I picked up the ladies’ magazine I had moved from every surface in the house except into the trash can where it belonged. Meet Our New Happiness Expert, a cover headline boasted. “Boredom is a luxury problem,” I said aloud to no one, an expression I have repeated to my son so many times over the years that he was now starting to net me with it whenever my complaints fit into this category.
But I bit, I read the article (it was free, after all, a homemakers’ magazine I had found in the bin of them at the laundromat I’d frequented in January while in the woods), waiting to see just what a happiness expert was, what she did for a living. I had imagined it was to infuse those who had hired her with ways to find deeper, truer happiness—a dilemma I could not stop thinking--with my blue collar roots of the more lethal Midwestern strain--is most certainly a luxury problem. What classes or courses did said happiness expert complete to earn such a label & call herself a professional in this budding career? Was there any kind of title training or education? Precisely what, if anything real, did her job entail? And what did this opportunistic wench have the nerve to charge clients for her “services”?
Well, imagine my shock (and dare I say it, boredom, once again) that the woman specialized in helping folks declutter their lives. That was it, her entire hat of magic tricks. She would help whomever had contracted her organize their drawers, closets, any hidden areas where crap collects. Then, she’d encourage them to live without it. I wasn’t sure what that made her an expert of, exactly, but I was thoroughly convinced that my road to happiness would never start or finish with the task of rearranging my desk drawers. I was pretty sure I had not tucked or misplaced a pinch of happiness in any of those cabinets or spaces, and even if I had squirreled away such a nut somewhere therein, I no longer wanted it—and I was definitely not willing to devote one second to attempt to rediscover it. . .Something stronger than common sense told me to be leery of her methods and to continue to look in another direction for a different kind of guru to wend me back onto such a road to rediscover such a place, none of which involved sock drawers.
While it was silly to expect to find any gold underneath that rock, I knew to look—and to hope—was very human. It’s the secret ingredient in that cellulite cream and the rows of diet pills. It’s what we really buy when we make that spontaneous purchase for hair growth or virility at the grocery. Or when we order that exercise machine online, the one that works your abs and folds laundry. We love shortcuts. We like recipes & directions--things that tell us with no foot or guesswork--exactly how to get where we want to go and how long it’ll take (replete with pee breaks). But that there is such a job opening, a slot to fill where no career had before existed, tells me that it is a real need, the persistent issue that’s declared in the bags of mail or the flood of email in this corporation’s INBOX.
People most want to be happy but have no idea how to go about it. Getting it, doing it, being it. And, the appearance of this happiness expert—which my spider sense tells me won’t be the last—is this magazine’s attempt to address what has been revealed to them is a legitimate readerly concern. But, since when are chasms patched with superficial solutions?