Being Happy

Do you know anyone who doesn’t seem to know how to be happy?  You look at their lives and you see how many good things have been put on their plate, yet they’re always waiting for the next thing, the next day, the change that will make it good.  I know people like that.  I also am fortunate to know people who have very little, yet still seem to be happy human beings.  I feel privileged to have them as friends.  Me?  I have been a most fortunate man.  My lower middle class parents worked hard to provide me with an education that in turn gave me a career that not only paid the bills and provided a reasonable retirement but gave me work I enjoyed.  I married my college sweetheart and we’re still ticking along together 44 years later.   We had two beautiful children and now luxuriate in three wonderful grandkids.  And yet … being happy can still take effort.  As in every life, everything isn’t perfect.  People, places and things aren’t all exactly where or what I’d have them be.  While we are comfortable financially now, we worry about the road ahead, so I continue to work … sometimes I enjoy it but more often these days, it wears me out.  Age brings aches, senior maladies and worries about what’s to come.  But most days, I can say I’m a happy man.

So if I were to teach a class for those people I know who don’t know how to be happy, these would be the lectures:

Lecture 1: Happiness Takes Work.  Even in a charmed life, it doesn’t just happen.  I’m not talking about the kind of fleeting pleasure you get on the beach at Maui.  I’m talking about being able to look at yourself in the mirror and say I’m a Happy Man (or Woman).  And mean it.

Lecture 2:  Happiness is an Inside Job.  This is the lecture where students usually drop the course because it’s much easier to try to fix everyone and everything around you than to take responsibility for yourself.

Lecture 3: Have a Greater Purpose.   It can be a cause, a Higher Power, or simply your family.  It can’t be things (because that makes you materialistic) or yourself (because that makes you self-centered).

Lecture 4: Practice Acceptance.  Life sometimes sucks but wasting time complaining about things you can’t change takes away from the work of Being Happy.

Lecture 5:  Practice Gratitude.  Taking time to enumerate the good things in your life teaches you to avoid what Dennis Prager calls The Missing Tile Syndrome* … our natural tendency to look at the bad things and ignore everything else.  And finding something to be grateful for in the difficult times teaches us to make the best of things.

Lecture 6:  Stay in the Moment.  How often do we miss the pleasure of what’s happening now as we obsess over some past problem or future difficulty that will never happen?  To put it indelicately, If you have one foot in the past and one in the future, you’re likely to be crapping all over the present.

Lecture 7:  How Important is It?  If you think about it, it’s astounding that we are willing to ruin our days over minutia, or, as my friend, Ralph, says, to Go pole vaulting over rat shit.  In 100 years (50?10? 1?) will anyone care?

Lecture 8: Right or Happy?  It is my experience that people who have to be right all the time are never happy.  Agreeing to Disagree works magic.

Or, you can just wait around for that next thing that will make you happy.  Good luck with that.

* Dennis Prager’s marvelous book, Happiness is Serious Business, is the unofficial textbook for this class.

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4 Comments on “Being Happy”

  1. cherperz Says:

    Great post. Wayne and I are pretty close to the place in our lives as you and Muri…almost as we aren’t quite to retirement age. The other things are very similar. Married high school sweetheart, 41 years together, financially secure, luxuriating in our 2 grandchildren.

    I work on being a happy person. I would say I am a grateful and contented person that worries too much, gets my feeling hurt too easily, and takes on the burdens of the world. (Truly, I have to quit watching the news)

    I think your lecture series would be wonderful. Great points..each and every one..if only I would practice what you preach.

  2. territerri Says:

    It is TOO easy to let all kinds of annoyances get in the way of being happy. And you’re right. It is an ongoing effort to keep them from bogging you down. (At least for some of us.)

    I am one who can let things eat away at me and I’ve often recognized that I’m really good at being unhappy. So while I’ve learned on my own some of the things you’ve pointed out here, it’a good to have some reminders on how to keep working at happiness.

    • oldereyes Says:

      As I said to Cheryl, I frequently write about subjects as a way of reminding myself what I need to be doing. And no one hates t more than I do that I have to make myself happy. It’s just not fair!


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