Karens at the Cleaners – Sept. 7, 2021

I stopped at the cleaners on my way home from work to pick up a pair of khaki pants that had an unfortunate run-in with honey a few weeks back. As I stepped through the door, a middle-aged woman named Karen (I’m assuming, anyway) was finishing up berating the lone employee.

It had something to do with starch.

When the door clicked closed behind me, I looked at the employee and smiled a compassionate smile. She sighed deeply and then proceeded to unload on me with not only the story of Karen but the story of customers (shockingly also named Karen) from earlier in the day. I tend to believe the world is a generally unkind place in the best of times and, folks, these ain’t the best of times.


The ‘Don’t Blame Me, I Didn’t Say It’ of the Day

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ 

Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence

I’m not a fan of Thomas Jefferson. I’m not a fan of many of the Founding Fathers in general, despite their bravery. I see them as hypocritical idealists who espoused grand ideas about equality (and other lofty aims) while owning and abusing other human beings. I think more people should see them this way, but many of us just accept the narrative we were taught in school without looking deeper at the actual lives of these men.

I’m also annoyed by the random capital letters in their writing, but that’s mOre of a “me” proBLem I should be ADDressing in therapY.

Anyway, I was thinking on my drive to work about the whole “pursuit of happiness” thing. I have been pursuing happiness for a long, long time and found it to be quite elusive. I was cataloging the times in my life when I’ve actually been genuinely, undoubtedly happy, and I realized a thing about happiness: It is born out of scarcity.

Let me explain.

A new song comes out by your favorite band. You freaking love this song. You play it and play it and play it and play it until, well, you don’t really love it as much.

Or you meet a great woman (or guy. As I’ve said before, I don’t care whom you love). She’s amazing. Being near her makes you feel alive. Ya know… happy! So you follow your desires and start spending every minute you possibly can with her. And pretty soon, that spark of happiness you had before is a little less sparky, a little more ho-hum.

Or you love pizza. It brings you comfort. It makes you smile. You leave for college and realize, “Holy crap. I can eat pizza whenever I want.” So every night for the next month, you order a pizza. And because it’s your pizza, you get exactly what you want on it. One day soon, you realize pizza is kind of like grass in a park. It’s just sort of … there.

I don’t think you have to pursue happiness. I think that life will bring it to you in the natural course of events, just as it does flat tires and broken computers and slow checkout lines. Happiness happens if you’re fortunate enough to live an American life. But I do think happiness can be increased by slowing your roll on the things that bring it to you. Create your own scarcity. If you love that song, as hard as it is, listen to it once a day … once a week. If that woman is the bee’s knees, purposefully spend time apart. There’s a reason “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is a truism. And for the love of God, throw in a salad instead of pizza a few nights a week.

Slowly doling out happiness to ourselves is the key to happiness itself. Nothing in great abundance provides lasting happiness. Not a kazillion dollars (though I’d like to test my theory on that one). Not a fabulous new job. Not a new relationship. Happiness always fades. But we can slow that fade through self-denial, through scarcity.

Suck on that, Jefferson.


Today’s Reasons to Keep Living

  1. Shuffling a playlist.
  2. Passing a Porsche in my Versa.
  3. A new filter in my Keurig.

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