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Fireworks and works of happiness

Happy 4th of July!

I doubt I'll go downtown to see the fireworks in San Antonio this year because I'm not too keen on driving and the crowds and more, I don't want to leave my dog alone for a long time tonight in case it's loud. He's so spoiled now, I know, but spoiled he'll remain until his last breath. Plus, I was listening to an NPR story the other day that warned the 4th of July was a tough holiday for pets because, understandably, the sound of air explosions--one after another--freaks them out. Many dogs and cats run away during the fireworks because they're trying to escape. It's as though they feel under attack.

Since my dog has a heart condition, I figured I shouldn't chance leaving him alone. A few weeks ago, I came home to him coughing and moving slow and acting traumatized. I figured this was it, he was going downhill, but then when we returned from our walk I heard the warning of our fire alarm and I could see the way he cringed, put his tail between his legs and ran off. I imagined hearing that loud sound, uncontrollable and piercing no matter where you hide, and how helpless it must have made him feel. It was tough on his nerves. He was not feeling well until the next day.

He's recovered from that, but if I can hang with him tonight, I'll feel better. And this is okay because today, my husband and I decided, we will practice our art, respectively, and enjoy the day off.

Today didn't start off exactly as planned. My husband and I went for our normal day-off walk in the morning and got in an argument. We don't argue often, but this was a sort of under-the-surface issue that was due to come up. The funny thing is, I got so frustrated by our inability to communicate without irritation that I told him I needed some time and literally ran away. I don't usually run away from our arguments; hell, I don't usually run anymore because I've found a more slow-paced exercise style works best for me (walking, yoga, biking, weights), but I'll be damned if I didn't take off like a shot. Let me tell you, running is a good thing to do when you're upset. Especially if you are not a runner ordinarily. While my body said, WTF?, my mind calmed down and the issue became clearer. The point of contention was later addressed in a rational manner, and the husband and I are good again, having settled back into the comfort of our day after an hour or so of discomfort and needing time to think.

As a couple, my husband and I are generally happy because we do fight like this. We get things out of the way then accept and forgive. But individually, things aren't that simple. This brings me to a subject that has been on my mind a lot. The subject of general happiness. As far as being happy in a relationship or happy with a job, the topic is usually straightforward. You're either happy with the situation or not. But happiness on an individual level, on a general level, is tricky.

I am not unhappy. I am not giddy by any means, but I'm very content. And, I'm grateful. That said, I'm not so sure happiness and contentment are one in the same. This realization came to me as I went through a lot of my stories over the last two years and saw the theme of reaching for optimism and happiness but never quite getting a grip. Hope seems to always be the resolution, or the implied resolution. Hope is a powerful thing, but where was the joy in my fictional worlds? I wondered what this means about the way I view(ed) real life. If so, I've always been hopeful, so: Score! But happy, are any of my characters really happy? Am I?

Today, and likely this weekend, I will work on finishing and polishing my latest story. This new story stars Rattle, who was also in "Don't Tease the Elephants" (Monkeybicycle and soon to be the namesake of a chapbook) and "Nothing" (forthcoming). His story is never told from his own POV. He is a character that brings out the flaws and strengths of all the characters who interact with him. He's a messenger of sorts who seems to suffer and excel in a mythic, untouchable way. Anyway, I noticed that most of the characters in these new Rattle stories focus on happiness, if only for a moment. That's happiness despite the fact that these characters are often living a less-than-glamorous life. Rattle is a signal to these characters that they are in the midst of change, and he allows them clarity.

Real life offers these signals as well sometimes. That pic up there is a dragonfly, a little bigger than my fist, that visited me as I left work for my mad-dash lunch break to drive home and walk my dog. I am always in a hurry at lunch to try and make it back within the hour, but that guy up there landed right in front of me and flapped its wings and commanded my attention. It let me get close to take the pic and admire it for a moment. It was so big and so beautiful that it shook my world for a few seconds.

I posted the pic on Facebook and a friend, Diana, said the dragonfly "signifies illusion and a need for change", and I say right on. I feel that change. It's that ability to let happiness in a little, to let it into my life and into my fiction. In both instances, it'll be a hell of an interesting ride. I wonder if this dragonfly, jarring me from my routine if only for an instant, is a sign that my own life is mirroring these characters I'm writing. Perhaps this odd-for-San Antonio insect is a sort of symbol akin to Rattle's symbolism for my characters.

I never thought I'd look at fiction writing this way as I was actually writing it, so the realization of a character-level micro theme that spans my fiction and parallels my own life in some small way feels like a gift. It's one I won't take for granted because as in fiction and life, transitions come fast and hard, and the trick is being able to recognize the insights when they come so they don't pass you by.

I rambled a bit here, no? Ah well, I enjoyed doing it. Enjoy the fireworks, folks. Keep your pets safe. 

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