in the house and it makes me happy to walk past something beautiful I've created.

10. To The Left.

I've gained a lot of weight over the last couple of years - living next door to a really stressful job and watching a lot of shitty cable television added a bunch of pounds in the last three years. I get pretty butthurt about how fat and lazy I am and all that negative self-messaging is counterproductive to where I want to go.

But I've recently gone on a diet and this morning the scale moved in the right direction - just a little bit, but a little bit is the right beginning.


Comments welcome.


Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says
* Work Weirdos
* Things I Miss About Chicago
* 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
* Their Chicago
* Cities I've Slept In
* My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
* Why Milwaukee Rules
* Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
* The Beer Goggle Recordings
* A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists
* Life's Little Victories
* The Worst Jobs I've Ever Had
* Jobs For The Zombie Apocalypse
* Lemme Get A Bite Of That
* Lists I'll Never Write
* Things I Miss About My Imprisoned Best Friend
* Things I Miss About Being Single
* Things I Love About Being Married
* Why Chuck D Should Have Been Our First Black President
* Picture This
* My Suggestions For Ways To Further Desecrate Wrigley Field
* Signs I Am Getting Older
* My Most Memorable Half-Assed Ideas
* Why My Mom Rules
* My Summer To-Do List
* Signs That My Doomsday Is Nigh
* Five Albums That Changed My Life

* Fan Note: Me & Metallica


Posted on August 15, 2010

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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