On Happiness, Mostly

by HelluvaGirl

I recently tweeted something childishly simple: that I finally knew what the purpose of my life was.

Being happy.

It does sound like… anything else.

Like nothing – unless it comes from the bottom of ones heart.

Believe me: I know everything, yet knowing is an imperative kingdom. Feeling on the other hand… You may repeat a truth thousands of times and it will just be a sentence for a postcard. When you feel something’s true, it comes outside from within, and it may change just about everything.

I came back from Milan today. Technically yesterday, as it’s 10 May, 12.26 am already and my girlfriend’s just left with a bunch of milan-this-milan-that I spilled to her. Pia’s just turned off the light in her room, I’m finishing my pre-birthday wine and I want to use my 21st birthday occasion to say what happiness is to me 🙂

Happiness is not something I have inherited – it is something I have been reaching out to persistently, like a person determined to meet a live elephant for once in his life, yet having no idea how the damn creature looks like.

I went to Duomo two nights ago. There was a concert; a choir was chanting beautifully, the tourists were flashing their devices above their heads, and I felt uneasy taking my Instagram pictures for the first time.

Walking by the old confessionals, I remembered my own kneeling at the carved window and repentance prayers assigned that I would repeat intensely; the feeling of lightness when I would go home through my town square after the mass. I did feel the meaning then.

Within Duomo, there was something about the air – or perhaps the materials the building is constructed from, or the colours of the bricks? – that made the air above my head look different from anything I’ve seen, as if Faith would be in the process of taking form. And the person I would think of walking the beautiful floor of the Cathedral was my Mother Grandmother. I just thought what it would’ve meant for her if she could travel (otherwise than saving her family from the Russian exile; I can’t believe the woman could harness her horses) and come to a place like that. If I could have taken her there. Or just meet her walking the beautiful floor, bowing in front of the mummies of popes neatly lined in their glass sarcophagi at the walls… I imagined a place like that could make her weak inside, maybe she would’ve even cried a bit. I walked through the thick air of the Dome with my Mother Grandmother, sharing what I felt with her. She was with me.

I couldn’t help thinking about all the humane things that this particular religion has been and still is prone to. The sins. The pretence. The lies and the crimes. I embraced it all in my heart, caressing the building from the inside, bowing to the ever-present energy of the people who have passionately prayed and repented there.

I am always happy to slip into an event happening in an unfamiliar city I’m visiting: it feels like incidentally witnessing a small part of real life people lead there.  I was happy to listen to the concert before enjoying my first-ever Italian lasagna.

From that night, I came to be known as the wine expert (guess it just takes a determined tone when selecting from the menu), and I loved all the Pinot Grigios we had.

I loved meeting my colleagues I otherwise only encounter via emails or confcalls at best. I loved walking the streets of Milan fast and slow; I loved the way shop assistants would chat up with me in Italian after I’d sing my Buongiorno’s! and Ciao’s! to them; I loved missing the tram stop and being late to the Gustav Klimt exhibition (still embarrassed by it so much, too…); I loved gelato Italiano which I gobbled up with God’s name on my lips; I loved the silence gaps and the conversations we had; I loved the way people would look at me as if I was from Malena film set (must admit, I overdid it with colours last night – Italians dress even darker than Lithuanians, though!).

Milan met me with meek pastel shades of apartment buildings I watched through a taxi window, as a city of its subtlety and calm confidence; and it gave me a farewell that forces me to steal a quote, which I never ever do, but I will now, at my own risk:

Morna cafe will be a moment etched in timelessness for me.

In one of the Afro-Asiatic languages, morna means let’s go

It’s the shibui thing; it’s the framing of each savoury moment I have.

It’s the pencil drawing of Klimt I came back to and watched for a long while, memorising the lines because it was inappropriate to photograph. My favourite one in the whole exhibition was the spectator with the neckpiece at Vienna theatre; a pencil sketch of a man looking away in his chair. I couldn’t take my eyes off the drawing, thinking about the many layers incepted. What was the man seeing? What did he feel? What were his thoughts in that moment of solitude? We are so isolated in our theatre seats, when I think about it… Who was behind him watching his back? If the man turned around, whose face I would see? My own? Or the one I kept looking for in the crowd?

It’s the local bar with its own texture of woven-in mood and people, and their marvellous quarrels, and the interior surfaces, and countless bottles at the wall, and my Primitivo, and someone I leaned in to listen to.

Yes. Happiness is the how instead of the what. So basically, each wrinkle of the elephant’s skin at a time, and I caress them lovingly.