Definition of terms

Happiness – This is the thing that can happen in almost any circumstance, it’s largely dependent on your outlook. It’s entirely possible to be happy in almost any situation, no matter what’s going on. You can be happy with anything that happens, you just have to decide to be. Any situation of genuine joy or bliss, those situations tend to need new words, words like joy or bliss, in order to describe them. Whenever you describe yourself as “happy” you have to extend that definition to include “contented” or something else that will describe it better. “Happy” doesn’t mean much, it’s basically a decision.

Depression – This happens in every situation, completely dependent on outlook. It’s entirely possible to be depressed in any situation, and there’s nothing you can do about it. When you are affected by depression, it means that you are unable to choose the afore-mentioned happiness. It’s a chemical thing, or a circumstantial thing, or a seasonal thing, or whatever, but the basic thrust is that you are cornered into the inability to choose hapiness, at all.

Now, for these first two, for me at least, the strangeness comes with the seeming fleetingness of the former and the relentlessness of the latter. When you have the strength and the will to choose happiness, there is always the sense somewhere in you that it might leave you, when you lose the strength, and depression takes you, you feel that you will never come out of it.

Neither of these things is true, it’s just a sort of neurosis, a feeling, a fear, that depression will never leave and happiness will never stay.

Mania – This is an unfocused spastic euphoric energy that feels like joy and accomplishment all wrapped into a ball. It feels like everything in my body is metal and lightning strikes through me moment to moment, driving me on. Everything feels right, everything feels like scratching an itch, and each new thing I try is like a new itch I didn’t know needed scratching. It’s a totally useless way of being, except for the moments when smarter and more talented people than me can focus it and make it into something good.

Sadness – Again, this is circumstantial. Sadness can be kept at bay with fortitude, or with luck and circumstance. The right girl decides to kiss you, the right job comes your way, a moment of meaning enters your work or your relationship. Even a smile, or a smack, the strangest things will rouse you out of sadness. When I lost my first marriage, I was sad, and I was sad all the way until enough good things had happened to me that I hadn’t any choice but to choose happiness. I wasn’t depressed, I always had the choice to buck up, to walk away. A stronger man would have done it sooner. I’m not a strong man, really, I had to wait until enough good fortune came my way for me to choose happiness again.

Hate – I don’t know what this is. I can tell you that I have shame for the fact that I’m not stronger, and for the fact that I’m not smarter, but I live now with no real hate, I’ve basically forgotten what it is. I have spent so much god-awful time wading through everyone else’s reasons for the things they’ve done to me, that it doesn’t seem like any of it is really hateful. My ex-wife treated me as badly as anyone ever has, and I don’t hate her at all. I think people would have to behave in a way that was below my ability to empathize with, and I don’t know anyone who has acted any worse than I have on a bad day.

Love – A million different ways, I’m sure. For me, it’s that moment when you look into someone’s eyes and to look away, to miss whatever might happen in the next second behind those eyes, to even blink, is a crime. When you look at someone’s face when they are looking right back at you, and you just can’t bear to look away, that there is nothing else you can possibly look at that will give clarity to your life, when you know that there is an answer to a tiny question, and that answer will come if you just look long enough, that to me is, of course, nowhere near what love is, but when you are dealing with something that indefinable, you may as well say it.

And so it is for me. That moment when you can’t take your eyes away. That happens with my wife. And it happens on stage. So you can say it’s the ego, I can say that it makes me handsome in a world where I am not, but the truth is that it’s the other time I feel that feeling, for a moment. And I miss it when I don’t have it. For most men of my appetites, the might want more women, or more time drunk hanging over the shoulder of a friend. I hope there is something more than acting, as it seems to be a mistress I can’t really woo, but I know love when I’m in it. And, at least until Saturday, I’m still in it.