I was walking down the road on a cold Friday night when I bumped into my old friend Happiness. Happiness looked like her usual self – young, vibrant, edgy – and she’s always wearing that big smile on her face. She asked me how I was and wanted to know what keeps me busy these days.
I noticed that I was mirroring Happiness while she talked about her recent encounters with all her other friends. I was… smiling too. I was laughing hard when she told me about this birthday party she went to where everyone got drunk and was literally just dancing to loud music. “It was full of life there! Like they didn’t care what’s happening outside. They were ah, what do you call this? Living in the moment,” she told me. Her voice mixed with the cold wind that night and all I could see was how beautiful Happiness was. She’s the most beautiful friend I have.
Out of nowhere, she asked: “You ever came across Love again? I’m sure you have a lot to tell him.” Happiness’ voice trailed off. I sensed her hesitation in asking me that question.
Love is one of my closest best friends. I know he’s there but we just don’t keep in touch very often. You know that kind of friend whose presence you can feel even if he’s thousands of miles away from you? That’s the kind of relationship I have with Love – always together but distance apart.
“Nope, I haven’t really talked to Love for quite a long time now. We’re both very busy these days.” I said. Happiness just shrugged her shoulder. She knows when not to push it.
When Happiness was about to end her stories, I found myself wishing she wouldn’t. I didn’t want her to leave. I needed her more than anyone else that night.
“So I hope I see you again?” Happiness asked. I nodded reluctantly. I didn’t want to say goodbye because I knew what was going to happen next. With Happiness gone, I knew that I was left with no choice but to talk to my other friends.
“I hope so too.” I told her.
“I’m just here,” she said as she pointed to my heart. “Whenever you need me.”
I stared at her as she danced her way around town, letting her flowy skirt get blown by the wind. She looked at me one last time and winked. She had more friends to meet. It’s kind of hard to get hold of Happiness. She’s so elusive. She’s everywhere and nowhere at the same time. We all think that we should make the most of our time with Happiness because before we know it, she’s gone.
I thought about Love and how Happiness wanted me to get in touch with him. “Just try to call him. All it takes is for one of you to try to get closer to the other,” I remember her saying. I looked for a coffee shop and decided to sit outside. I ordered brewed coffee – something to keep me up all night. I gave Love a call.
I dialed his number and waited for several seconds. “Hi, this is Love. Sorry I am currently on the road. Leave me a message.”
That didn’t surprise me. Love was always on the road. He was always going somewhere but unlike Happiness who only stays for a short time, Love likes to stay a little longer in a certain place. He likes to get to know people in a more personal level – deeper even. So goodbyes with Love are always harder. I remember he decided to stay in my place for months. He wanted to get to know me and spend time with me. I almost begged him to stay when he finally decided to leave.
“But you know at some point, I have to leave,” he once told me.
“So why stay in the first place?” I asked him.
“People come and go. You’ve got to accept that and we’re friends – we’ll always find a way to be together. If you want, you can come with me.”
It was an offer I wanted to accept but I ended up saying no.
We kept in touch even after he left town but slowly, the daily calls became weekly until it never happened at all. I knew then that Love found someone new to get to know more and spend time with. But I didn’t take it against him. We learned a lot from each other although I would say it was too painful at the moment. That feeling of being replaced by someone new was dreadful. But Love taught me one of the most valuable things I know now – people are never really gone. Love is just out there, somewhere.
So even though he didn’t pick up his phone that night, I know he was out there, somewhere, probably whistling some old country music while driving down a rocky road. I know it because I can feel it. At least I tried to call him because with Love, trying and failing is so much better than not trying at all.
I decided to go home after I finished my cup of coffee. I saw these blinding lights scattered all around town and I realized I had another round of phone calls to make. I decided to call all my other friends who are always, always, so available and accessible even if no one needs them at all. They like to bother other people. They show up at your doorstep even if they’re not wanted. And they’re never wanted, trust me.
But that night was different. I needed to meet them.
I called Sadness, Regret, and Anger.
As expected, they all squealed in excitement when I told them I had to see them.
“See yah!!!!!” The three of them said exactly in the same way as a kid who just bought a new toy set would.
I opened the door to my house and started preparing. I uncorked a bottle of red wine and waited for my friends to show up. After almost an hour, I heard a loud knock on the door. They arrived.
“It’s so nice to see you!” Sadness blurted out first.
I wished I could say the same.
Regret gave me a peck on the cheek and Anger gave me a tight hug.
I needed to talk to them. But someone had to help me confront these three without provoking them to be the worse version of themselves. I’ve seen it happen before, not to me, but to our other friends. They tried confronting Sadness, Regret, and Anger too and it turned out so badly. So I invited yet another friend and I knew this friend of mine has my best interests at heart.
It’s Honesty. Everyone wants to hate her but they just can’t hate her because they know what Honesty can do for her friends. She can be rude but she’s saved so many people by simply being herself.
When Honesty arrived, I saw the expression of my three other guests. They didn’t expect her presence tonight.
“Hey, guys, anyone wants a glass of wine?” Everyone raised their hand.
“Thanks for inviting me over!” Honesty said while trying to sound casual and conversational.
“No, thank you all for coming.” I cleared my throat. “I… ah… called you over because I needed to talk to all of you tonight. I bumped into Happiness on my way home tonight. How cool is that?” I trailed off.
“But you know Happiness. She can’t really stay that long. She’s always needed somewhere.” I suppressed a smile.
Sadness didn’t like Happiness that much. They’re each other’s opposite. Happiness tried to befriend Sadness before but Sadness turned her down every single time.
“So what does Little Miss Sunshine had to say?” Sadness asked me.
