Zuzana gave me a puzzle of the battle of Sharpsburg or Antietam as a Christmas present. The battle took place on the 17th of September 1862 and it’s still considered to be the bloodiest day in US history.

It’s one of the most original gifts I have ever been given. Zuzana is very original, ever thoughtful, considerate and generous. You might start to wonder why on earth I need to run something like a Happiness Project. See her picture below.

If my happiness is a puzzle then I would spontaneously piece it together like this:

  • Total control of how I choose to spend my time. Thanks to my line of work I have never been closer to this. What angers me the most is when I am forced to do something against my will. So this is a crucial part of the puzzle for me. You could say I suffer from only-child-itis.
  • Intimacy with women, obviously. But lately I have discovered that this can also exhaust me. Like am not doing it naturally but because am out to prove something. There have been times lately that I felt a huge sense of relief when I passed on some opportunities to be intimate with an other woman. This is a confusing development, but I still feel like including women as an essential piece of the puzzle. But how easy life would be if they weren’t.
  • Knowing. Am still obsessed with knowing things. I spend most of my time memorizing nearly useless facts. I even memorize lots of movie dialogues for no reason other than that I get obsessed by things. I would prefer to eliminate this piece of the puzzle. I don’t find it productive at all, although it does allow me to almost never prepare classes, I can invent lessons on the spot. But it’s so time consuming and seems so useless. I could devote an entire chapter to all the useless trivia I have soaked up today.
  • Being of some service to other people, especially emotionally. Like this morning I taught a class and I am quite sure I entertained two people at their job, I gave them some extra self-insight, I cheered them up a bit, cheered them on a bit and almost on the side of that I also taught them some English. If other language teachers have one giant mistake in common it’s that they do most of the talking. Although I steer the lessons in a direction of my choosing, I listen about 80 percent of the time. And who doesn’t enjoy being listened to?
  • My body. The state of my body may be about 25 percent of my current unhappiness. Not that there is anything dramatically wrong with it, it’s just that I am dramatically dissatisfied with it. Yet I fail to regain the fanatical self-discipline I used to have.
    Exercise. I would feel A LOT better if I could finally work up the motivation to exercise regularly again. Exercise defragments my thoughts.
    Playing boardgames. I am very tempted to call these entirely useless, but I do feel happy when am playing my favorite boardgames. There is only one that really brings out the worst in me. Maybe I should devote a chapter to that game and why I think it has such a negative effect on me. It’s called The Settlers of Catan. If you really want to know a person play a game with them, said none other than Carl Gustav Jung.
  • Family, but it’s not the priority most other people seem to make out of it. My second biggest fear in life is the inevitable death of my mother. But in the end I suppose am too self-obsessed to be a real family man. It might change if I ever have children, since I would probably see them as an extension of myself and therefore I would obsess about them too. May God send them a top notch guardian angel…
  • Money. I hate it, worrying about money has made me far less of a human than I could have been, but it buys me my freedom and when I see money coming in it gives me the feeling I must be doing something useful…
  • Humor. The reader may get the impression that am a self-obsessed nutter who is autistically serious about life, but I am often in a fun loving mood. If I could finally shake off my pet worries I would become super sociable, witty, loving, caring, but I allow myself to be so threatened by life that the right word to describe how I go through life is: Entrenched. I feel like I have dug massive entrenchments and I only venture out for sneak attacks behind enemy lines because I have to, to get resources (money). Am afraid that even if I would become a billionaire by some unimaginable stroke of luck it could happen I would hide in an apartment for a long time without ever going outside without ever interacting with people… That’s how scared I am of having to function in our culture. I am scared that by being nice I will end up under a bridge…
  • Talking to very intelligent people. The trouble is that very intelligent people tend to be very busy people, so outside of work with some of my most gifted students I can count the truly meaningful conversations I have in the course of one year on the fingers of my two hands. I thank Gert Buelens, my friend Ruben, Franswa, several of my students, Zuzana, Eva (a Slovak physician), Beata Abram Muller, Paul Verhaeghe, and a few others.
  • Languages. I still get a dopamine hit whenever I learn a new word.
  • Last but not least is self-expression. Am not so sure if it ultimately contributes to my overall happiness but I feel the almost constant need to spill my guts in written form. I am often completely embarrassed by what I have written, but while am writing it does seem my soul is buzzing with something like excitement not too far removed from what we tend to call happiness. But as soon as I stop writing I am overwhelmed by depression because I always think it’s such bad writing that nobody could possibly benefit, let alone find comprehensible, what I throw out on the page. Hell, last year I wrote enough pages to fill 5 books of average length. Yet my thoughts and writing are so scattered that none of those hundreds of page ended up forming an actual book. I have the almost forlorn hope that I will be able to turn this happiness project into a book. Immediately my mind goes: Dude, apart from two or three friends who could possibly make any sense out of this happiness rant of yours?

I suppose those are the main pieces of the puzzle.

This is the giver of custom made Civil War puzzles. The lady who makes me feel like a heartless criminal when waking up next to her is not enough to make me happy to be alive.

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