|More thoughts on happiness
||[Apr. 20th, 2004|11:35 am]
As the door to the elevator in the parking garage clicked into gear and began sliding closed, a tall fellow leapt through the narrowing crack. I gave him my best Tuesday-morning-before-coffee smile. "Good timing!" The elevators in this garage are notoriously slow, and he grinned back.
"Where did our warm weather go?" He said, shivering, and by his precise speech and appearance, I realized that he hails from much warmer climes, probably somewhere in India or Pakistan.
"It'll be back," I promised.
"Yes, but it's cold out there now! Not like this weekend!"
I nodded agreement. "But at least it was warm on the weekend! When you're stuck in the office it doesn't really matter."
His grin grew. "You are very optimistic!"
The elevator door opened and we stepped out to go our separate ways. "Have a good day!" he called to me. "You, too!" I responded, and bounced out onto the sidewalk.
I think I brightened his day a bit. It made me happy. I don't manage to be upbeat all of the time, but I think that cultivating innate optimism is one of the best things that a person can do to improve today.
There's a couple old sayings that really do ring true: Life is not about the destination, it's about the journey. Life is what happens to you while you are making plans. Laugh and the world laughs with you.
Life is hard, then you die.
Rather than regard the last one as a reason for despair, I see it as an ultimate truth that can free you to be as happy as you choose. Recognizing that almost everyone has to work hard and that everyone has bad days and disasters and tragedies and crises, and yet the world keeps on spinning and the days keep blowing by, realizing that can give one a lot of perspective on this week's hassle, this month's crisis, this year's disappointment. The world will keep turning and the time will keep passing in that persistent way it has.
And you have the choice whether to leave those hurts in the past or to continue dragging them along like they are precious gems that must be fostered and nurtured and loved.
If someone handed you a basket and said, "Here. Here is cancer. You may do with it as you wish." would you hold onto that basket and tend to it and keep it safe? No, you would dispose of it as quickly and efficiently as you possibly could. And yet people hold onto hurts and wounds that are cancers on their souls, eating holes in them like rusts eats holes in the floorboards of a '57 Chevy. Ask these people to abandon that burden, though, and they react as if you had asked them to leave a beloved child by the side of the road.
I know that some hurts have to be dealt with, and some wounds must be opened up and drained, cauterized and cared for, before they can be put to rest. I know that many wounds will flair up in the right conditions and have to be faced again. Life is pain, but it is how we deal with that pain that matters. Will you face it, acknowledge the hurt, and then lay it to rest? Or will you tend the pain like a tender houseplant, coddling it and encouraging it to bloom and propagate?
This morning in the elevator I could have simply agreed with my companion, grumbling about the stupid weather and how miserable it would make the day (and goddess knows I have done that more than once in the past; I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination!). I could have done that, and both of us could have gotten out of the elevator with one more dour cloud hanging over us on this gray day.
And it wouldn't have made the day any less gray for the rest of the world. So why not look on the bright side and leave the elevator with a smile?
Happiness is not a zero-sum game, nor a limited resource. I won't use up my share by smiling on a cloudy day, or by choosing to be content in the moments between, when I can't accomplish anything regarding work or school or my kids or my sister. Does it make my problems go away? No, but it diminishes them because I don't have to deal with the weight of my own misery on top of the inherent stress.
More than that, it gives me more strength to deal with the problems. I am open to the resources of friends and family because I am not centered on my own misery. I'm better to them because I'm being better to me.
Life is hard, and then you die. Rejoice.