“Well, she asked me to call Love.” I looked at Honesty. She had that encouraging look on her face. She wanted me to go on and say the truth.
“You called Love?” It was Anger. Anger hated Love for leaving me. It was Anger who broke some of my most important relationships. His excuse? “I just want to protect you. You can’t be nice all the time or else, people will take advantage of you.”
“Why would you do that?” he continued.
“I guess I just needed to try.”
But I didn’t call them to talk about Love. That night was a whirlwind of emotions but I needed to let it out. When Honesty noticed just how hard it was for me to express myself, she gulped her red wine and talked on my behalf. She always knows the right words to say.
“Our friend here called us tonight because she wanted to know what you’re up to. Sadness, Regret, Anger, why are you always bothering her? Calling her every night just to talk about painful things – things she should have forgotten by now; things that happened in the past; things that, if you think about it, shouldn’t matter now. Our friend here cries herself to sleep to forget but one of you would always give her a phone call to remind her of those dreadful days.” Honesty breathed deeply.
“Sadness, you always remind her of that day when Happiness didn’t show up on her birthday party. Anger, you always talk to her about Love and why she should never trust Love again. And you, Regret, you always ask her why she had to turn down a really good job offer from Success even though she’s answered that question a thousand times. You’re all reminding her of the mistakes she made and it’s not doing her any good. When she’s not picking up the phone, because for goodness sake, she gets tired too, you’d show up at her doorstep, banging the door until she wakes up. Why can’t you just leave her alone?”
At first, Sadness, Regret, and Anger, had nothing to say but I know better. I knew they were just thinking of the best way to save their ass. I was thankful Honesty was there because I felt tears trickling down my face the moment she asked them why they can’t leave me alone. Because I’ve been friends with these people for a long time, I knew what they were going to say.
Sadness looked at me, dismissing Honesty. “Look at me. Do you really want us to leave you alone? Do you really want to be alone? You know that when we do that, you’re left with no choice but to deal with another friend. And honey, you don’t want to deal with that friend.”
I knew who he was talking about.
Regret held my face closely to her. “That friend has more power over you than any of us. We’re your real friends because we keep you grounded but once we’re gone and once you stop recognizing our presence and stop talking to us, she’ll come and get you. We are your real friends – we see you through the tough time. We make you stronger. We let you confront your deepest, darkest self. We let you get to know yourself better.”
I turned to Anger who was looking out the window. “As I always tell you, I’m here to protect you and I’m sorry if I turned many people away from you but Sadness and Regret are right – we’re here to help you free your monster. We all have monsters inside us. If we don’t accept that part of ourselves, then I don’t know why Honesty is still here.”
Honesty wiped the tears off my face. “I’m sorry but I wanted you to hear that straight from them. They’re your friends but they won’t bother you if they don’t have to. There’s a bigger monster out there – nobody wants to be friends with her because she’s ruthless. She doesn’t care. All of us are products of something but this person – she’s got no beginning and no end.”
“Fear can eat you up, you know?” I remember Fear sat beside me in the school cafeteria and told me some things. Everyone turns to Fear when they have no one else left.
“I saw you talking to Fear that day. You know why you didn’t accept Love’s offer to go on the road with him when he told you he was leaving? Because you got scared and thought you’re not good enough for him. You know why you refuse to call Happiness most of the time and just let her show up whenever she can? Because you’re scared it won’t last; that sooner or later, she has to leave again. You know why you didn’t accept that job offer from Success? Because you got scared of failure. You thought you weren’t ready yet. That’s how Fear works. She sits beside you and talks to you like a real friend. You think Fear is helping you? She’s not. She’s only preventing you from knowing yourself fully. She keeps you from Love, Happiness, and Success. Do you know what Sadness, Regret, and Anger do? They help you confront your feelings. You need to recognize them and once you’ve recognized them…” Honesty paused.
“We’re ready to go.” Sadness ended her sentence.
Regret poured more wine to her glass. “Because once you’ve overcome us, Fear will have nothing on you. She can sit beside you again and give you some sort of pep talk no matter how many times she wants but we know you’ll be fine.”
Anger gathered his things and turned to the door, about to open it. “Because of us, you’re knowing yourself more.”
I tried stopping him but Sadness stopped me. Anger was gone.
“Don’t worry. We’ll be back not to torture you – but to make you stronger.” Sadness was gone.
“Me too. I’m coming back to ask you about your what ifs so that next time, you’ll make better decisions.” Regret, too, was gone.
Honesty was the only one left in my room that night.
In between tears, I uttered a silent ‘thank you.’ “It’s good to have them as friends. Friends like them make you human, someone capable of feeling and knowing. I have to go now too. Lock your door, okay? Fear likes to visit when you feel so alone.”
I kissed Honesty and bade her goodbye. I don’t know what to do without her. I uncorked yet another bottle of wine and minutes later, there was a knock on my door. Cold sweat enveloped me.
“Not tonight,” I told myself. If Honesty was right, it could be Fear. If it was Fear, I wouldn’t know how to turn her away. But I remembered what Sadness, Regret, and Anger said that night – I had to free my monster.
Then I was reminded of what Happiness said before saying goodbye, when she pointed her finger to my heart, “I’m just here… Whenever you need me.” Sadness was right. Happiness didn’t fail to show up on my birthday party, I just didn’t invite her. It’s all making sense now.
I walked to my door and breathed deeply. I placed my hand on my heart.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t Fear who paid me a visit that night. It was Courage.
I opened the door. “Thought you could use some company,” Courage said.
Happiness was right. Everything I needed was just right there, at the exact same spot she pointed. All I had to was to make a choice.
“Of course.” I let Courage in.