Happiness: As Good As It Gets
I received an email from a woman I know last week. She considered me a happy person. It surprised me. I don’t consider myself particularly sad or pessimistic, just not what one deems happy. I’m simple. Maybe that is what she meant. She gave me ten seconds to reply.
Growing up, I really never remember people seeking me out for my grand sense of humor or light-heartedness. I was a mixed up kid like so many children of the ’60’s and carried a good bit of that rebellious baggage with me into adulthood. Maybe therapy was a good thing. I learned my boundaries and limitations. I could not change the world. I could barely change me. Learning those limitations makes life simpler. And the simpler I am, the happier. Controvery used to appeal to me. It does no longer.
Because all people and families have issues and problems, same as me, I cannot deem myself any happier than anyone else. I am just happier when I do things that are healthy for me. Little things often do it. Calling or visiting a sick friend. Getting on the floor and playing with my pet. Working on my cartoons or cartoon products. Knowing a wonderful woman loves me, possibly for the first time ever. All these things add up, even knowing, as the song says “Dust in the wind”. So I learn to live in the moment, for today. Projecting is painful and not very productive for me.
Of course what is happiness to me might not be happiness to Vladimir Putin or Bill Gates or Woodie Allen or Sally Field. I just drew names out of a hat. My happiness depends on all sorts of factors, and if they are not all like ducks in a row, it does not mean I am sad. If one option of my being happier is not available, I will try another, until I feel better that moment than I did the moment before. It is all a series of actions that seems to make me happier, from walking in nature, to being kind to children and animals and the elderly, to studying and learning something new to holding hands with my girlfriend.
To go back some centuries before that, even Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true”.
Given Shakespeare’s famous saying, let’s why not list how often we mess with our own well-being happiness, or make certain it does not happen. We take jobs which are terrible but pay well. We spend with our credit cards like their is no tomorrow to feel a gaping hole. We do not like our co-workers and they do not like us. We do not like our boss and he does not like us either. We marry too young and have kids. Maybe a good friend did the same first so we followed suite. We were not ready, or the opposite. We decided not to get married as we grew up in an unhappy home, and we would “show our parents with sweet revenge” (That was my modus operandi for many years). Suddenly it occurred to me they didn’t care what I did as long as I was in the pursuit of happiness. Both my parents have been dead over a decade. I miss them. I do not live for them, but I cherish their memories, the good and the bad.
The list goes on and on and I do not list them to be judgemental. I have tried my share of them. Especially the career one. I took on the career that was expected of me in my family early on in my adulthood, hated it, and paid the price. But I learned something powerful.
“It’s a process, Doc!”, explaimed gangster Robert DeNiro to Billy Crystal in the hilarious movie “Analyze That”. He was talking about recovery from a bad childhood (Crystal was the psychiatrist who ended up getting more help from DeNiro). It is a movie worth seeing, not just because of the great comedy, but because of the analogies they represent regardingreal life and painful growth and change.
When I simplify my life and make myself healthier, I make myself available to more emotionally available people. That part is my responsibility. I cannot ask the universe to do it for me. It won’t. I have to do the legwork. It is fine to pray if you are a believer (and I am), but whether you are or not )a believer), the legwork still has to be done.
Don’t quit your day job, but learn new subjects. Start a hobby. It might turn into a business one day. You never know. That is what happened to me. I started creating cartoons as a hobby, never thinking in a million years it would be more than a hobby. Ten years later it is the largest offbeat cartoon website on the Internet, Londons Times Cartoons with ten niche and superstore gift shops, and over 100,000 funny gifts and collectibles bearing our cartoon images. It was only because I was true to myself. I no longer have or want my day job, thank you very much.
Working in the field of humor, comedy, or cartooning is not the answer necessarily. It may be if that is what you desire. Whatever field you choose, expose yourself to it. It has been proven that it becomes a part of us. Before you know it, if you’ve watched enough comedy films, seen enough funny Internet or newspaper cartoons, read enough jokes, etc., you find your mind thinking in funnier ways. It really has that effect.
When I was losing my mother to cancer, I read a book by retired surgeon Dr. Bernie Siegel who wrote a best-seller in the 1980’s, Love, Laughter, And Healing. He had incurable brain cancer and exposed himself to many comedy movies, videos, cartoons, books, etc. He didn’t know if it would help heal him, but he knew he would at least get to laugh in his final days. Within a few years, the cancer was in remission and he still is alive and writing two decades later. I have talked to him several times on the phone, when mom was sick, and he gave me some direction as to what life is about. And adding humor to it seemed to be a necessity.
Aside from Dr. Seigel’s advice, a Gary Larson Far Side exhibit I saw in Washington, D.C in 1986 maybe had the most impact on me to demonstrate just how important humor is in our culture. Dr. Seigel taught me how healing it is. Knowing I am in a field that makes people laugh and feel healed, offers a great deal of joy into my own life. So helping others is an action in my pursuit of hapiness.
Sharing a joke, a funny book or story, or even a cartoon gift with someone is something that will cheer them up. It has a synergistic effect and will do the same for you. I have tried it many times and it’s a sure-fire remedy for what ails you. I am not saying not to listen to professional medical advice, just saying it is a great way to add to one’s happiness, hence your own.