As someone with a history of depression, I have been thinking about happiness.
Which leads me to thinking about people.
There are two types of people. For want of a label, I will call them practical people and emotional people.
Practical people are …, well, practical. They are organised. They fly airplanes safely. They keep the buses on schedule. They make sure the supermarket is fully stocked. They file their taxes on time and keep their homeowners insurance up to date. They are necessary people and the world would not function without them.
Emotional people are …, well, emotional. They are creative. They are the great writers and painters and filmmakers. But they are not practical and, aside from their creativity, are usually pretty much messed up. Ernest Hemingway changed the shape of the novel, but was a chronic alcoholic who ended up shooting himself. Virginia Wolf committed suicide. F. Scott Fitzgerald spent a lifetime in conflict with his wife. I could go on.
Practical people and emotional people are entirely different. Someone once wrote a book about men being from Mars and women from Venus. I would argue that the difference between practical people and emotional people is even greater.
The problem is that emotional people understand practical people but practical people don't understand emotional people.
Emotional people know what practical people can and can't do. We don't expect or ask them to write a great movie or do ten minutes of stand-up comedy or be the life of the party or write a great book. But when the sink is blocked or the car won't start, we call them.
But practical people don't understand emotional people. They are always trying to turn us into practical people. They are constantly haranguing us to become practical.
They don't get us. They don't understand that, for us, a walk along the Rideau Canal on a sunny day is more important than meeting the tax filing deadline. That we don't have to check the bus schedule because we can just chill out on Slater Street until the next 95 Baseline comes along. That if Loblaws is out of grapefruit we just grab some oranges and that two minutes of friendly banter with an affable store clerk is worth much more than a bunch of supermarket loyalty card points. That we can't work a smartphone and have never downloaded an app. That we cook by feel and never read a recipe.
Which brings me back to happiness.
I have a good friend who is a psychotherapist with the British National Health Service. We used to go down the pub and, as I found his work fascinating, we talked about it often.
And after all those chats, I have figured out that the key to happiness (or at least good mental health) is self-awareness.
It's not necessary to be perfect. You may even be a bit messed up. But so long as you are self-aware, as long as you can step back and see who and what you truly are you will be all right.
Emotional people, for all our faults, are generally self-aware.
Practical people, for all their perfections, are generally not.
So, to practical people, I say look in the mirror, step back, look at yourself and question "who am I and have I done anything really interesting recently?"
And, if you do that, we emotional people promise to file our taxes on time.