Monday, May 3, 2010
Deborah, over at the Temptation of Words, tagged me last week to post my views on ‘happiness’. Though I have never met Deborah, I believe her to be a sensitive, warm, introspective person, who is also gregarious, strong, dedicated, honest and full of life. She is also a fabulous writer and a joy to read. Please visit her blog and see for yourself.
A woman once shared with me that she knew her husband was cheating months before their parting of ways. The natural question was evident. How did that make you feel? Her reply was less evident however, as she said, ‘each day for the remaining weeks I scrubbed the toilet with his toothbrush, and that made me happy.’ This kind of happiness is certainly unlike any delivered by the tooth fairy.
It does serve as a reminder, however, that happiness is diverse. It is available in many assorted shapes, sizes, colors, flavors and tones. In some sense, at the surface level, reflecting on happiness seems best done as a word game that mental health professionals might want to utilize.
A sample association might start with happiness is a first kiss, a second date, or great sex. It’s a 5 0’clock whistle, a bully boss getting fired or me winning the lottery. Maybe it’s the wish-list come true, the journey, or the stops along the way. I could say it is hard to define, yet easy to know. I’m certain that saying happiness is doing my best and letting go of the rest would be of interest to a therapist. How about a vacation, water skiing, sky diving or snowboarding? May I be allowed to pursue happiness as a sports scholarship for my son and a music scholarship for my daughter? Dare it be a measure of revenge or must I do the right thing? I love happiness as an old friend, and a new friend. It also works well as a shoulder to lean on. It is running, reading, gardening, a musical instrument, or whatever the passion. It is thriving over surviving. It’s a baby’s first words and first steps. It is learning to ride a two wheeler, and getting back in the saddle when mishaps occur. Happiness can be a pet named Zoey or Oscar. And I think it is always a signpost when I am lost. Happiness, of this assortment, is packaged with no wrong answers, just revelations.
Aside from the examples of bumper sticker comparable lines, possibly tossed about with a shrink, happiness genuinely involves experiences. I can still remember my favorite catch while playing football. It was just an intramural playoff game in high school. But with less than thirty seconds remaining, in a tied game, I suddenly found myself in the end zone, while running at top speed and out of room. Our quarterback hurled the pigskin, and in a seemingly slow motion haze, I quickly trapped the ball in my left forearm and tip-toed both feet in bounds to win the game. My team surrounded me with smiles, chants and pumped fists. Happiness, the experience, was brought on by an amazing catch.
Unlike a scheduled football game, spontaneous moments can provide lasting memories of happiness too. A cold and snowy December day, while attending college, comes to mind. I managed to persuade a small group (my bride of today among them) to forego our studies and finals angst and to instead head for the hills for some late night tobogganing. We found a great slope where we met many others who were there to unwind as well. We spent hours trying to beat each other’s previous run times, and then hours getting home, as we had no car. In the end, a dreary day of studying turned into a day of lasting memories. Call it happiness 101, I suppose.
Funny is happy as well, and sometimes we have to laugh at ourselves. In the week or so prior to getting married, my feet were so cold I needed custom made, silk lined wool socks to make it to the altar. In our traditional and celebratory fashion, my brothers, friends and I lined up a few rounds of golf prior to the big day. For me, it was basically more distraction than anything else. But the distraction, out of the blue, provided me a once in a lifetime chance to perform a feat otherwise only seen in cartoons. I was lost, somewhere between one hole and the next within the vast maze known as the Bethpage State Park Golf Course. This time I was moving at top speed in a golf cart, when I went straight off the side of a cliff that came upon me too fast. I paused in mid-air and fell ten feet, flat and thunderously loud. Clubs and irons spit out like geysers in all directions. I didn’t move an inch in my seat, though I felt as if I just rode the big hill of a mega roller coaster. I stuck the landing- it was one in a million. All anyone could do was laugh. And this prescription for happiness proved to be enormously good medicine for my cold feet.
All these different thoughts and experiences about happiness resemble various blends of coffee. It’s like choosing happiness with mocha, with caramel or on the rocks with Sambuca and a splash of lime. Happiness in its premium brands is not always in season. At times, it may be necessary to take part in an occasional pilgrimage in order to be endowed with a cup brewed at full strength.
Such a journey took place, on January 15th, 2009, when a commercial passenger jet lost use of all its engines shortly after take-off, but was nevertheless piloted to a miraculous landing in New York’s Hudson River, by the renowned Captain Chesley Sullenberger. These are the times when happiness begins to flow from unblended reserves that humans can draw upon, and it is seen as tears of joy.
In other rare instances, life allows us to bypass the reserve altogether. In my life, I was given passage when a severely stressed and twisted umbilical cord made for a scary delivery during the birth of my daughter. When I finally cradled her unscathed body in my arms, I simultaneously felt that I had already known her forever, and I came into contact with true happiness.
I paired up for fortune again, when a routine call to check on the status of our pending adoption 2000 miles away was enhanced by a Higher Power’s intervention, and allowed myself and my beloved to hear the birth of our son live. As we cried all the way to the airport, and much of the journey to greet him, it was apparent that we had been directed to sample a divine blend of happiness.
Several years later, when my soul mate fought back from the edge of illness, a master key left under our welcome mat provided a simple but long awaited weekend with something to celebrate. Entry had been granted to the source of happiness.
As my eyes swell and tears of joy dance across the keyboard below, I can remember those times when I bypassed the untainted reserve. And my heart was free to voyage into the deep and therapeutic well of happiness-called inner peace.
Writing may not always lead to inner peace, but I’d say it is 99.9% pure. Thank you so much Deborah for thinking of me. I will now ask Jocelyn, at O Mighty Crisis, if she would like to share her thoughts on ‘happiness’.
© 2010 Christopher’s Views