A Post About Happiness

Nov 11, 2010 by

A Post About Happiness

A couple of months ago I bought a new pair of RayBans to replace an old scratched-up pair I’d had for years (I get terrible eyestrain headaches from less expensive sunglasses). Yesterday, at a friend’s memorial, they were in the pocket of my raincoat when I leaned on them and broke them. I thought maybe they could be repaired, and I wasted some time trying. I didn’t succeed in fixing them, but I did poke a nice hole in my finger with the tiny screwdriver in the process.

Then this morning got off to a rocky start. They’re building a house behind mine, in what was once a pristine field with an ocean view. And I mean right behind. A few feet from my back fence. They whacked down two beautiful, huge, healthy trees to do it. And now I get to listen to construction all day long. But that’s just one of those things you have to accept. Short of buying the acre lot myself (I tried, but it was beyond me financially), there’s nothing much more to be done.

This morning, however, they woke me up at 6:30. They were out there in the dark, flooding the work area with the headlights of one of the pickup trucks and hammering on something. So I put on my robe, and discussed with them the laws that limit them to a 7:00 a.m. start. They expressed contrition (always to be taken with a grain of salt in reference to a purely voluntary act) but that didn’t stop the deafening concrete truck from showing up (in reverse-beep, beep, beep) at 6:50.

So let’s just say the morning required a little reframing. I had one more conversation with the building foreman, who assured me that this was the last “concrete morning” and the last time they’d be pushing to stay on schedule. Then I gave up and ordered a new pair of sunglasses.

Later in the morning I was driving through town with Ella (my dog), and surprised myself (and probably her) by announcing that I had decided to be happy.

So, a blog about what I think happiness is. I’ve been experimenting with the idea that it’s a decision.

Now, that’s an easy statement to argue. You may say, “But there’s so much I can’t control, and it makes me unhappy.” Right. True. There’s a lot we can’t control. But if we could be happy anyway, then we could be happy. Case in point: I’m tempted to be unhappy about a house behind my back fence. But there’s a house on either side of me, and one right across the street. I look out and see them all the time. And they never make me unhappy.

I’ve been noticing lately how often we feel we have “justified resentments.” I hear people say, “I have a right to be upset about this.” And I think, Yeah. Sure you do. But why would you want to be? I always have a right to unhappiness, but it’s not a right I’m all that anxious to exercise.

So here’s my wish for the New Year. I wish for us to all be happy. And by that I don’t mean I wish for every inch of the Universe to line up to suit your preference. Not because I don’t want that for you, or for myself, but because it’s, let’s face it, not bloody well likely. So my wish is that, whatever comes your way in the New Year, you choose to be happy.

Happy with it, happy in spite of it, it really doesn’t matter.

I just hope we can choose to be happy.

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s most recent book is Jumpstart the World

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  1. Catherine, so well, playfully and succinctly expressed! Bravo!

  2. Yes, choose to be happy… but first, GRATEFUL. For there are many who do not have a home at all. Some of us have been there, and many more are there now that have never been there before. Look around you at the “neighbors” who are standing wearily day after day on a corner near your favorite grocery store, holding a weathered cardboard sign stating “homeless — anything will help”. If you have a dollar, give one. If not, a smile and a cheery word. Without judgement or expectation. With kindness and understanding that we are all one family. With a grateful heart… that you are able to share. Start each day with a gratitude prayer – a gratitude attitude – and see where that leads you.

    “There are kids in the street with not enough to eat
    Who am I to be blind, pretending not to see their needs?
    There are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
    Could it be really me pretending that they’re not alone?”
    ~ Man in the Mirror