Follow me on Twitter

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Yes, I actually said that.  On the phone the other day, I dispensed this priceless wisdom: “Well, when you are happy, you’re happy.”  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is why I get THE BIG BUCKS. An endless font of insight, I am.  But truthfully, I think this is the crux of the expression “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”  When we are unhappy, we tend to micro focus on the people and situations in our life that we believe are contributing to our unhappiness.  But when we are happy, we are more likely to “go general”…that is, appreciate the beauty of the forest and not worry so much about the ticks, mosquitos and wood rot. 

Happiness is expansive and broad; unhappiness is constricting and specific.  There is a great scene in the movie “Groundhog Day” (Holla, Bill Murray!) when Phil has relived the same day so many times that all of its nuances are fully realized by him, and he sort of breezes through the hours literally catching people mid-fall with a smile on his face…no longer worried about the details, he is able to fully enjoy the experience of living.  There are no fears because he is assured that generally things are going to be okay.

There is another wonderful movie about the ability to relive key moments in life called “About Time”, which I highly recommend.  In it, the protagonist discovers that he has the ability to go back in time and correct missteps and regrets…which naturally leads to the sort of confusion and hijinks one would imagine.  But at one point he simply has a rotten day and instead of going back in time to change it, he goes back in time to APPRECIATE IT.  Knowing that at the end of the day things were really fine, he was able to withstand the annoyances, petty and otherwise, with humor and grace. 

I had a conversation with a friend this week in which she described a confrontation she had as “yoga off the mat”.  That is, breathing through the accusations, the vitriol…staying grounded and present in spite of the roaring hurricane.    Understanding that no matter what, you are okay.  I’ve never been a fan of the saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” because seriously?  Is that the standard we are going for, really?  But there can be the positive takeaway that every day is a new chance, and every day we are better prepared and equipped to make the most of our opportunities than we ever have before.
Progress, not perfection, is our goal.  And the good news is, with this as an objective, you literally cannot fail!  It is impossible not to progress, even if you feel like you are making the same mistake, or allowing that same button to get pushed by that same person, the truth is that every time your awareness grows, and every time your behavior evolves.  I think a lot of people make the mistake of believing anger is negative…it certainly can be, but more often it is empowering.  More often, it is an IMPROVEMENT over how you were feeling before you got angry! 

If you are depressed about something, most likely you will become inert and feel powerless to change your situation; but if you become angry, you will start to get your juices flowing, start thinking of solutions, start making some moves.  Any emotion can be a useful tool of progress, so long as it represents relief from what you were feeling before.  Anxiety is a habit as much as smoking and it can be pretty tough to quit that endless loop of worry.  But you are worried when you worry, and that gets you nowhere.  Stop obsessing about the specifics and reflect generally on your life.  In most cases, thankfully, you will realize that as my Dad used to say, “You are fine.”

I have a lot of things I do when I am feeling unhappy to turn the tide around, so to speak.  Listening to songs that make me feel good, hanging out with my kid, going for a walk.  Because when I do things that make me happy, I am happy.  Ha, that priceless wisdom for you again.  A few years ago for lent, I decided to give up criticizing myself for 40 days.  Holy cow, was THAT a Herculean challenge!  I had no real cognizance of how frequently I said unkind or unflattering things to myself inside my head.  It took real diligence to kick the habit, basically by simply being aware of the thoughts and course correcting whenever I had one. 

Progress, not perfection but I will say it made an enormous difference in my outlook on life.  Now, whenever I think something that doesn’t feel good I notice it, and think again.  Or listen to a song that makes me smile, or read a quote that inspires me.  Because I am happy when I am happy.  So I do everything in my power to be happy whenever I can manage it.  And when I can’t, that’s okay too.  Feeling unhappy is a useful guidepost to help us figure out the changes we need to make in our lives and the direction we need to go in to get back to happy. 

Because what is more important than being happy, when you really think about it?  When we are happy, all is well; we see the beauty of the forest.  When we are happy, we realize we don’t need to change a thing.


1 comment:

  1. Oh, you mean chocolate covered almonds may not be a good strategy even though each brings 1 minute of happiness? Then another minute and then another until I feel sick. I can virtuously say I flushed them down the toilet last night so I wouldn't eat them another day. That made me happy. Now on with my rubber boots and out for a walk on soggy trails. My dog is always happy, so a good companion on this journey.