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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happiness Day!

Today is an important day.

Today I have an author talk at the Loganholme Library where, based on my ill-conceived first author talk at Logan Library last week, I am expecting exactly no-one to turn up.

I am also expecting a frustratingly nonchalant librarian to make some lame excuses for  the illiteracy of her usual clientele, and perhaps purchase one book as compensation.

Either way I'm happy. I'm happy that I'm actually getting out there and giving this a go.  And I'm happy to be able to meet another librarian and maybe sell one book.

Which brings me to the other reason  why today is important.

Today is International Happiness Day, a day when we can all take a moment to think about what makes us happy, to do something that makes us happy, and to perhaps ponder what happiness might mean to each of us.

Philosophers and poets through the ages, of course, have oft pondered this thing that is "happiness'.

Mahatma Gandhi reckoned:  “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” 

Tom Bodet said;  “A person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” 

However you define it, more than anything, we all want and need to be happy.

However, the clutch of recent celebrity suicides of late - namely Charlotte Dawson and Mick Jagger's girlfriend, L'Wren Scott - do have me pondering the inability it seems of those of us who should be happy, to be so unhappy that we contemplate the otherwise unthinkable.

We all have our theories but here is mine.

Deep Unhappiness I believe springs from a lack of self-awareness,  leading to a lack of knowing what is important to and for your well-being and, as a consequence, a focus on what I'll call the 'wrong" things - that is, wrong for you.

The great conundrum is that in these days of 'selfies' and blogs and Facebook and constant contemplation of the self, despite Dr Google and all manner of charlatans and gurus spruiking an encyclopaedia of quick fixes for the soul,  most people it seems hardly know themselves.

Every day, as I participate in online blogs and observe the meanderings on social media, I am constantly struck by this phenomenon we professional communicators call 'dissonant thinking'.

That is, that many people can hold ambiguous and competing ideas simultaneously - and not even be aware.

Never mind that, these days it seems many of us struggle to be authentic. We are botoxed and siliconed and photoshopped.

We are afraid of originality and instead cut and paste and plagiarise.  It is so chronic in fact that human resources executives these days must also be professional lie detectors.

We work hard to Tweet and Facebook an often perfected version of ourselves.  It's all about 'personal brand management' isn't it?

Amid all of this, it is not difficult to see how some of us at least will struggle with self awareness.

We will lose touch with who we really are.

And the day comes when well, we are unable to be happy because the person we are trying to make happy is not really ourselves, but a contrived version of ourselves.

The thing is that to be a happy you, you must firstly know, well, you.

And importantly, you must be happy being you.  That is, you must accept yourself cankerous growths and all.  In this way, you will communicate to the world that,  you know what?  Rich, poor, thin, fat, ugly, beautiful it doesn't matter.  You love you and they can too!

Secondly, to be happy, you must  know what helps you to continue to be happy being you.  Is it a place?  A person?  Something you do?  Perhaps striving for a goal?  Does it involve changing or not changing?

Finally, to be happy, you must then actively pursue and create the environment where you can effect the above.  Be You, and Be Happy Being You.

In other words, finding, creating and maintaining your happiness takes commitment.   If you want to smell the roses, go out and find them. Work for them, buy them, borrow them, grow them.  (But don't steal them as I believe a prison sentence may stem from the thorny situation of being caught filching flowers).

So what what makes me happy?   Post Cancer there is something surprising I've discovered.

The things that make me happy are not actually the big things you might imagine - such  as LIFE SUCCESS, or POTS OF MONEY.  Or even finding George Clooney in my bed (in a G-String).

Instead I see that a sense of happiness is derived from the small routine things that comprise a life such as:  doing something you enjoy (such as marching with a bunch of old bats while beating a drum); finding something to laugh at (such as my sister in her Cottontails:  we are a sexy family okay?); coffee with a friend; a good discussion with your husband or partner (or in my case, any stranger I meet); a hug from a child (I'd even settle for a pimply teenager);  and even a lick from my dog, beside himself as I have just walked in through the door after leaving him for approximately one minute.

In short I have come to believe that true happiness comes from finding everyday joy from the small things that validate the fact of our existence: that establish a connection between us and the thing that is actually being here (as opposed to Mars or Manus Island).

I feel that as long as you feel here, sensate and engaged in some way with the world around you and the people in it, it is possible to really understand what it means to be happy.

It can be as simple as appreciating the act of breathing in, and breathing out.

Happiness, for me, in other words is ultimately about the relationships I actively nurture with people and places.

Yes you can actually nurture it.  All it takes is desire.  You must want it.

More than anything I am passionate about the belief that you only have one life to live.  It cannot be rewound and lived again.   Your life is forever lived in fast forward so guess what?  You don't get another chance.  (Elvis has left the building, and that's alright Momma, you old Hound Dog, he ain't comin' back in no Blue Suede Shooz).   This is your life and you deserve to be happy in it - not someone else's.

Whatever you need to be happy,  if you desire it enough, there is a way to find it or get to it.

So what are you waiting for?

Somewhere, someone has a rose with your name on it.

It's up to you to go fetch.