It happens to me sometimes.
I leave my house, I feel light and happy.
A ray of sun brings out the glossy shine in my hair*, I feel like I’m dressed to perfection, stylish without being a fashion victim**. My nails are done***. That morning, Chris said sweet things to me****, I talked to my sister on the phone, and I had all the ingredients for a delicious, balanced breakfast*****. The mailman flashes me a big smile and I think about my life, my apartment that’s so nicely decorated, my fascinating job that’s not even stressful at all, and at my life that’s running like clockwork.
And right then, I catch my foot in the strap on my bag and fall flat on the ground. True story.
That’s the visual version of the idea, but it might also be that I receive a work text that’s super stressful, or I have a day that I packed way too much and I get anxious, or (like right now) I’m moving cities and have to do everything at once. Or more simply, I realize I’m dressed for spring and it’s actually -12 degrees out because I forgot I was in New York and not LA.
These perfect moments, they never last.
Even so, there are some people who make us believe they can. For them, everything looks perfect, from their polished nails to relaxed demeanor. Their days are organized like an Oscars ceremony (by the way, wouldn’t it be great if music started playing whenever it was time to wrap up a meeting? I’m going to invent an app for that!) where Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway never got the envelop wrong. Or at least that’s what those people would have us believe.
Because for me, I’ve honestly never had a perfect moment of harmony that lasted.
I’ve had moments like that that lasted for longer than one second, though. Like for example, this great impromptu family reunion in my village in Corsica where all the people I love were together in the same place at once. I remembered to appreciate that moment. Or moments when, at the Studio, we’re working as a team and laughing and feeling creative and I know I have the best team on earth, without a doubt. Moments in love, moments at work. Being totally absorbed in my writing or my illustrations, or in a conversation with someone I love.
In those moments, I don’t think about the past or the future. Just the present.
We often tell ourselves that once we have “that thing” (love, money, work, Balenciaga jeans) we’ll be all set. We’ll finally be one of those people with a perfect life. Actually, it’s surprising how quick we are to say to someone with any amount of social success “Oh but for you, you don’t have any problems, it’s all easy for you!”
When actually nothing could be further from the truth. Happiness is all in your head, not in the things you acquire, the degree of perfection you achieve, or in your exterior successes. I’ve experienced it enough times to be able to tell you. (Oh and if you want proof, watch the documentary “Happy” on Netflix, it’s pretty crazy.)
Take moments of success, for example. The moments when you achieve something you always dreamed of doing. Or even things you never dreamed you could do.
You end up thinking having impeccable style or having your nails always done will be some kind of key for having a perfect and photogenic life. But so much wasted time and work goes into that sort of thing, it loses all its charm when you really go for it (I know, I tried and gave up).
You think there will be a time in our lives when everything will finally fall into place. Whether it’s love, an apartment, a job, friends, the perfect body, whatever it might be. Those moments never come. There’s always something that’s “almost finished” or something that “is partly falling apart” or something “in the works.” Always.
You might think, for example, that receiving a CFDA Award is one of those big moments in life, but you’re so overwhelmed with stress you can’t really enjoy the moment.
You think falling in love is a magic heavenly moment when most of the time, you’re letting yourself get eaten up with doubts and worries and “he didn’t answer my text, what do I do, shit wait, he answered, what should I do, no I’m not going to answer, argh, come on, tell me what to do.”
You imagine that when they announce that you’re a New York Times Best Seller, you’ll cry and there will be violins playing, but actually you hear about it between two work meetings and a fight with your boyfriend.
You think buying a house will be a big moment of happiness, with an image like a commercial of you signing the papers and celebrating with champagne, when actually by the time you get to that day, you’ve jumped through so many hoops, all you can think is “pheeeew, finally.” You’re already used to the house, almost. You’re almost used to it at this point, thinking about the next house, the next dream to achieve.
You think reaching the stars is something that just happens magically. When actually it usually takes so much work to get there, the magic mostly looks like really hard work. And the reward makes perfect sense: a symbol of shiny recognition that doesn’t reflect any of the sweat that actually went into getting to that point.
That’s what it is to be human. The moments of pure perfection are rare.
Happiness is within us and it has nothing to do with the idea of the perfect life that’s presented to us these days (that is – being a girl boss while raising four children, three dogs and having a perfect body, an ideal love story and perfectly ironed outfits straight out of NET-A-PORTER, all passed through an Instagram filter).
The image of happiness that’s presented to us these days is absolutely exhausting.
So here we go, I say we need to chill out a bit.
Know how to appreciate and be thankful for what we have. Respect what we have. Live each moment fully, knowing it won’t last. Work happy and appreciate the work itself without thinking too much about the results. Have a sense of humor, perspective, avoid the trap of always thinking happiness is around the corner, and know how to love our dreams for what they are – dreams and plans.
Things we’ll eventually achieve when the time comes.
It might sound cheesy, but it’s so true. And these are things we’ve all known for years. But do we really put them into practice? For the past few months, I’ve been trying to live in the present, and it changes everything, completely.
I’m try not to do things “for later.” I’m trying to trust my instinct and let my life build day by day, without trying too hard to force or control everything. Sometimes it’s a challenge, because I’m one of those people who believes (believed) I could control everything. It’s a challenge, but it’s led to some amazing moments of letting go and joy.
So I go back in with a smile to look for a coat that totally messes up my outfit – nails undone, hair windblown, with a big smile for the mailman, and I let my fiancé sleep in. I bring breakfast to the Studio instead of lamenting over my dry bread and well, life’s just amazing the way it is.
*Usually that last about three hours. By noon my roots start to get oily and my ends get dry.
** The dream.
*** It’s probably the day after a shoot, otherwise it never happens.
**** Pffff, usually if I leave early, he’s still asleep.
***** Something that never happens except the very next day after getting groceries. After that, my groceries are a mess because I don’t know how to plan properly.
Translated by Andrea Purdue