At Least We’re Happy, Right?

I see a lot of people walking to and from work. And that means I’ve seen some pretty weird and amazing things. (I’ve smelled even weirder  and amazing things, though.)

But today, in a really understated way, I heard something that took the cake.

I was walking along the sidewalk and passed a family. The mom was pushing a stroller and a 5- or 6-year-old girl pranced alongside her. The young girl had her arms up in the air and she was waving them, as anybody of that age usually does. And the snippet of conversation that I heard from the mother as she walked by was: “At least we’re happy, right?”

And I have no idea what the context this was in. But I really wanted to turn around and ask them what we’re supposed to be happy about. (I mean, really, that’s a pretty deep comment to make to a young person. To anyone, really.)

And then I realized, it didn’t matter at all what she meant by it or why she said it. And then, right after that, I totally read way into it.

Because isn’t that the question we should all really be asking ourselves? About anything? When we are giving our all and it doesn’t seem like anything will work out, we just need to ask “at least we’re happy, right?” When we are with our significant other and times are tough, we just need to ask “at least we’re happy, right?” When we are making a decision that may or may not shape the rest of our lives, we just need to ask, “at least we’re happy, right?” Because that’s the only question that should ever matter. And here it was, said to a young girl on a sidewalk street.

And if the answer is ever no to this question, well you can stop right there. (And maybe wave your hands above your head or something). Because if you’re not happy, nothing will ever be worth it.

I Don’t Know Why

Some days, things are hard. And some days? Things are so much harder.

I don’t know why that is. I don’t know why it seems to feel like the universe has it out for us some days, but on others, it wants to sabotage us and then trip us and then kick us when we’re down.

I don’t know why some days you can drop a cup of coffee on yourself and accidentally give yourself third degree burns. And I don’t know why life has to give you the third degree.

I don’t know why the words flow so quickly on some days. And I don’t know why it’s hard to go with the flow on others.

I don’t know why I get so stressed out sometimes. And I don’t know why my brain would allow me to do that to itself.

I don’t know why I can’t focus somedays. And I don’t know why there is nothing to focus on, on others.

I don’t know why I make everything so hard. And I don’t know why it’s so easy when I let it be.

I don’t know why I can’t learn to be still. And I don’t know why I can’t learn to keep going.

I don’t know why happiness is the hardest thing to attain. And I don’t know why it’s the first to leave.

I don’t even know why you’re reading this. And I certainly don’t know whether this is helping you.

But do you know what I do know? We all make it through. We all get along on our way. I may not know why, but I know how:

by breathing and carrying on.

Woohoo, A Wrinkle!

Let me hit you with a commonly accepted idea that is not necessarily true: Many people believe that it takes more muscles to smile than to frown. In fact, people think it takes 17 and 43, respectively.

Except, that isn’t true. Actually, depending on how you count the muscles in your face, smiling may be more taxing. (Sorry, Care Bears. You’ll have to find another way to make us smile.)

Now, what happens to your face when you smile or frown? Your lips turn up or down. (C’mon, this is hardly news.) But what else happens? Well, if you are older and have a certain genetic makeup or if you smoke or if you are out in the sun a lot, you could get wrinkles.

Wrinkles, as our youth-obsessed culture knows, are the lines you get on your face from any of the factors above. But wrinkles can also form by repeating a certain facial expression. Of course, frowning over long periods of time can put wrinkles on your forehead, and smiling can also put wrinkles near your eyes, as crow’s feet.

So, what should we do? Get botox? Hold our face as still as possible? Try to smile without moving our lips? Well, as I’ve already mentioned, there’s a lot more that goes into whether you will get wrinkles and from what catalyst.

But my own belief is that if you have to get them, why not make them good ones?

I simply mean that unless you are the late Joan Rivers (may her plastic soul rest in peace), your face is going to move. Whether to express extreme joy or uncontrollable sorrow, you are going to react to the issues in your life by making a face. Now it’s up to you to decide what that’s going to be: a smile or a frown.

And look, I get it. You don’t have to greet every day with a smile to prove that you are committed to this “happy wrinkles” thing. The point is that wrinkles develop with repeated behavior. You are what you do most.

So, make smiling your favorite thing to do. And everyone will be able to see it on your face long after your smile fades.

The Bridge to Happiness

For the thousandth, millionth time I am going to talk about my commute to work. I apologize for the redundancy, but it does make up a small portion of my every day. So, if I am forced to do it, I think, selfishly, that you should be forced to relive a part of it, too.

