The trick to being happy is knowing how to manage unhappiness.

I see all the blog posts, the lists of the ten things happy people do everyday, the five things happy people do before they wake up, the seventy secrets to happiness. I don’t even bother looking at them. I already do all the stuff they say. It doesn’t matter.

To me, happiness isn’t an affirmative thing, it’s all about containing the negative. I’m happy as long as I don’t let unhappiness crawl into the backseat and sit back there eating peanuts and throwing the shells on the floor, kicking me in the back with hard shoes, smearing food on the windows and snarling at passers-by.

But I tell you, once unhappiness is encamped in your backseat, it’s a true bitch to get it out. I know. I bought a two-seater car for just this reason.

So what’s my containment strategy you ask? How do I reckon with the belching, filthy gnome grabbing at my collar and telling me how to drive?

I don’t let it out of the car.

Because you see if I let it out of the car, it will take up residence in the house, float around me everywhere I go. Envelope me. I know this. I know how this goes. Give it an inch and it will ruin me for weeks.

So the greasy evil character stays in the car with the windows rolled up while I do the things on the lists I don’t read. I get a lot of sleep, I eat right, I walk a lot, I work. I do whatever I must to keep it in the car.

And then when it’s safe, when I sense that the nasty creature has mostly folded in on itself and is started to dry up, crumble on the back seat, I get in my car and I put the top down and I sail over the Hoan Bridge, look down at Milwaukee’s harbor and the big ships in port, see the waves in the distance, breaking white, and decide then that I am truly the luckiest person alive.

That’s how it works. This happiness thing.