A few days ago I was feeling fairly low and miserable, so I asked my Facebook friends to tell me the best thing that had happened to them recently. I wanted to hear their happy stories, to prove that the world isn’t awful.
I’m an odd duck. I like creepy reworkings of children’s stories, dark fairytales, and generally thrive on the kind of books that don’t have happy endings — at least not for everyone. Yet at the same time, I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by the awful things that happen in the world. Watching the news is a litany of things going wrong. Wars. Protests. Missing teenagers. Racism.
So I asked people for good things.
I had a few replies, which varied in tone. People told me small things that happened to them, like sharing a song they’d heard, and in some ways this was exactly what I wanted: the small happy things that brighten up people’s days, not the huge dramatic events that change everything. In other ways, it made me realise how tiny the ‘best’ thing that happens to people can be, suggesting there isn’t a lot of competition for the title. But I thought I’d share with you a couple of things people told me.
I hope they don’t mind me sharing them. They posted these as comments on a Facebook status, not in private messages, so I take that to mean they don’t mind if other people see what they wrote.
I read someone my poetry for the first time ever today
Today I bought an inflatable velociraptor
I was honest with someone I’m into and she smiled
My Chaucer seminar spent a full hour trying to pronounce ‘taco’ in a way that did not make us sound utterly ridiculous. Someone walked in to see how we were getting on right in the middle of it
I drank a pineapple and blueberry smoothie and it was good
The great thing about small good things like this is they make you realise that it’s not the huge, life-changing events that necessarily make people happy. It’s the little things: the smoothie they drank, a slightly bizarre but hilarious purchase, the decision to be brave and share creativity with others… the things that on the surface, sound relatively unremarkable, but they’re not, because they make those people happy.
My friends proved to me that even if the world is awful and everything is scary, the small things make it better.
I’m not good at quantifying things. “Best”, like “favourite”, is a word I rarely use, so when asked to name the best thing that’s happened to me recently I’d probably consider things “not quite remarkable enough to be best, but pretty good”. Asking my friends for happy stories made me realise that I’m quantifying everything too much. What’s the best thing that happened to me today? I was practising the harp and managed to do some broken chords that I haven’t managed before. (Hey, it’s only 11am.)
Opening out the question allows for bigger things. This weekend? I went to see Billy Elliot streamed live to the cinema yesterday, and it was awesome. But if I start making the question too much bigger, I can’t answer it. Everything has to be weighed up against everything else, and then “good” isn’t enough. It has to be “brilliant”.
To see the good things, I have to start small. Expecting the good things to be massive means I miss all the little things that made me happy, and pitting the different positives against each other as though to rank them means I don’t end up appreciating any of them enough. I’m missing the forest not because the trees are in the way, but because I’m ignoring the saplings and the bushes and everything that I don’t consider to be a part of the forest.
So on that note, I’m opening up the question to you as well. What’s the best thing that’s happened recently? This morning, this weekend, in the past seven days? Tell me your happy stories, whether they’re as small as a chocolate bar or as huge as a new friend. They can be a sentence long. They can be a paragraph long. They can be more, if you really want to go for it.
Tell me good things, because I want to know that there is more to this world than the awful things we see on the news. And maybe, trying to think of something to write will make you realise what it is you really appreciate.
Let’s spend some time dwelling on the good things instead of the bad. I want this comment section to be a place of joy, that I can come back to and reread when I’m sad. I want anyone who stumbles across it to read it through and think, “Hey, things aren’t terrible.” And I want you to tell me ordinary things from your day, because that reminds us all that happiness can be found even in the fleeting moments of a delicious meal, or in the pages of a book, and it doesn’t have to last to mean something.