Northwords Now Issue 38

The FREE literary magazine of the North

The Greatest Gift

by Robin Leiper

When you are grown-up, it’s easy to be happy.
I knew this when I was ten: you just needed resolution.
You felt some creeping, cloud of discontent -
you’d make a change. By simply being open
then to what you wanted, you’d start becoming
cheerful, in control again - you were the master

of your fate: there would always be some master
-switch to throw, some options or some happy
circumstance in reach. To choose this meant becoming
different - as easy as a New Year’s resolution.
Your life’s a blank white page, an open
book, yet to be written. One stroke erases discontent.

Is life like this? No - it seems not. Discontent
is like some mangy cur without a master
roaming your hungry streets, licking open
wounds, lifting its leg at every happy
anniversary, dogging your heels with the resolution
of a hired assassin, set on becoming

your dread Nemesis. No face now seems becoming.
No dalliance or sport but leaves you discontent
and bored. Your resolution
falters. A malign fate squats there as your master
and you sneer at any date with being happy.
Look at yourself: your life’s an open

sewer. No longer can you open
up your heart to anyone. You are becoming
dead inside. You’d be happy
just to end this hell of discontent.
You eye the knife, the pills - you’d be master
of your destiny. But then your resolution

fails you once again. You can see no resolution
to this problem on your own. No act of will can open
up your life. So you accept you’re not the master
here: you find your little self’s becoming
smaller and less interesting, your discontent
merely a fact of life. This makes you strangely happy.  

The true master-key to your becoming
grown-up may be the resolution to stay calmly open
to your discontent. Then, yes, it’s easy to be happy.