I have a question for you to ponder on a gorgeous Sunday morning: can we make ourselves feel happy? I can make myself angry, focusing on some slight, imagining things true or untrue and whipping up my emotions. I can make myself sad by cataloging shortcomings, disappointments and the people I’ve loved and lost. But what about being happy?
* First, I’m no longer sure – except in the black/white definition – what the opposite of happiness is. If you don’t think that happiness embraces sadness and happiness at the same time, I challenge to check out these posts from some of the folks also involved in this …
To paraphrase one of the writers who has been most influential to me – C.S. Lewis – to have joy, you have to stop thinking about it, contemplating it … and DO something.
When happiness seems distant to me, I usually start thanking people for what they’ve done for me, validate what they’ve meant to me or show my appreciation for who they are. I also try to be grateful and have some fun with things that make my life better. So, I’m going to throw out some thanks today:
- Coffee – I wasn’t always a coffee drinker, but I do so appreciate the brown grit in a cup that just seems to make my day a bit more awake.
- My baby, Betsy – She’s two, and we’ve spent most of the week alone together. She reminded me that being a father is one of the greatest gifts in the world, as she kept coming back to sit in my lap, clung to me when she was scared, and made all sorts of attempts to get dill pickles (“kuckles”, as she says) out of the fridge.
- Kathy Due – We haven’t seen each other since college, but she read one of my recent posts in the project. She sent me a message on Facebook that couldn’t have come at a better time.
- My parents – I could get all sappy about what good people they are (and they are!). But they also make me laugh a lot. After spending nearly a week with them, my older kids begged: “Please, no steak or pizza tonight” when they got home! And when I talked with my brother, Jon, recently he related that my dad – a Baptist minister (yes, I have fallen far) — had told him, “Yes, I’ve had to adjust my theology a good bit after you boys grew up.”
- Barry Norris – He is one of a kind – an organist, choir director, carpenter and missionary. What I love about him is his passion for people and the grace he shows them. I have to thank him, however, because he has a gift of talking me into singing in his choir, even when I’m reluctant or busy. And it always, always, is worth the effort.
- Randy Miller, Terry McElroy and Matt Rocksvold – I know it’s not manly/cool to thank your occasional drinking buddies for whatever trouble they seem to be able to get me into. So, I am not thanking you. Nope, not at all.
When I start this gratitude thing, it really begins to take on a life of its own; I could thank people – and probably should – a lot more than I do and or for a lot more things than I do. I’ve had – and continue to have – my personal compliment of crap, or what seems like it. But there are always people and things that make it better – for seconds, moments or days.
I became single again the year I turned 40. And I decided to change some things in my life. I wanted to be bolder and cultivate a mind-set of joy: (and yes, I do say this) “Our lives are short and the opportunities we have to live, love and enjoy the beauty around us are too few to … [insert the veiled excuse, such as, “worry about what someone else will think; not take a risk; not stay out too late, etc.]. Basically, life is too short to give myself an abundance of reasons to regret.
It’s that way for all of us. Instead, just DO.
As Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” It might also have a love child of happiness …
Check out these great blogs, too, from other happy people.