Instructions for a happy day (#whatmakesyouhappy)

"The first recipe for happiness is: avoid too lengthy meditation on the past."

- Andre Maurois


1. Happiness recipe, according to me

You will wake up early. Not early like cotton-throated and scratchy-eyed mornings. It will be early like the colour of sycamore and silver birch creeping round the curtains. It will be early like flimsy shadows and dust on the windows and birds chewing away the night with raucous wings. You will kneel up in bed and then hang your legs out of the window to breathe.

You’ll get your bike out and you’ll pedal it so fast that the wind hurts you but you won’t think of that hour as a paper round or an exercise regime. You’ll think of it as an opportunity to fill your lungs with something other than computer screens. You’ll think of it as chance to roar down the empty roads, being young and fractional and untethered. If you have to wait at the traffic lights, you won’t swear or punch your handlebars because you’ll realise instead that those minutes spent ‘on hold’ give you a little longer to pretend that you are eight and that you can contain a world inside you and that you are alive somewhere between the tarmac and the sky.

You’ll talk to your dad when you eat breakfast because you don’t talk to him enough and because it makes you feel lighter when you do. The radio will play you a beautiful old song that you will have almost forgotten to remember.

When you walk to the bus stop, the sky will be blue with streaks of cloud strung across it like jolted pens or white tyre prints. Even if it is not blue it will not be grey, it will be beige, or peach or ochre or ink. Maybe it will be white, with fog piles sat upon the playing fields like whipped cream.

The bus won’t arrive on time, because that’s asking for too much, but it won’t have lagged far behind. You will find its contents not irritating but entertaining. You will realise that one day, perhaps ten years from now, you will get on a public bus and long to be part of the tumultuous group of school kids at the back. So you will know better than to resent the noise. You will be gracious that you are still a part of all its careless crudeness.

You will not dismiss the day on principle – because it is a Tuesday or because you have History – but will accept everything as it comes. You will live for what it is, not what it is called. You will tie the dark bits to helium balloons and the sunlit bits to sand bags. You will retrieve the laughter that is spilled using a butterfly net.

You will chat to those who chat to you, regardless of whether they are the sort who will buy you credibility. You will pass smiles back to those who pass them to you – as though they are paper aeroplanes – and share your biro with the boy that never has one. You will find better things than bitter words to fill your teeth with and sweeter songs than sulking with which to tune your strings.

You will not pre-guess your doom or your future and try to stave them away with self-deprecation. Because when did calling yourself a failure become flattering? And when did it start to be appealing to portray our misery and all our ugly, tarnished corners? And why did we all recommend it to one another as though repeating our cycles of unworthiness would reduce our flaws in number or in size?

When you return from school you will lure your body into angles and garnished lines and arabesques that flow like brush strokes. You will lick the sweat from your upper lip and know that you are tasting ballet. You will know that ballet is beautiful. You will unzip your heart, unfold your ribcage, untangle your aspirations and let them balance upon the cadenzas of your ecstasy. You will not look in the mirror too often, or pay too much attention to the sensation of your toenails bruising backwards into your feet. Instead you will hinge your body into alignment and let every withheld secret pour from the twenty-six bones in your feet.

You will be driven home by your dad with the windows down – regardless of the season – and your elbow hanging over the edge in that way that makes you feel relaxed.

When the sun sets, you will not think too much about tomorrow or the weeks that will follow, and neither will you think too much about yesterday. You won’t think about two years ago or six years ago or twelve years ago because you might as well be throwing a tennis ball into the atmosphere and expecting it not to return. Instead you will remind yourself that this is your atmosphere, this is your tennis ball, this is your present tense – your future past – and that each blade of grass wants to be remembered. Each leaf wants to be beatified; each footstep wants to be relished. Each blink is older than the one before it.

So you will breathe,

See the sun bleeding shut and the birds on the pylon wire,

And realise that the air is not so dense after all.

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