I might have ignored him, because like anyone else I have my own sadness, my own travails and tribulations. Except, that from a very early age, people have been saying that to me, 'Girl you are one happy person!'
I never quite understood what they meant until I got into my mid to late twenties. If enough people repeat something, it's the more you believe it. People all around me, people I know, strangers even, see me as a happy person.
Even when I am sad, I find things to smile about, I find a way to make my heart light and keep my spirits up. I rarely need help to do it, there's like an inner buoyancy that cannot be repressed. People have told me that I radiate. When I think about it, it has to be this internal combustive energy that I have that comes out of my pores. I actually recognise it as a character trait that I have developed.
My biological mummy tells me that I come from a long line of powerful women. She tells me to be careful because most people are overwhelmed by that kind of power. Even if they have no words or no explanation for their feelings, they react to your energy in ways we don't completely understand. She's always warned me to contain my energy so I can put it to my own use; to make it work for me, rather than against me.
It's funny how experience changes your perceptions, because when she said it, I thought she was trying to repress me in some way, but after a decade of living on my own away from her, I really understand what she means.
At work I am called, 'The Polite Lady', 'Lady', 'Miss Mary Sunshine', 'Happy Child'. Old ladies smile at me in the street and call me, 'Sweet Girl', 'Sugar Head', 'Darling' and 'Sweetheart'. Men openly stare, smile and for some reason I don't hear offensive comments from them any more, only: 'Empress', 'Princess', 'Beautiful', 'Family', 'My Friend'. The best compliment a man every gave me was, 'Lawd hav mercy girl, you look like a ripe julie mango.' In the Caribbean, from a Caribbean man, as far as I am concerned, that is a serious compliment. I guess there must be something shining out of me that people pick up on whether I am aware of it or not. I think that is cool.
On the streets, no matter what city or country I am in, even without a walkman, I sing as I walk, I sing all the time, everywhere I go. I sing in rebellion, I sing in anger, I sing in frustration, I sing in absolutely lightness of being, I sing to praise my mother, I sing to soothe my heartbreak, I sing because I am happy, how does the rest of it go.... I sing because I am free. I sing under my breath and if I am in a really good mood, I'll sing with full throated gusto, I don't care who's around.
Maybe it's because I have been to the deepest part of my despair, went there and found ways to smile at the beauty of even that experience and returned laughing at the thought that there was nothing but bleakness and abandonment in the world. I laugh and continue to laugh, because how could I doubt that I am loved, cared for, guided to and by my own destiny? How can I not sing and enjoy the journey?
Maybe some people think me a fool. I just remember my Girl Guide Law: A Girl Guide is cheerful and helpful in all situations. I may not have realised it, but that has imprinted itself on me. No matter what is happening in my life, I am just not built to give into despair or unhappiness. I am built to find the happiness and love in myself so nothing can pull me down or keep me down. I feel lucky, I can actually feel how people struggle with this and I am glad that I am blessed with this innate mechanism in my psyche.
I feel surrounded by love, even when I am alone. I feel love moving through me, residing there, coiling like a spring sometimes, welling in great pools sometimes, but always there, ready to be called, to be poured out. I never feel that it is gone, it may recede sometimes, but like tides and waves, it comes crashing back in a reliable almost predictable way.
I am a child. I know so little about how everything works, but I am learning more everyday and at the core of my prayers are always the requests for strength and wisdom to find me and for continued guidance. I am blessed and I am not afraid to be grateful, not afraid to spread that energy around.
Happiness is inside me and built into the simplest of things.... singing in an empty room that echoes back the purity of whatever sound I can manage; the gap toothed, slimy grins of fat, happy babies who are the closet creatures to God we have on the planet; yellow flowers in a green tree, yellow blossoms inches thick in carpeted drifts across roots, stone and grass; the pleasure of hot water showers, strong coffee, loyal friends and devoted puppies. I love my life.
So maybe my brother is right.... maybe I am in a state of perpetual happiness. I am 29, I have a long road ahead of me, I think this is the kind of power that can only be tested and strengthened by time, but I am grateful for having the ability to recognise happiness when I see it, when I am it and to take it when it comes instead of looking for it so incessantly, I don't see it when it's there.
I feel lucky.... there are so many unhappy people around me.
My brother — yes, the brother who drives me crazy — used to say he’s always hesitant to walk anywhere with me in public. Especially if I have any kind of walkman with me.
He says it’s like being in a Disney movie sometimes, he never knows when I am going to break into song. He demonstrates, fling his hand out in one direction, while tossing his head back and giving off a ‘Whooo Hooo’, to illustrate his point. He has said to men that I am the only person he knows that actively practices perpetual happiness. I laughed as he said it man, like the Indigo Girls sang it, but this really is my situation.