July 20, 2015

Why There isn’t a “Happiness” Filter.

Michael Behrens/Flickr

Have you ever noticed that memories often have hazy, golden fogs around them, and that Instagram’s editing filters are often hazy or blurred?

I’ve noticed lately that we’re all over-using the haze, y’all.

And dreams, for me, are often cloaked in shifty, lazy, idyllic fogs as well.

I once dreamt of a child playing outside, a golden halo of opaque light surrounding her body; making her seem wondrous and perfect in the way that only a dream can.

Why do we remember life as if a dream?

We cling, often, to the best things that someone said, or to a best moment of connection, or to a thought that maybe things could have gone differently in a relationship if we allowed one word to remain unsaid, or said.

And then there are the memories—surrounded by a black haze—that spew the wrong word, or the spitted word, or the relationship’s problem over and over again.

These memories can replay mentally as well, but with nothing to offer the heart—and as little amount of reality infused from within.

Because memories are not real.

They are playthings.

I often dream in black and white—the color that does arise is important.

For instance, that little girl of my dream from several years ago was actually largely a black-and-white dream, and the golden halo surrounding her playing body was in color.

Ironically, memories, unlike dreams, are typically much more black and white—and certainly much more dichotomous than life.

I learned a long time ago that life is shades of grey.

Life isn’t “this is wrong” and “that brings joy,” but, instead, it’s typically an arch of waning and waxing of easy, relatively carefree days and periods of more intensity. Yet it’s these periods of intensity that can breed such an idealistic response.

We become infused with something extremely negative or extremely joyful—like marriage, death, a relationship difficulty, illness, work success—and we think that life is something more than an ebb and flow.

It’s when I remember this ebb and flow that I stay sane in these periods of temporary disarray.

Happiness is disturbing.

Happiness is something chaotic to the stream of what flows naturally through life.

While life should and can be something to behold with relative excitement and adoration, a state of constant happiness would not only mean a flat-line to this feeling in general, but, more, it’s as equally abnormal as a period of constant morbidity.

Because life is not meant to be surrounded by a golden halo.

Recently, I took photographs of my oldest daughter sitting at the hardwood table of her favorite eating spot, a place that offers bowls of real fresh fruit—like slightly smashed raspberries and cut-into-awkward-chunks pineapple—as well as truly homemade hummus and, sometimes, pita chips browned in the oven a touch too long.

Today, my daughter and I went there for the first time since I had her baby sister.

I anticipated a less than simple situation and prepared by telling the waitress we’d be having only the bowl of fruit—along with telling her that we miss our regular visitations and a healthy tip—and by paying the check, and making sure that my daughter—hand filled with crayons and bowed over a printed-but-as-of-yet-colorless place-mat—knew that this would be a short stay.

It went well.

Granted, we were there for 15 minutes.

But it went well.

She was, of course, ecstatic to be at her old stomping grounds, to have eaten a portion of a bowl of delicious fresh fruit and to know that life isn’t the same with a baby sister as it was before—but that we can still do beloved adventures.

That said, the picture that I chose to take and then post later on my Instagram account was much sweeter than the actual visit.

The actual visit involved wondering if my dress would be tattered and needing changed from the baby parading all over it, while I tried to hold her wriggly body in my lap.

The actual visit involved my daughter wanting to color for longer, and for me to color with her—like we used to—only it was made impossible by this sweetly squirming little sister.

The actual visit involved me looking gratefully at this baby as she took in scenery, while wishing I could even just pretend to spend as much attention on her “firsts;” on her newness.

This photograph did not look like our real encounter—much like life is not, thankfully, surrounded by a golden, hazy Instagram filter.

No, life is wondrous, and chaotic and awful and easy and plain.

Lately, I feel like the Tasmanian devil.

I feel like my kids and I pop into places and are a swirling ball of activity and then—just like that!—we’re gone.

We are energy and too little sleep and too much coffee—or not enough.

We are everything but an Instagram filter.

We are real life.

I inhale deeply through my nose, pause, and exhale out my mouth—I take a moment to hold, deeply within my tissues, my day.

My day was not preceded by enough sleep.

My day was a beautiful child looking at me—directly in the eyes—and smiling. My day was a baby’s proud face as she held herself steady on her own two feet, all by herself.

My day was, at times, surrounded by this perfectly coveted, glimmering mirage—mostly because I chose to see it that way, despite my lack of sleep.

My oldest daughter sits in front of the large picture window overlooking our side-yard as I hover over my keyboard writing this. She plays with my shoes, still in boxes from our move—we haven’t moved recently enough to excuse these boxes of shoes.

She looks beautiful. My mind will remember her this way and not the stress that I feel from needing to put away the rest of my shoes and clothes.

Because it’s important to remember that we are not paintings or pictures of perfection.

We are not brushstrokes or filters, or even the false remembrances of our own imaginations—we are more.

Our memories have golden, hazy smokescreens, not to disappoint reality or to trick us, but because it’s healthy and right to find the best out of life.

The problem arises when we compare real life to something synthetic; something grainy and outright dishonest instead of the crystalline focus that we actually live through, as we go through it.

It’s important to understand completely that real life was never perfect—that a picture on Instagram might be changed. More, it’s critical to understand that nothing is Photoshop-picturesque if we want to truly live a happy life, in real time.

We can do better than showing the world—and ourselves—only tiny snippets of something false; something we wrongly imagine to be the only aspect of ourselves worth sharing.


Relephant Read:

Motherhood Uncensored: What We Don’t See on Instagram.


Author: Jennifer White

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Michael Behrens/Flickr

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