🎋 Happiness for Beginners 🎋

A red carpet on top of steps leading to the sky.

I watched a movie the other night titled “Happiness for Beginners,” and it enticed me to wonder when happiness started in my life. I discounted the years as an adolescent because I was always busy going to school and doing chores, so I had little time to be happy. There were moments of happiness during that time, but Nothing that approached the duration that fit my definition. From age twenty to age fifty, there were happiness interludes, but Nothing that lasted long. During those years, I began to accept that life was filled with peaks and valleys, and that was just how it was. Being continually happy, to me, was non-existent.
At age fifty-one, with my children well into adulthood and my ex-wife and I separated with no hope of reconciliation, I met someone who, like me, was looking to enroll in the class “Happiness for Beginners.” I can’t say it was a beginner’s class for her. I think she was mostly happy in her previous marriage until near its end, so it was probably a “Happiness Continued” class for her. But it was, for me, truly a beginner’s class, and I started from scratch. I can’t say that I knew what would make me happy, but I knew what would make me unhappy, and I looked for those traits in the women I dated. The most important ones were a tendency to anger quickly, being critical of others, and asking me to do things they could easily accomplish, i.e., would you take my car and get a state inspection sticker on it?
I assumed if there were two people in the boat, both should be rowing. The one-person rowing thing happened in my first marriage and would not happen again. I was looking for someone who smiled a lot, enjoyed social interaction, and could be comfortable alone, not depending on me for their happiness. I wanted to contribute. But not be solely responsible for it.
At the time, I was unaware that I was in the “Happiness Class for Beginners.” I was expecting more of the highs and lows I experienced all my life. But as my time with this wonderful woman passed, the realization that I was indeed happy crept into my consciousness. I started to smile, interact with others better, and, most importantly, look forward to the future. When you struggle with happiness, it’s hard to expect good things in your life.
So, here I sit, thirty years after meeting the woman I have loved all those years, wondering what I did to deserve so much happiness, trying to think of which stage of happiness I’m in. More than likely, it’s the category called end-stage 😊. Eventually, we all get there, or maybe not ☹. Singer Nightbirde (Jane Marczewski) said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” I strongly suspect that is true.
💫 I recently read a story about an old Navajo Indian telling his two grandsons about there being two wolves in his belly, and they were constantly fighting. One wolf was evil, mean, vicious, and unkind to everyone. The other was good, kind, considerate, and generous to a fault. “But Grandpa,” says one kid, “which wolf wins?” The wise old Indian replied softly, “The one I feed. There are days when I feed the mean wolf, and I don’t know why because I don’t like him.”
That story resonates with me because I’m guilty of feeding the mean wolf too. He hides so I will not see him and then jumps out at the first sign of weakness, then I wind up saying something mean-spirited and later regretting it. Truth be known, he gets out too often, and sometimes I even open the gate, making it easier for him to escape. I was much better at controlling him at a younger age, and I have yet to figure out why. Most people become more patient and understanding as they age, and I seem more impatient. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m running out of time, which I am, but it’s more than that alone. My impatience has more to do with my failings than those of others. I have to feed the good wolf more and the bad one less, maybe even starve the bad one until he gives up the ghost and dies.
In my relatively new environment, I have improved and expect even more improvement in how I handle the bad wolf. I see kindness in my retirement community many times daily, which has affected me greatly. I expect that by the time I turn 90, I’ll be the great guy I’ve always wanted to be. Benjamin Franklin said, “Love your enemies. They will tell you your faults.” I already know mine… I think.
💫 The University of Pennsylvania offers a class known around campus as “The Monk class.” In it, you give up technology, and you can’t talk for a month. That left me wondering how I would fare in that class. I could give up technology for that long, but going thirty days without talking would be tough. On a typical day, I may go a couple of hours without uttering a word, but that would be the maximum time without as much as a syllable flowing from my lips. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be good for me, it probably would, but I would fail that course. My wife would be the first to tell you I talk too much. For me, I just think I’m being friendly.
A recent survey of American colleges found that 60% of students had a symptom of at least one mental health problem, and 16% considered suicide. The conclusion is that many online social networks contribute to their feelings of inferiority and lack of control. The concept is those symptoms will dissipate if you give up your devices, meditate, do not speak, and think about your life and what you want to do with it. It crossed my mind: does the professor that teaches that class also have to give those things up? How do you teach a lesson when you aren’t supposed to speak? It would be like trying to teach someone to drive a car by just putting a steering wheel in their hand and saying, “Here, take it for a spin.” That reminds me of when I was a boy, turning a broomstick into a horse 😊.
I’m at a loss how you get anyone to sign up for a class like that, but then, I doubted anyone would sign up to take the trip to Mars and back, and they have plenty of volunteers. By the way, Mars is 35 million miles away, and the journey there and back would take a minimum of 21 months, possibly much longer. But who am I to criticize? I’ve done some stupid things in my life. It’s just that there’s no record of it 😊. The bottom line, how things look on the outside of us depends on how things are on the inside.