Finding Happiness in Dark Times
Like the heroines who populate my stories, I tend to fixate on certain issues that frighten me. By exploring grim scenarios in my fiction and examining these real-time topics within my blogs, I feel less terrified of the underlying implications. Somehow, I gain more control of the agitation that always operates at the back of my mind. Yet the dread never quite dissipates. Instead, it simply hovers as a silent reminder of unresolved danger.
After enduring the last few years of political mayhem, I’m accustomed to the fear that derives from witnessing the rise of hate’s dominance in our culture. Still, every day, new developments are revealed that further amplify the ongoing presence of right-wing extremism. The widespread cruelty that emanates from denying a woman’s right to make intimate decisions about her own body, the open access to weapons of war at the expense of innocent lives, the attempts to override voters’ voices, especially those of specific races and ethnicities, among other appalling actions, all reflect this enormous inhumanity. I often marvel about how we live in a country that increasingly pushes for such brutal treatment, where an outspoken, aggressive minority believes it’s acceptable to discriminate against the richness of our nation’s diversity in order to elevate the supreme power of an elite few.
In the midst of this fascist ideology that continues to contaminate our democracy, though, glimpses of strength and hope shine through the darkness we’ve been living through for years now. Recent bills that address crucial areas of everyday life, including climate change, medication costs, veterans’ healthcare, inflation, and corporate tax loopholes make a resounding statement. This legislation forcefully acknowledges the rights of America’s entire population, not just certain groups categorized as belonging to a higher rank. All of us are counted and, in turn, the quality of our lives is viewed as crucial to the success of this country as a whole.
Furthermore, details of the Department of Justice’s urgent actions to retrieve highly classified documents stored in Donald Trump’s Florida estate also reinforce this essential foundation of equality. It demonstrates that the security of America, home to millions of residents, matters more than the fragile ego of a former leader who routinely prioritized his own transactional needs ahead of the nation that he led. And, equally as important, these circumstances show that the law applies to everyone, from the most powerful to the nameless.
I’m relieved to see such developments. They make me feel safer, much less terrified about the numerous perils that have been hovering over our nation for so long. But the danger isn’t gone. Its threat still lingers and won’t simply disappear, even with the positive events that are helping to dilute these ominous hazards of their overall potency.
Therefore, I’ve come to realize that while carefully monitoring these fearsome problems and gladly recognizing when truth and justice prevail, I must still find a way to live beyond my obsessive worries. In other words, I cannot allow my ability to enjoy life to depend upon social, cultural, and political occurrences that are so much bigger and more powerful than my minute existence. It’s not as if I have any personal influence over how any of these complicated elements will ultimately play out.
This reality, a notion I’ve been quietly considering in recent days, is important for me to accept. Otherwise, I’ll emotionally richochet due to every morality-driven incident that seizes our nation. In the process of thinking about this fact, contemplating how I could assert more control over my own attitude, I learned an important lesson through observations of my small corner of the world. It’s quite comical to describe, particularly since this exercise in awareness also happened to amuse me.
Recently, while scrolling through various internet articles on my laptop, I could hear my husband’s happy laughter from the next room. A few weeks ago, he’d discovered that Benny Hill’s iconic show now airs during the late-night hours of the weekend. So now he makes a point of watching the comedian engage in numerous slapstick antics with bouncy music as a backdrop whenever these episodes air.
I’d never been a fan of Benny Hill. For years, I had assumed his humor focused on exploiting women, reducing them to sexualized bodies he could then swoon over while making funny faces. But through my husband, I realized that I’d unfairly oversimplified Hill’s comedy. Although sexual jokes are definitely part of his repertoire, he offers much more than the raunchy image I’d assigned to him.
Beyond the suggestive humor lies an irresistible love of life. It might even be argued that the sexual content also qualifies as integral to Hill’s overall theme, fitting right into that vivid appreciation of being alive. I think this gratitude is best illustrated in the hilarious, sped-up scenes of Hill and a community of other vibrant characters racing around assorted trees and bushes to the accompaniment of the comedian’s signature musical scores.
It’s hard not to enjoy that energy. Those wide shots of people of all ages running behind and alongside Hill, with the crowd increasing by the second, are difficult to resist. They illustrate a fun connectedness that somehow offers hope. Fear and isolation are diluted by such evident delight.
I believe the capacity to find this level of happiness, even when times are dark and uncertain, restores a sizable amount of control that an immobilizing fear so easily confiscates. I’ve learned that allowing myself to laugh, to enjoy little moments of joy, can make a significant difference in my whole outlook. While the threats are not gone, their power over me is somewhat defused because of this newfound perspective. It offers a much broader view of life, where danger and pleasure are not mutually exclusive. They’re woven together as part of a larger tapestry that represent life’s immeasurable complexities as well as, quite simply, what it means to be alive.
Now I understand that fact, thanks to the wisdom of my husband and, of course, to Benny Hill.
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