How to be Happy

Yes, that’s a picture of a rainbow over an outhouse.  And why not?

“How would you like to spend the next several nights wondering if your crazy, out-of-work, bum uncle will shave your head while you sleep? See you in the car.” – Uncle Buck, Uncle Buck

 

When I was a kid, I was a sneaky kid.  A really awful four-year-old.  There wasn’t a drawer in our house that I hadn’t explored – and I knew where my Mom kept odd bits of things, like quarters, or ballpoint pins.

I also went through the medicine cabinet, and, on one occasion found a clear plastic on one side/foil on the other side square set of pills.  There were 28 of them.  At least there were 28 of them prior to me eating a dozen or so and determining that they were really, really crappy candy.  It turns out those were birth control pills, and although I got a fairly strong lecture from Mom about eating medicine on a lark, it turns out those pills were incredibly effective, as I have not gotten pregnant even once after ingesting them.

I imagine the doctor laughing after they called him and explained the situation . . . “Your four year old ate what?”

In one of my foraging trips I went through the sideboard . . .

True Fact:  Okay, I had to look up the name for this piece of furniture.  The Mrs. suggested “china cabinet” but there’s no glass door, and but the piece of furniture really is this:

Think of the sideboard as the precursor to modern-day kitchen cabinets, and you will have a good picture of what this piece looks like. It’s long and waist high or a bit lower, with a surface for placing food on top, cabinets below and very short legs — or no legs at all.

That’s according to the website “houzz”, which I can only assume is housing advice from the members of ZZTop.

Anyhow, I was looking through the sideboard and pulled open the top drawer, and found, amongst the things that Dad emptied from his pockets on a daily basis, two little pamphlets.  Although the topic of the second pamphlet escapes me, the topic of one of them was “Attitude.”

I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget the picture on the front.  It was of a man who obviously had no money, given the threadbare condition of his suit and the shabby hat and the unshaven face.  Imagine the word “bum” or “hipster” and you’ll get the idea.

 

I really tried to find a copy of the pamphlet picture, but gave up when these were the types of results I was getting

But on his face, as he’s smelling the aroma from a cup of coffee, is the face of the happiest person on earth.  Beatific is the word that always comes to mind.  The synonyms for beatific are: rapturous, joyful, ecstatic, seraphic, blissful, serene, happy, beaming.  This is not an ordinary happy, this is happy squared.  This is a state of being where one is entirely present, and every fiber of your being is experiencing joy.  It’s probably how you feel when you think about a new post being up on this website.

Remember, it’s M-W-F now, people!

So, here is someone who even my four year old brain could calculate the net worth of from the drawing (some string?), and yet I could plainly see the bliss on his face.  All due to that cup of coffee.

Now, coffee is awesome, but is it that awesome?

Even at four, I was no stranger to coffee.  After the adults left, I’d finish what was in their coffee cups, even though Grandma McWilder told me that it would turn my knees brown.  But to get that much enjoyment from coffee?

Yes.  It’s possible.

Think of your first kiss, a cold beer on a hot day after hard work, and your first cup of hot coffee in two weeks on a cold day.

There are things that we experience in each and every day that are miracles that we wall ourselves off from.  In most instances, our lives are nearly entirely empty of actual adversity, so we create it ourselves.

One thing I have found is almost all of my unhappiness derives from something that either:

  1. Hasn’t happened yet, but might, or
  2. Happened in the past, but that I can’t change

Some people may be unhappy about what other people have (fortunately for me, I seem to have avoided that curse, as I like it when good things happen to other people) or maybe the living room temperature is off just a bit and doesn’t meet their expectations.

Now, if you’ve just been attacked by a Tyrannosaurus Rex and are bleeding on a sidewalk in Jurassic Park®, sure, you’ve got some legitimate gripes.

There are no events that are happening in the here and now that drive me to be upset.  Let’s take this very moment – having a beer while the ribs are cooking in the smoker, going to be done in an hour.  I’m typing and listening to “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” by Fleetwood Mac, and I’m telling you that, while it’s okay to think about tomorrow, it’s certainly not okay to dwell on all the bad things that can happen tomorrow.

And we do that, and we’re taught to do that.  The old phrase from the news?  “If it bleeds, it leads.”  News is meant to grab you right by the adrenal glands (is it just one gland or is it two?) and to make you upset.  We are taught to get wound up about things that don’t impact us at all, and certain groups are great at getting people all riled up over nothing (I’m looking at you, Canada, trying to look all innocent and everything).

“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.” – Marcus Aurelis’ Facebook Feed

I went camping with a Boy Scout Troop (The Boy was a new Scout at that time, and parents are always invited).  It rained all weekend long.  It started Friday night, and rained pretty much every hour.  Plus it was in the 40’s and 50’s (F, not C – no socialist units here!).  It was cold and rainy.

As we stood under an awning, making breakfast on Sunday morning, one of the Scouts (11 or so) said, “What an awesome weekend this was,” while eating soupy oatmeal out of a mess kit in the drizzle.

And it was an awesome weekend.  When you are 11, you don’t create the conception that each weekend should be sunny and 72F.  Essentially, each of these boys allowed themselves to be cold, wet, hungry . . . and happy.

Coffee is important – I know I derive 90% of my personality from it.  And, if I let myself, the aroma from a cup of coffee on a Monday morning when I’m at work but would rather be in bed can still make me the happiest person on Earth.

If I let it.

But I’ll skip the birth control.  Those pills taste like chalk.

 

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom – How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.