I’ve just finished reading this book.
I was conned into buying it by a nice lady in a nice bookshop. I won’t name and shame but every time I visit her bookshop she persuades me to buy a book (or two). Often, she is right, and I’ve picked up some real gems thanks to her sales technique (‘I think you’d like this’). For example, this one below. My youngest son loves this book. It is about a bunch of weasels who decide to try to take over the world. They are thwarted in their efforts by a unplugged plug. They are also much distracted by their love of coffee. It’s great.
She also told me that I’d love this book (and indeed, I do). This looks like a children’s book, which it is on one level, but it is also a profound post-structuralist, philosophical examination on the nature of objects. It is about semantics, signs, and the power of the human imagination. The use of the apple as the object to question is no accident. I think I could write a whole blog on this book so I’ll leave it there.
However, on the occasion of my purchasing How To Be Normal, until I got to the last few chapters, I had concluded that she was wrong to persuade me to buy it because ‘you’ll like this’. It is a humourous book so will have mass appeal, but I found it quite irritating. I’m not sure what I was expecting. But it didn’t seem to be offering any great insights on how to be normal. It didn’t delve into the question of normality in any great depth or breadth. Perhaps I should have enjoyed it for what it was: a tongue-in-cheek examination of human nature. It isn’t meant to be taken seriously. I think it was telling me to take a chill pill. I’m not good at taking the chill pill.
So, as I have said, I read most of the book with an air of slight disdain, pompously puffing out my cheeks as I turned the pages and kept reading. That is, until I came across the chapter on contentment, which stars with the sentence ‘Contentment is nature’s Prozac.’ This made me unpuff my cheeks and sit up and silently exclaim ‘Yes!’
I have always envied the content of this world. They live on an attractive level plain. They travel the same path of life’s ups and downs as the rest of us do, but they seem able to batter down the ups and gently push up the downs and carry on their merry way. They neither get overwhelmed nor underwhelmed. They just are. They accept. They cope. Most importantly, they are happy. Or if they aren’t happy, they reason that it is normal to be unhappy sometimes and this makes them feel content. They know that they will be happy again soon.
I am not one of the content of this world. I rarely feel that warm, snuggly sensation: contentment. I can feel extreme joy, excitement, pleasure one moment but then find myself in the depths of the well of despair the next. Christmas thrills me. January pulls me down. Presents excite me. Making mistakes at works renders me drafting my resignation letter in my head. Snow falling has me in love with the world. An argument starts and I’m losing a good friend before we’ve even finished the first sentence of the argument. It can be exhausting. Perhaps it burns more calories to be like this (therein lies another blog entry). But there are many times when I dream of being one of life’s contented people.
So back to the original question: Is contentment nature’s Prozac? Having tried Prozac (and hating it) I believe that this might actually be true. Do the content need Prozac (or any other equally as effective anti-depressant medication)? I’d have to do a survey of 100 contented people. But, equally, you can’t fake contentment.
So as a emotional rollercoaster kind of person, I have only one choice – accept that instability and use it to positive effect, both the ups and the downs – as inspiration for my art and for my blog writing.