True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
It couldn’t have been earlier than 2007. I remember standing on the deck – probably in the middle of some mindless, mundane chore – but I don’t remember what prompted the thought. After a quick mental calculation, I would have arrived at the number five: five more years until my son turned 21. I had to live five more years, and after that, I didn’t care.
It wasn’t a suicidal thought, but one borne of weariness. I was tired of never daring to look more than two steps ahead, tired of my wife’s seemingly endless crises, and tired of pretending it was all going to work out somehow, knowing full well it could only end in catastrophe. I was tired of my English cultural heritage: muddling through somehow, keeping the stiff upper lip. I was tired of being who my wife needed me to be rather than who I was. Rightly or wrongly, I felt that the burdens of decisions, consequences, and responsibility were all on my shoulders.
I was tired of living. Though I didn’t realize it, I had become terribly fatalistic, thinking and acting as though I were merely following the script in some American tragedy, trudging along toward a foregone conclusion. There were fleeting moments of happiness, all the more noticeable for their rarity, but on the whole, I was sleepwalking. I worked hard at my job, because that’s my nature, played nursemaid when my wife was ill, which was often, and whenever possible, I escaped into computer games, writing, and music. The world of my imagination was more real than the one I could touch.
Fast forward to today, and you see a different person. For the first time in my existence, I know the experience of feeling happy to be alive. I am learning to appreciate the passage of time. I’m beginning to realize the scope of my free will, and am a little awed by it. I’ve gained confidence; I’m about to write my own script by relocating halfway across the continent and starting a new chapter in my life.
And this dramatic change, this renewal and expansion of life, this resurrection, can all be attributed to one person: my Muse.
As related elsewhere, I met her two years ago today. A few weeks into our friendship, in a fit of frustration, she called herself an “anti-muse” because all of her writer friends were spending more time talking to her than creating. To prove to her how wrong she was, I started calling her my Muse. This wasn’t just to irritate her; she really does make me a better artist. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that she is not only an inspiration for art, she is an inspiration for living. As time has passed, she has moved from being my artistic Muse to being my life Muse.
I’m not the only one who benefits from her ability to engender a joy of living. Her husband and children are blessed with her presence every day, and her friends are continuously recharged and strengthened by her seemingly inexhaustible energy. She loves to laugh, and her chief joy in life is making others do the same, as evidenced by her blog. She’s one of those people who light up a room. She’s a bracing combination of charm, wit, and blunt honesty. She’s the best friend you’ll ever have – if you can handle it.
The other day, a curious thought struck me: my Muse is an artist of humanity. She gently – and sometimes not so gently, if you’re close to her – influences those around her. Her medium is the emotions, and she creates joy, laughter, and love in the world. In truth, she is a light in the darkness, and I thank God that I met her. She raised me from the dead.