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What is happiness, anyway? Does anybody know? It’s taken me 80 years to figure out that it’s not a tranquil, sunlit realm at the top of the ladder you’ve spent your whole life hauling yourself up, rung by rung. It’s more like the thing that Christians call grace: you can’t earn it, you can’t strive for it, it’s not a reward for virtue. It exists all right, it will be given to you, but it’s fluid, it’s evasive, it’s out of reach. It’s something you glimpse in the corner of your eye until one day you’re up to your neck in it. And before you’ve had time to take a big gasp and name it, it’s gone.

So I’m not going to spend what’s left of my life hanging round waiting for it. I’m going to settle for small, random stabs of extreme interestingness – moments of intense awareness of the things I’m about to lose, and of gladness that they exist. Things that remind me of other things. Tiny scenes. Words that people choose, their accidentally biblical turns of phrase. Hand-lettered signs, quotes from books, offhand remarks that make me think of dead people, or of living ones I can no longer stand the sight of. I plan to keep writing them down, praising them, arranging them like stepping stones into the dark. Maybe they’ll lead me somewhere good before I shrivel up and blow away.

Helen Garner on happiness