The Happiness We Chase

The Happiness We Chase

I came home last night exhausted. My body was breaking into pieces, caving in at the knees, and I wanted nothing but my bed. But midway, just as I headed for my bedroom still groping in the darkness, something hard slightly banged against my chest and forehead.

My God! My heart leapt into my mouth, goosebumps lined my entire nakedness, as my mouth let out a shriek. Did someone break into my house? How did they do this? What am I supposed to do? 

Of course, it was nothing but a door I had left half-open, but I couldn’t stop wondering what would have unfolded if, indeed, someone had broken into my house. Is this the way I die? Strangled by the strong arms of an unknown man? Is this the way they find me the morning after my death, slumped, naked, against my bedroom door? Does my death hurt my mother the most, because she remains the one person who insists that it is too dangerous for someone my age to live alone?

So, for a moment, I slide my naked body against the now wide-open door, let my hair loose, hug my knees, and just cry. I stay in this position longer than I thought I would, longer than I imagined I could.

I cry for all the nights that loneliness has slowly creeped into the solitude that is my life nowadays, reminding me that there is still little bits of my life that craves companionship, no matter how strong a spirited fight my soul puts across. I cry for all the times I have struggled to fall asleep because I keep seeing ghosts from my past, awakening these bitter memories I am trying too hard to bury.

I cry for all the times my previous lover pulled these pranks on me; hiding behind doors, showing unexpectedly behind me, screaming abruptly in my face. I cry for all those times I told him that these things hurt my heart. That my heart does not know how to live with suddenness. I cry for all those times he brushed all these off, this crying of mine, and moved the pranks notches higher.

I cry for all those times he said, in the midst of my crying, that I should get used to these things I was saying hurt my heart. I cry for all those times he tried to kiss me afterwards, as if kissing would miraculously heal my heart.

In those two hours of my crying, I feel as helpless as I have never felt before. I bite my arms. I pull my hair. I pull the bedside rug from under the bed. I light a candle. I remove everything from my wardrobe. I discard my broken earrings. I mourn a broken flower vase.

Still, nothing. The helplessness sticks out of my chest like a machete, drawing more blood from my already shattered heart.

I am as helpless as more than a year ago, when my previous lover and I came back home to a flooded house. He says sorry for having subconsciously left the kitchen tap open, and casually asks me to not panic. But how do I not panic when half of my books are submerged in the water? When my kitchen equipment might as well be dead? When my bed is threatening to burst its legs? How do I not panic when everything I have broken sweat for is lying in this pool of water?

I am as helpless as more than a year ago when my previous lover and I came back to a flooded house, and while he went on and on about staying calm, I slumped into the water and just cried; ignoring his constant shouting of, ‘There could be electric current in that water! You could die!'

But what is life, what is living, when everything that sets your soul in fire is drowning?

Back then, I was hell-bent on want. Wanting things to go my way. Wanting things to remain the same. Wanting lovers to never leave me. Wanting to never leave lovers. Wanting happiness to stay with me forever. Wanting everything I loved, and adored, to remain within my reach, forever. Wanting everything, that in turn, kept me in a vicious cycle of fear and hope.

Fear that I would wake up one day, and everything would vanish. That I would, and could lose everything and everyone in a snap of a finger.

Hope that my fears would never, ever manifest.

So I was constantly on the lookout, chasing my wants, and in the process, I forgot how it felt to live in the moment. How it felt to bask in the glory of current happiness. How divine it felt to rest, and not be held at ransom by fear and hope.

Sitting on my bedroom floor yesternight, still crying, helplessness still choking life out of me, I realized how lost I have been  for the better part of this year.

For the first time in my life, I do not know what I am doing. I have no plans for whatever I will do tomorrow, or the day after, or next month. I do not know where I will sleep tonight, or where I will wake up tomorrow. I do not know whether my spirit will have the will to write next Thursday. My doctors have overhauled my whole diet, so I even do not know what I will eat today, or tomorrow, that will not try to kill me.

Yet, it is in this being lost that I have been very authentic, and stayed true to myself. It is in this being lost that I have found my voice again, and  have felt the joy of living in the moment.

Because sometimes, when you are 28, seated alone along the beach in almost zero clothing, sipping a glass of cold wine, people are bound to look everywhere for signs of a lover, an engagement, or marriage, or children. And when you say you have none of those, they will die squinting their eyes, looking for specks of sadness in your life. And when none of this is still forthcoming, they will scamper away in awkward silence, trying to figure out where you went ‘wrong’.

So I have stopped looking at happiness as something that should spread across my entire life. I have stopped worrying whether the choices I make right now will make me happy tomorrow, or next week, or forever. I have stopped wanting the people close to my heart right now to stay with me forever. I am accepting that in this wide world, things and people will always outgrow my arms, but this does not mean I do not drown in their happiness while they are still here.

I am happy now? Yes. Is what I am doing now making my heart sing? Yes. Is this person seated with me right now rubbing my back because I am choking on laughter? Yes. Is this job I am doing right now fulfilling my life? Yes. Does writing every Thursday make me smile more on Fridays? Yes.

That is it. It ends at yes. Every other good thing will come, at its own time.

Then, when the helplessness in my chest begins to fly out, and my tears begin to dry, my phone chimes with a new message:

“I will be away tomorrow. You are the senior-most employee, so please lead the company meeting tomorrow. Let me know if you have all the tools that you need. All the best.”

I do not fret. The hair on the back of my neck does not stand, even though I know I should be scared that half of these people are new staff, way older than me. Instead, I crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and I just know that the happiness will find me, whenever it wants.

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Meet Eunniah Mbabazi
Eunniah Mbabazi is an Electrical and Electronic Engineer with a deep passion for books and literature. She has authored Breaking Down (a collection of short stories), If My Bones Could Speak (a poetry collection), The Unbirthed Souls (a collection of short stories), and My Heart Sings, Sometimes (a poetry collection). She has also co-authored Kas Kazi (a novel) and When a Stranger Called (an anthology of short stories).

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