My eighty-two year old aunt Hilda can make you laugh at the silliest things. When one asks about her pain from severe arthritis she immediately lets you know she'd rather not talk about pain, then she laughs at one of her own ridiculous jokes.
Max is a young man who smiles and always has something good to report about his day. Max's mother abandoned him when he was a few months old. His father neglected and abused him until Max had to be removed and placed in a foster home. He is developmentally delayed, has cerebral palsy and is quadriplegic. Nothing in his life thus far, has prevented him from spilling his joy.
We all know people like that, they just can't help being happy. It is the most distinct aspect of their personalities. They're not artificially cheerful, they just embody happiness no matter how life has treated them.
Unfortunately, we're not all like that.
Unfortunately, we're not all like that.
After some contemplation I have come to one conclusion: happiness is not a constant companion. In order to possess it, we need to cultivate it within ourselves and watch it multiply in intensity and frequency.
I remember once writing about random acts of kindness, and proposing that although random kindness is wonderful - intentional, purposeful, and planned kindness may be even better. I'm beginning to think happiness is similar. That we can do it with intention, on purpose and with some planning. But maybe we need to start with random acts of happiness just to start creating a habit.
My recommendations? dance, sing, observe nature, smile, be still if that suits you. Take note that all these things are free and need not be pursued. We already have these little things at our disposal and probably just need to practice them more often to enhance our happiness quotient.
But, if you're like me, you may tell yourself that you'll be truly happy when...something fantastic happens. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that. But if I am so intent on some future outcome, I may miss all the little opportunities for happiness along the way. The journey is worth enjoying as much as the destination. It has been found that often when we reach what we considered the pie in the sky, it's a disappointment or we find another pie to go after. So maybe there is a lot to be said for those little things.
Our U.S. founding fathers ensured that we have the right to pursue happiness. Funny they never said we have the right to happiness. It seems they knew something profound - that happiness is like a game of hide and seek to which we are all addicted. And when we taste its substance, we just want more, more. Perhaps its because, as some profess, we are meant to be happy and we are seeking our true nature. Or perhaps, its just part of the yin/yang that complements its opposite in the script of our existence. The fact remains - pursue it we must with or without a national constitution.
I read somewhere that these are the secrets to a happy life:
continuing to learn
They all seem like worthy factors. Based on this, I should be pretty happy. Yet, there are times when happiness disappears like a magical illusion, like a floating balloon that gets swallowed by the sky only to surprise me again sometime when I least expect it - life performing random acts of kindness.
Because it is so elusive, we must enjoy it when it is here. To me this means being on the alert for its arrival and nurturing it so it will stay a little longer in this moment. We must invite it back, and allow it to be creative wherever it dwells - perhaps in places we never thought of pursuing it.
I recall my grandmother always reminding me that there is no such thing as true and complete happiness. I thought she was just bitter at life and that may be so. But as I dig deeper into what I know, I realize that she was right. But we need not frame this so negatively.
Happiness seems to occur in glimpses, some lasting longer than others. Inevitably it fades. Meanwhile it is good to wallow in gratitude, thank life for the moment and enjoy.
"My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate."