“There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” – Theih Nhat Han
“Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are staring to death.” – Auntie Mame
Or, as Mom said when I voiced disappointment in having to trade in my license plates with a “747” in the number to PHK, “PHK stands for ‘pretty happy kid,’” to which immediately stopped and smiled.
My childhood was happy. Mom and Dad were happy. We were all pretty much always happy. When I say my parents never fought or had a cross word between them, it’s the truth. We laughed a lot. We enjoyed things together. We were always kind to each other. I was honestly shocked when I learned a lot of other people didn’t live like this. Oh, everyone has days. We all have illness, disappointment and misfortune but our homeostasis was happiness. I was far from a perfect kid, either. I was selfish and a bit rebellious and entitled. That’s part of adolescence and our culture. But by my mid twenties, I outgrew most of that behavior.
Mom and Dad have passed but they live in here. Both lived through World War II. Dad served in it. Both were raised with limited means. After making it through the era and even the Depression, I imagine life after that felt pretty sweet, safe and blissful. I figure that is why Mom and Dad felt that way. I can assume we also got the happy gene.
If there is one, I inherited that happy gene. People generally like people who are happy so it helps in any collaboration in life. Being happy shows a sort of effortlessness with challenges, too. And it’s a heck of a lot easier when the treatment by others doesn’t get under one’s skin enough to shake the inner state. But I am not made of Teflon. I am not saying poor treatment by others doesn’t affect me but my inner contentment is pretty sound. Usually. But being happy can make people who are generally unhappy, full of regret or lacking inner joy very upset. Because it is true; misery loves company. I have had to maneuver around unhappy people who’ve made me a target of their hostility, especially in the unavoidable workplace situation. They can’t hide misery any more than I can hide inner peace. I chuckle counting the times I have worked with people who can’t hide that look like they smell poo – or like they are actually chewing their own faces from the inside. (You know who you are!)
Don’t mistake happiness for mindlessness, either. In fact, it’s the opposite. I believe happiness comes from having processed the externals and drawn a positive conclusion or a reroute. That’s how it works for me, anyway.
You can’t knock inner happiness out of people, You can shake it, rattle it and make it want to flee. But I have learned being around hostile, bitter and aggressive people is a great barometer of where I don’t want to be. Like attracts like. Fortunately for me, I am the product of two happy people who never needed to be jerks. I assume the face chewers were raised by face chewers who are pretty puckered by now!
George Herbert said, “The best revenge is living well.” (I always thought it was F. Scott Fitzgerald or Dorothy Parker. They probably said it, too.) Happily, I agree.