My dream about my mother’s house being filled with worn-out furniture was, you will have guessed, largely about me. The inspiration, if you can call it that, for this very piecemeal collection of posts was an article in the Saturday Guardian Review section about two books on happiness; about what makes us happy, in other words.
One aspect on which it dwelt was the dual necessity and difficulty of change, and the way we often find ourselves living lives which were designed for earlier versions of ourselves, or, worse, for the people we imagined we might be but have not in fact become. This chimes with something I have read elsewhere, about how we spend our whole lives trying to please future versions of ourselves which are never satisfied. This may be for all sorts of reasons: we dream of a move to the country, but underestimate how badly affected we will be by a long commute; we are overjoyed by a long-awaited pay-rise but find that within a few months we are no happier, having come to take the additional income for granted.
Or perhaps our dreams of the future fail to take into account that, as John Lennon said, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. Bereavement, job loss, illness, the end of relationships, can all leave us inhabiting lives which have suddenly become strange to us and which we are ill-fitted to deal with, much less enjoy. When I changed roles in my job four years ago I found myself in a position which required very different skills to those which I had spent twenty years developing. I was completely unable to suddenly remake myself in order to start behaving in a totally different way, and the disjunction between the me which I needed to be, and the me which had developed in response to the needs of my old job, made me very unhappy.