Don’t worry … be happy

Pretty easy, in theory. Just be happy. Choose it, as it were, over the alternative.
When presented with two options, happiness and it’s opposite, choose the former. Straight-forward, yeah?

Ran into this via this. And perfect timing. For me, at least.

We have this amazing 11 month old girl in our home right now, and I can spend hours just watching her be happy. Kids have it down to an art form. They can find pleasure in the simplest of things. Teddy, by JD Salinger, explained it best to me. When we’re born, we have everything figured out and know all that we need to know. We’re happy. Then a lot of us spend much of the rest of our lives filling up our brain buckets with useless worldly knowledge, knowledge that weighs us down. Heavy stuff. Dead weight that saps the joy out of life.

Because the world’s a dreary place … full of road rage and high fructose corn syrup and really bad TV shows. And that’s not even getting into genocide and tornadoes and earthquakes and idiots telling us that the world will end soon. And the key to finding happiness is not so much to solve all of these problems but to ignore them. Go ride a mountain bike or figure out string theory or paint or cook. Because there will always be more problems than solutions. But some problems aren’t worthy of being solved. You’re never going to stop that guy from cutting you off when you’re trying to merge onto the highway. You’re never going to get liberals and conservatives to realize that if they would stop yelling at each other and blaming each other for our collective problems, that we could actually get some work done in Washington. You’re never going to convince people that fast food is neither fast or actual food.

You’re born happy. Then around your teenage years, you figure out how unfair the world is and how nobody understands you, and you get heavy. Then you leave the house and are free, and once again, you’re happy. Then a few years out in the world, paying taxes, driving to work, standing in lines, crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation, wasting time in unemployment lines, sitting around waiting for a promotion … where was I going with that? Oh yeah, it’s heavy out there. So to get un-heavy … that’s the one thing, maybe, that Curly was talking about.

I could get all new age and zen now, but the engineer and mathematician part of me wants to just boil it down to a formula. Something measurable and observable. So here’s my attempt: Given two choices, happiness and unhappiness, choose happiness. But maybe that’s the key: to actually choose it and not wait for it to wash over us by accident.

On that note … I’m going to go out and take some pictures of my dog.

About SAO'

Dad to two amazing girls, husband to one.
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19 Responses to Don’t worry … be happy

  1. Leigh says:

    This is great post. I find that the more that I look for the good things in my life, the more I find. Thanks so much for linking up, I’m thrilled that you found your way over.

  2. MAry says:

    We all have so many good things in our life that I think we begin to take them for granted. I really like the post today. Food for thought. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary.

  3. I think for grownups happiness stems from gratefulness. It’s easy to be happy when you stop the look at all the blessing surrounding you.

    • I think a lot of us have been spoiled by not going without, by not wanting for anything. A quick trip around the world makes that so obvious, that we have so much, so much to be thankful for.

  4. I agree with your observations 100%. Personally nothing makes me happier than cooking! I can forget all the genocides being committed, the tornadoes, the political crises and the rest of it. Just let me have a kitchen!

    • It’s a fine line … one can’t ignore all of the problems in the world, but you can’t fixate on them, either, and you can’t waste time worrying about the ones you can’t impact. You’re lucky that something you’re so good at makes you happy!

  5. Faith says:

    This is the best post I’ve read all week. So true, that happiness is a choice.

  6. Very good call! Just choose happiness. We all know life is going to throw some good and some bad our way. We need to choose happiness and joy so our lives will be filled with blessings : ) Love your pictures. Your dog is adorable!

  7. muddywaters says:

    Great post! I emailed this to myself,so I can reread it. I should have it emailed to me every 7-10 days to remind me to keep my eyes on the prize. In retrospect, I’m always amazed how many worries are truly forgettable or laughable.

    • I have to admit, I was half-trying to sell myself on the whole thing, half-trying to drive away some demons. It’s been a couple of rough weeks … nothing major, just not a lot of evidence that the human species is the product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. My real problem, I finally had to admit, is that I’m preoccupied with problems I can’t fix. And problems that don’t matter. And admitting you have a problem is half the battle, yeah?

  8. muddywaters says:

    The above is a great story about the power of art, but what what struck me was the interview with Sgt. Rick Yarosh about 3:30 into the story. He offers a poignant testimony on the philosophy of choosing to be happy. I played that clip for my students this spring, and it prompted a great discussion. How can a human being who lost so much still maintain a positive outlook on life? How is that accomplished?

    • Maybe it’s just statistics and probability. There are tons of folks who go through bad times and give up, a lot who tread water, and then those who say, bring it on, I can take all that and more. The last group, though, are the only ones we want to read about, and the ones we need to help the rest of us get through our little problems.

      I think in some ways it might be “easier” (not the right word) to deal with big troubles than it is to deal with little ones. You stub your toe and you scream out in pain. But you’re faced with something bigger and permanent, and you realize that just screaming won’t get you through it.

      Life changing experience for me: escort rider for the Honolulu wheel chair marathon. The wheel chair athletes ride the course in around 90 minutes, while the runners take two hours plus, so the wheel chair racers go out first to clear the course. Problem is, they race in the dark, so the Hawaiian Bike League does escort duty, providing lighting so they can get through all of the intersections and corners okay. The thing I noticed that I’ll never forget was, not one of these racers would be caught dead parking in a handicapped parking space.

  9. muddywaters says:

    Joe Paddock is a Minnesota poet and he and I are, as we say in the Midwest, “of an age.” Here is a fine poem about arriving at a stage when there can be great joy in accepting life as it comes to us.

    One’s Ship Comes In

    I swear
    my way now will be
    to continue without
    plan or hope, to accept
    the drift of things, to shift
    from endless effort
    to joy in, say,
    that robin, plunging
    into the mossy shallows
    of my bird bath and
    splashing madly till
    the air shines with spray.
    Joy it will be, say,
    in Nancy, pretty in pink
    and rumpled T-shirt,
    rubbing sleep from her eyes, or
    joy even in
    just this breathing, free
    of fright and clutch, knowing
    how one’s ship comes in
    with each such breath.

    American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Joe Paddock from his most recent book of poetry, “Dark Dreaming, Global Dimming,” Red Dragonfly Press, 2009. Reprinted by permission of Joe Paddock and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

    • Watching Hope at the table
      Grabbing fist-fulls of food
      Grilled chicken, cut from the side where the spice rub didn’t stick so much
      Roasted veggies, and some pasta
      All cut into little squares the size of her thumb nail
      Picks up a handful, drops half on the way to her mouth
      Another piece ricochets off her mouth
      But at least one bite hits home
      Encouraging her to do it again.

  10. muddywaters says:

    I’m currently reading an anthology of poems and essays focusing on William Stafford. I thought the following excerpt an essay by Robert Stewart pertained to the above discussion:

    I remember the first time I met William Safford in person, back in the late 1970s, when he read is poems in Kansas City. He probably was sixty-four or sixty-five years old at the time, and after he finished reading, a girl about ten-years old raised her hand. “Mr. Stafford,” she said, “when did you become a poet?”

    His reply is one of the things that has sustained me many times over the years whenever I find the need to examine my own life as a writer. In retrospect, the more I learned about the man, the more his statement seemed to fit him. “Whenever anyone asks that,” he said, “I always like to turn the question around and ask the adults in the room: ‘When did you stop being a poet?’”

    I think his answer was not as glib as it sounds at first. I don’t think he meant that adults simply get too busy running errands and making a living. I think he meant something else that happens to adults. We become cynics. We become fixed. We stop believing in the small moments and the glory of the world and start believing in our own conclusion about the way things are, or should be.

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