Small Things & Curing Unhappiness
[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
Yesterday, I bought a tiny cactus from Trader Joe's. It wasn't just any tiny cactus though. It was a tiny cactus in a tiny pot in a tiny, orange, cat-shaped pot holder. My friend bought one the day before and sent me a picture. "I can get you one tomorrow," she wrote. And that's why we're friends. She knows that I adore my own cat, to a startling degree. My love for my cat is how I measure every other love in my life. I love him almost as much as I love Chub Chub, I think to myself as I watch my beloved boyfriend sauté an organic chicken breast over medium-low heat, beads of sweat pouring down his very pretty face.
It isn't polite to talk about, but I can understand why people are more upset by their pets passing away than by the death of their beloved great aunt, for example. Pets are with us every day. They've seen us at our ugliest, saddest, and most disgusting, but they don't care. Pets provide an unconditional love that is unmatched by any human, alongside a comfort that can only be provided by a being that does not speak. I've cried into my cats' fur many times, and never once has he judged me for dating another asshole, or for failing miserably at a race, or for not closing a deal at work. My cat just purrs and rubs his tiny tawny head into my flaccid breast and breathes his rotten fish breath directly into my half-open mouth. But I digress.
I bought the tiny cat curled around a tiny cactus because I like cats, and because it's almost impossible to kill a cactus and because it made me feel just a tiny bit better. For the low-low price of $5.99 plus taxes, I took home a little trinket that will brighten my day every time I see it perched on the window ledge near the desk that I stand at for roughly eight hours, five days a week, where I make call after call in a mad quest to make a company that I do not own more money. I like my job, but I'll like it more now that I have a tiny cat curled around a cactus giving me the side-eye every time I happen to look out the window.
Sometimes, we complicate what it takes to make life feel better. Maybe you feel better by doing a sound meditation bath or by taking a long walk on sand or by swallowing any number of unregulated vitamins. Maybe you need an ice bath to feel better, or maybe you need an infrared sauna. Maybe you need to read a schticky self-help book that looks good on your coffee table, or maybe-hang with me here-you just need to buy yourself a nice latte from your favorite coffee shop and decide that you're doing alright. You're exactly where you're meant to be, and no amount of yoga classes or facials or magic mushrooms is going to permanently change that. What I'm saying is that a tiny cat curled around a cactus, or a latte, is a lot cheaper and just as effective as spending too much money to have a psychic reassure you that you're doing alright, just keep believing and oh, by the way, your great aunt really did love you, almost as much as you love that furry micro-panther you call a pet.
I saw this quote the other day from Shane Parish from the Farnam Street Blog, "Vacation won't make things better. Changing jobs won't make things better. Getting the recognition you deserve won't make things better. Drugs won't make things better. The only thing that will make things better is your relationship with yourself."
Buying a tiny cat curled around a tiny cactus doesn't make anything better either, I suppose. But doing small things for yourself has a way of making you feel better without feeling over-indulgent. Sometimes, people ask me why I run so much, in a "What are you running away from?" kind of way. The answer to that is simply that I need to move or else I get unbearably crabby. I'm not running away from anything, I'm just making life more tolerable for a minute. I have, however, run away from things in the past, thinking that moving across the country might fix a broken relationship, or that finding a new job would cure a deeper unhappiness.
Sometimes radically changing your life is necessary, but sometimes, it simply won't make anything better. What might make you feel better, just for a moment, is to spend six frivolous dollars on something that is cute but unnecessary; something that will not irrevocably re-shape your life, but something that might enhance your day, just a bit. Scratch the itch without drawing blood, is all I'm saying. And then, go do the deep work of repairing your relationship with you.