Your Good News Does Not Make Me Happy

First, a clarification, before I alienate absolutely everyone: I understand 100% why your good news makes you happy. I’d be happy about my own good news, if I actually had any. I’m an empathetic soul who can almost taste the pleasure that comes from winning that life-changing award, discovering a soul mate who resonates so much with your inner essence she thinks you were best friends in a past life, having the resources and leisure to spend three months seeking answers in India… or whatever.

But since that sort of thing never seems to happen to me, all I can do is observe from afar. Call me self-centered, but this generally inspires something other than happiness within my deepest soul. Nothing against you, I promise. It’s just that, when I see so many other people falling comfortably into their roles as humans on earth, I start to wonder what’s wrong with me. I’ve been alive for more years than I care to admit, and I still feel like a guest. I can’t find my way around my own city; anything more impressive seems unimaginable.

During my teens and early twenties, my friendships involved a lot of whining. Phone calls were hours-long extravaganzas of complaints that we didn’t understand the world, that we’d never belong anywhere, that this one or that one was so irritating because he managed to fit himself in wherever he’d meet contacts who could give him a boost.

People no longer have time for that. And I get it; they’ve found their niches, and maintaining them takes work. Yes, they actually like their partners enough to live with them, but nothing is perfect; they have to cultivate those relationships. Typically, they have children whose own attempts to find a home in the world require considerable parental effort. Their jobs are often intense, with little down time, and they wouldn’t have it any other way; family life is expensive.

Now, when we connect, they only have time for the basics—which would be cool if the basics didn’t usually translate into “the good.” Ten minutes of whining would still be fun, and even I shouldn’t waste hours on the phone. But when people have limited time, they tend to want to fill you in on their triumphs, successes, and moments of happiness. And I’m very interested, I swear. But since I don’t generally have triumphs or successes that seem worthy of sharing, I feel a bit uncomfortable, like even chatty phone conversations have moved into the realm of otherness: a space I can visit but not embrace as my own.

I should make clear that I don’t actually want much of what these happy souls discuss. I had a partner once, for a little over a day, during middle school. The whole thing freaked me out so much—from his breath when he got close, to the thought that I was supposed to be with him whenever I could, to the other kids’ sense that he and I belonged together as one intermeshed being—that I swore that entire mode of existence off for life. I certainly don’t want a high-powered job that would require me to be in an office for hours on end, being useful to other souls. I need time to think, wander, and write about my unhappiness (and even, once in a while, about my moments of contentment).

OK, yes, I envy your speaking tour that took you to Paris, London, and Jerusalem—especially the part where you took a detour to Morocco because you just had to take a break and explore a whole new culture. But this isn’t primarily about jealousy. It’s about… a sharing of souls, hokey as that may sound.

During adolescence and very early adulthood, it seems, this is expected. It’s “developmentally appropriate,” whatever that means, exactly. But then we move past that stage. We become mired in obligations to others and to the world. All that maturation entails a branching out, a moving beyond, a sense that your feelings and impressions are no longer important enough to obsess over, or even contemplate in any depth. Right? I’m asking you because I wouldn’t know. I still obsess over my thoughts and emotions. I never entered adulthood in that classical sense that seems to push others towards a carefully constructed self-presentation of competence, with little interest in worrying, philosophizing, complaining, or any of my other favorite hobbies.

In line with my focus on my self, a few summers ago, I took a course at Virginia’s Monroe Institute, a gorgeous campus that offers programs to help people leave their everyday sense of reality and travel to alternate psychic realms. The ultimate goal is to coax your consciousness to leave your body and, free of that physical albatross, travel to modes of being unimaginable to the “you” who knows nothing beyond earthly existence. It didn’t work for me; I didn’t leave my body. Many others thought they did, and raved about the experience. For me, it was a typical attempt at a mystical experience: I, personally, failed, but I did get to hear about others’ successes.

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Often with these spiritual workshops, I feel like I’m bungling everything but later realize that at least one seemingly small notion or idea has grabbed me with an exhilarating strength, pushing me to expand my sense of what’s real or possible. We had two instructors at the Monroe Institute, one male and one female. I’ll call the dude Dave (we all agreed not to share anything specific that could easily be traced to one person after the class ended). Dave was a 35ish, seemingly mainstream guy who sat in his chinos and Oxford shirt and told us about his journeys into non-earthly realms. One theme of his struck me: that all conscious beings’ thoughts are transparent in many of the worlds he’s seen. Think something, and everyone around you will know. You can’t hide your mind; it’s like a clear glass palace, accessible to all who pass by.

At first, this horrified me. My mind goes crazy sometimes, in ways I’d prefer to keep to myself. Maybe I’d intuitively be more charitable on these different planes, but during my earthly life, I have all kinds of thoughts towards other people that I’d never, ever want to share. Fleeting observations about their bodies, their smells, their habits, their irritating quirks, their seeming lack of kindness, charm, or intelligence… I don’t normally share this sort of thing, but there you go. If real people (or whatever conscious beings are called in these other dimensions) could discern just what I thought about them, almost everyone would hate me. I stick “almost” in simply because I hesitate to be absolutist. I really think I’d have no friends and many, many enemies.

Don’t misunderstand: I enjoy and admire most people, and I like almost everyone who’s kind to me. But a thousand positive impressions could drown within one momentary sense that someone seems just a bit arrogant, or looks like she’s aged since the last time we met.

And yet… maybe I would be more generous towards others in those different spheres; maybe those kinds of thoughts just wouldn’t come up. And without that worry, transparent minds would pave the way towards transparent souls. With transparent souls, friendship would be intimate again. I’d get beyond everyone’s good news and know their deepest thoughts and emotions. True, they’d know mine, too, but maybe that would be OK in some new reality with radically different rules and concerns. We wouldn’t have to make time for this; it would just happen, organically, like walking and eating happen here on our plane.

But what about soul communion in our reality? My closest family members frequently tell me I’m much too honest. They don’t want to know so much. If they ask how I’m doing, they don’t want a dissertation on the nuances of my feelings. Sometimes, they just want to hear “I’m great!”—as if I were a normal person who could distill my entire mental and emotional state into one blandly upbeat word.

I, on the other hand, often feel that other people aren’t honest enough. It’s not that they deliberately lie. I mean, I’m sure sometimes they do—sometimes even I do—but that’s not the crux of the problem. They tell the truth but not the whole truth. I know that they just bought a gorgeous Manhattan condo but not that they’re terrified of their own angry impulses. I see many pictures of them floating in the ocean in the Bahamas but not one glimpse of them moping around their living rooms.

Because I used to have friendships built on letting each other know when we were moping around the living room, I miss all that. A piece of me knows that there’s more to you than your successes. Is it horrible to admit that this makes me feel better? I wish you all the best—really!—but when I’m always flopping around and being awkward, I feel a boost just knowing that others also mess things up, sometimes colossally.

Even so, it would be fun to hear about it sometimes—to see it expressed overtly. After your Facebook status update about your fabulous five-city European tour paid for by your grant, maybe you could share that it took you fifteen years of trying to reach this point, or that you have a way of annoying people because you’re too intense and that makes you feel bad, or… something.

But I get why you told everyone about the tour. Really, I do. I’d probably do the same thing if I landed a gig like that, not that anyone needs to worry about it since screwing up and sharing that seems to be my modus operandi. I’ll just keep praying for good things: Success. For me, too. Because you never know. And a little more openness from everyone. Because I can’t be the only one who feels weird about my place in the world. If we all shared, everything would be a little less strange, a little more welcoming, a bit closer to home.