Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Thing You Didn't Know You Needed

When you are happy, sometimes you can be even happier.

This post has been pieced together from notes made about four weeks ago, when this was written and this happened. The end result may seem a bit disjointed, but it's still something I want to say.

Things You Didn't Know You Needed are what make you happier than you realized you ever could be, back when you were just content. They raise the bar; they teach you to expect more. The argument could be made that if you didn't know you needed it, you didn't need it. "Raising the bar" could be another phrase for "forgetting how to appreciate what you have." After all, you were functioning without it. But how do you define "functioning"? If you were waking up in the morning, breathing, eating, getting dressed, eating again, sleeping, and waking up the next day to do it all over again, weren't you functioning? Maybe, but without certain improvements or certain levels of happiness, you're only operating for the short term. You are running poorly, with a gear missing, so that even though you could perform procedures day to day, you were heading, in the long term, for premature breakdown—you were functioning poorly.

I realize now that Oregon was a Thing I Didn't Know I Needed. Here's an excerpt from something I wrote four weeks ago: I have been ridiculously happy these past few days. Aside from one low point—a Mean Girls Meetup (more on that later)—things have been great. All simple things are making me happy such as going to a farmers market, walking around a garden in the rain, making ice cream, or planting peas and radishes. After writing the Felony Flats post this afternoon, I really appreciate where I live now. I drove to the farmers market thinking, even saying out loud, "I love this place. I love this neighborhood. I love this city." I love my life! This is a big change from where I was a year ago. In NJ, I had a job and friends and a decent apartment, but I was unhappy. I was functioning, but just barely. Something about this place, something about going to farmers markets or planting radishes here in Oregon, is what was missing. It's indefinable, at least for the present, but it's what was missing—it is what I needed to function well.

The thing you didn't know you needed need not always be so intangible. It could stuff. This is where the line gets fuzzy, and I could see agreeing with the statement, "If you didn't know you needed it, you didn't need it." Some examples in my life are jeggings (as soon as I learned of their existence, I wanted a pair! but I don't need them), a camera strap (I went without one for years, knowing I should get one; having that one little $10 thing has truly improved my life), and a garbage disposal (love it, but I could live without it.)

When you spend time with someone who treats you well, you start to treat yourself well, too. When someone sees your good qualities and tells you so, you start to see them, too. When someone appreciates you, you appreciate yourself more, even if your self esteem wasn't half-bad to begin with. If this individual someday ceases to be in your life, you don't lose that positivity. You retain it forever; you know how you want people in your life to treat you from now on—friends, lovers, or anyone. The bar has been raised. For example, I once lived with a great friend. We'd talk about our days and ideas; we'd make each other dinner. When I was sick, he brought me tea in bed. When he was sick, I brought him botanical medicines. We bought each other unexpected gifts (typically food or beer). Once, he bought me a tarte aux framboises for no particular reason, so I canceled a date to share the tarte with him. One Friday evening, he and I went beer and grocery shopping together. I was wearing ballet flats. While we were inside the Korean market getting vegetables for dinner, it started to rain heavily. The potholes in the parking lot became ponds. When we stepped outside with our bags, my friend told me to wait on the curb. He took the bags from my hands, leaving me surprised and baffled. He jogged to his car, loaded the trunk while the rain fell on him, climbed into the driver's seat, and then drove to the curb where he'd left me. He explained that he knew my ballet flats would have soaked through and stayed wet for the rest of the evening. Until that moment, no other person except my father had driven to a curb for me in the rain. This friend anticipated my comfort and convenience before I did. In this moment, I recognized what I had, what I hadn't known I was missing. I knew I'd never in my life accept anything less.

This is what I mean about The Thing You Didn't Know You Needed. I didn't know I could be treated so well until it happened; subsequently I knew to expect this kind of respect not only from others, but from myself. The person who brings you tarte aux framboises is not necessarily The Thing You Didn't Know You Needed. The Thing is what you learn from the kind of people who drive to the sidewalk so that you don't have to ruin your shoes. The Thing is what you retain from having known such people. (Recently, a second non-relative drove to a sidewalk in the rain for me, reminding me of this first event.)


On a far less sappy note, what originally inspired this post was a falafel mold. I'd written, "Vegetarians, here's a Thing You Didn't Know You Needed!"

Those unappetizing-looking things are veggie burgers. The perfect disc-shaped patties were made with a falafel mold, the tool I'm holding in the photo. The mushy blobs are patties made by hand. The former cooked better and kept their shape better. Both were delicious. (I'll post my veggie burger recipe once I perfect it.) I got that falafel mold as a Christmas present in the mid-2000's. And then...I never made falafel. I never used that mold until four weeks ago. Who knows what made me move it across the country with me? but I'm glad I did. Like Oregon and self-respect, a falafel mold is The Thing I Didn't Know I Needed.

What are some things you feel belong in this category?

1 comment:

Breanna said...

A blog! I didn't know I needed a blog! The real point of this comment, Sarah, is to tell you that although I've only very recently discovered your Big-Haired Jersey Girl blog, I've been reading it faithfully. And you have inspired me to start one of my own, so thanks, I think. Also, that falafel maker looks SO HANDY- my falafels always disintegrate. And I look forward to your veggie burger recipe when you perfect it, because I just can't quite figure out the right combination of beans, shredded carrots, salsa, etc.