Happy People Scare the Crap Out of Me

There's something about the kind or person who's naturally serene that I will never relate to

I was recently invited to a party, and it was at one of those houses you walk into and you're instantly transported into a better mood. You know what I mean? There was a roaring fire, everything smelled good—the whole scene was right out of a Nancy Meyers movie.

The person who invited me used to live in the apartment next door to the man I'm dating. It was one of those large apartment buildings with a walkway, and when we'd leave at night, we'd often see this guy and his wife in chairs they'd set out on the walkway, music coming from their apartment, glasses of red wine in their hands.

There's just something about these people, a magnetism that pulls you into their orbit. They have a relaxed charm about them and you find yourself wanting to be a part of their lives. You want to sit and drink red wine with them, and the funny thing is—I don't even drink red wine.

So we're at this guy's party and someone suggested he put on some new music. After a few minutes of listening the guy says, "You know, you think you've found all the music in the world, all the art, all the books, then you find something new one day. There's so much more to discover." He drank his wine, and smiled.

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Ah, there it is. That's why he's so charismatic. He's happy. And that? Made me really uncomfortable.

I'm not a morose person, although I am decidedly cranky and what you might call nervous. But still, I'll strike up conversations with strangers at the grocery store; I'll stop to admire the spring flowers in my yard; I'll smile at a puppy at an outdoor café. I mean, I'm not full of misery through and through. But happy people scare the crap out of me, and at the same time, draw me in. Shiny, happy people are like my own no-pest strip.

There's something about people who are naturally serene that I just can't relate to. If you see me lying on a perfect beach, I promise you there are 6,000 anxious thoughts running through my head (least of all the damage I'm doing to my body while I'm baking there). I once had a panic attack at a spa during a massage. I recall worrying that I'd spontaneously vomit on my wedding day.

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This is just how I've always been: a little on edge, a trifle neurotic. I can't imagine my brain going any other way. Not surprisingly, my whole family is this way, too. I remember one Christmas, my family piled in the car to see a movie. (I remember it was "Nell." Remember that one, with Jodie Foster? She had never seen another human being, had lived out in the wild, and yet she somehow had utterly perfect teeth. That always bugged me.) After the movie let out, my 17-year-old cousin Katie grabbed her throat.

"I think I'm having a stroke," she said.

I didn't point out to her that strokes don't really hit you in the throat, because again, that's just how we are. Something terrible is just around the corner. You never know what's next, but it probably won't be good.

Once in college, I went home for the weekend with a boy I was dating. His family home was lovely, his parents' marriage textbook, everyone was polite and kind of fancy—really. I met his friends, who couldn't have been any nicer.

I knew we were done before the weekend was over.

How do people GET that way—all calm and genuine and thinking deep thoughts about art and books? I mean, I WANT to be like them, but it's so foreign to me. Why aren't they horrified by what the day will bring, like a normal person?

I guess it's hard for me to fathom that not everyone thinks the way I do, with a whole colony of anxious bees in my head at all times. Or is it that it's hard for me to fathom that ANYONE, other than a blood relative, thinks the way I do, and I'm afraid I'll be found out? That happy people will serenely observe my bee head and move along?

You know what? I think I'm having a stroke, she thought, while grabbing her throat.