Sugar paper on the tongue…

I’ve been thinking about happiness a lot recently. Of all the abstract nouns it seems to be the one we all find the most abstract.

Are you happy? Am I happy? Could I be happier? If only we were as happy as they seem to be? If only I had this or that or him or her then I could be happy. Why can’t I just be happy? What would make you happy? Really happy?

Endless questions. Pointless questions.

I’m not a naturally happy person. I’m prone to being an internal Eeyore and someone once told me that they thought my dopamine receptors were off – I never take a moment to stop and celebrate achievements but am always, always pushing on to the next thing.

But you know, I don’t think that’s got anything to do with happiness. Maybe we’ve just forgotten what happiness actually is or should be.

Everyone’s looking for THE BIG HAPPY all the time, don’t you think? The grand passion, the surge of adrenaline, the X-Factor win in life’s events. It’s not enough to be happy, we have to be HAPPY. We must be physically perfect, beautiful, endlessly talented. Love has to be like something out of Notting Hill. To be happy, life must be PERFECT.

You know what? To equate HAPPINESS with PERFECTION is to keep it forever out of reach. THE BIG HAPPYS? They’re something else. In my head, those are called ‘moments’. You see a man across a room and you have a ‘moment’. You get that book/film/TV deal and you have one huge motherfucking moment – but that’s still all it is. A moment.

Happiness is something more subtle. Happiness is like sugar paper on the tongue.

I spend a lot of time chasing the ‘moments’. I’m one of those kind of people. But recently I’ve taken stock of everything else.

Life has changed over the past few weeks. I’ve moved to London (I know, I know, I’ve barely mentioned it). This has been both brilliant and a bit scary, but it’s certainly made my life busier and put me back in the world after my Miss Havisham existence in Milton Keynes. I have wonderful friends nearby who have been great during my whole moving house experience, I have a city I love on my doorstep,  and I’m loving writing at the moment.

My little flat is starting to feel like home. I’m buying stuff to ‘put in it’ – something I never did with the house I owned. Writery people abound in London and are always up for wine. I have the Keynes to escape to if I want quiet. The world seems warm. I’m smiling a lot.

I woke up yesterday and I realised that although I’ll always be prone to a little bit of darkness and fear, those things can’t be helped, and actually – all things considered I’m tentatively feeling happy. What a rare thing to feel in this age of DEMAND and WANT. It’s a quiet feeling, happiness. A gentle thing. Butterfly wings against the beat of your heart. In the rush of life, you can almost not notice it’s there until it’s gone again.

I have sugar paper on my tongue. I’m going to savour it.

SP x

About sarah

Writer of supernatural and crime fiction for Gollancz in the UK. I've written six horror novels and my first thriller, A Matter of Blood, wa View all posts by sarah

12 responses to “Sugar paper on the tongue…

  • Nicola Vincent-Abnett

    Amen to that. I like contentment in big dollops and happiness in those perfect moments of heart-thumping, adrenalin-shot madness… Then, of course, there’s the bliss of… well… bliss.

    I wouldn’t swap my life with anyone, but I do like how yours sounds right now.

  • Den

    Welcome to dirty old London town. And, if I can get all Zen on you, welcome to the perfection of each unfolding moment.

  • Kevin mcnally

    Welcome to the sugar paper club

  • Zach Ricks

    Happiness is a serious problem – Dennis Prager. (Incidentally, no matter what you think about his politics, he does an hour a week on his radio show that’s just about happiness – every Friday if you can find it)

  • Alex

    Good stuff. And (probably not news) pretty much in line with the cutting edge as far as research on the subject goes.

    Sugar paper – do you mean like the stuff flying saucers are made of that you got from the corner shop?

  • Mark Boardman

    Very cool. Enjoyed reading that. I’m very transitional at the moment, and I’m trying to make sure I transition into something that makes me happy. I have been guilty of not focusing enough on that. It is definitely in small things and moments though – not necessarily big events.

  • Pádraig Ó Méalóid

    I remember with great clarity (it was, in fairness, only a bit over two months ago) when I called you out of a room here in Dublin to have a word with you in a corridor. You were convinced you had done something wrong, but what I actually wanted you for was to ask you to come back to the con next year as a Guest of Honour. I hope that it was a moment for you, because it certainly was for me, when you said ‘yes.’ And that’s the thing: you can’t plan happiness – it has to occur right there, just because the moment is right. I’ve had some up and downs recently, and I fully accept that’s how it is. Stuff happens. We have to live it all, good and bad.

    Another lovely piece from you, by the way. I really do look forward to them.

  • grimachu

    Spot on post. I’m the same, never reflecting on the happy moments but then I have depression and thus, an explanation for being an Eeyore.

    London’s a special place, though I don’t think I could cope with living there.

  • Richard Wiseman

    As always I enjoyed reading your intelligent and incisive thoughts. For my own part I long ago ceased trying to be happy or seeking happiness. For me happiness is illusory and fleeting; I am sure that there is no plateau of happiness available for anyone and so I have learnt to enjoy my melancholy times as much as I enjoy the happy ones; treating happiness and unhappiness just the same whenever and wherever they turn up.

  • Michael

    First time here….love your writing style.


    Moving to London sounds so exciting! I would love to visit that city one day.
    I believe the only person who can make you happy is you. You have the choice to be contented and happy with where you are or to be miserable. It’s not always easy to accept the things we can’t control, but worrying and whining about it isn’t going to help. My mom always said, “worrying is a lot like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.”
    Thanks for a some food for thought for my day.

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