And what makes up a small part of my daily commute? Crossing a rather small bridge. It’s great because it is the perfect landmark: once I cross it, I’m either halfway home or halfway to work. It allows me to let out a little sigh of relief.

However, I do have a seatbelt cutter and a window breaker in case I get a little overzealous when going over. (Let’s just hope that I’m coming home if that happens. How would I ever explain that to work without sounding like the dog ate my homework?)

But I can assure you that the water on either side is not what I am considering (not if I want to keep my lunch in my stomach.) Rather, when I can sneak a glance, I look at the people driving past me in their own cars, on their own commutes across. Mostly, I want to catch them lip synching to a song on a radio, like me. But they rarely are. They occasionally talk on the phone. Adjust their air fresheners. Put on sunglasses. Mostly, they just drive, staring straight ahead.

What I don’t see? Smiles. I have yet to see anyone smiling. And hey, I get it. You are either driving to work or you have a long road ahead. Neither is anything to smile about most of the time.

But from my seat, I still see plenty of other reasons to smile. For one, I see lots of expensive cars crossing that bridge. Now, you don’t have to give me a Lambo to have me grinning from ear to ear, but I certainly wouldn’t be crying. And yet, these people in cars that must have cost them thousands of dollars…are sitting with actual frowns on their faces.

And okay, expensive cars do not always equate to a perfect life. But as these people cross the bridge in front of me, I wonder, if a Mustang doesn’t make you smile contentedly every time you rev the engine, then what will do it?

The point is that no matter where you are in your journey of “happiness” or your journey on your way home, there is always a way to appreciate what you have right now. (Even if you just have to be grateful that you aren’t in the river below.) I hope that my fellow commuters remember that when we are all crossing the same bridge, in the same town, on the same Earth.

You’re Invited

I think people are still waiting for the weekend. I think people are still counting down the days until it’s vacation. I think people are still waiting until they have more time. I think people are still waiting for their sign. I think people are still accepting advice from their horoscope. I think people are still waiting to be told they are good enough.

I don’t think people understand that there isn’t a green light for them. There isn’t a white checkered flag. There isn’t a pit crew waiting to change their tires. Everything is set into motion the minute we are born, and if we are lucky, the clock will still be wound when we are long gone.

But for whatever reason, people don’t think that this is their life right now. They are told  that they need to be adults before their opinion matters. They need to be taller to ride this ride. They need to be older to make this phone call. Then, as adults, they watch their dreams die, and it feels like nothing ever mattered at all.

The truth is you are the Captain Oh! Captain of your life, and no one can tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with it. The entire world is your oyster and—okay, so you think, I’ve acknowledged this. I know I should be embracing the world. So, what happens next? Where is the giant novelty check with my name on it?

I think we have all been a tad mislead in this department. Everyone tells you that opportunity knocks. But that’s not altogether true. Opportunity only knocks when your doorbell is broken. And you break or disconnect your doorbell when  you expect people to just walk in because you’ve been waiting for them to arrive. Opportunity knocks when you’ve made that the only option.

But people don’t do this. Instead, people wait for their fairy godmother to give them a lottery ticket to catapult them into their dream life. People expect to be escorted to their carriage so that it can take them down the smoothest path of most happiness and least resistance.

Believe me, I’ve been waiting, too. Waiting for words to spill out on a page. Waiting for my abs to show up (they’re always late to the party). Waiting for my life to be what I want it to be.

So, just in case you have been waiting like me:

You’re Invited!

What: The rest of your life

When: Right now

Where: Wherever you please

Here it is. Here is the invitation to get out there and make a difference. To show the world that you aren’t good at accepting the status quo. To transform yourself into the person that you’ve always wanted to be while keeping your roots firmly in place. To finally look forward to each new day, instead of looking back.

I love the saying: “Life is what gets in the way when you are making plans.” Because that’s just it. Everyone is so concerned about living that they forget to actually, well, live. It’s like taking pictures at a party of everyone smiling and having fun so that you can look back at the photos in a few years and then forgetting to actually smile and have fun at the party when you are there.

This is it, people. This is your life. The curtain is open, and the audience is waiting for you to do something besides stand and breathe. They’re ready for your solo or monologue, and you are most certainly ready to give it. So, what are you waiting for? I can tell you what you aren’t waiting for now: an invitation. You have one. So, get out there and shine.

I Don’t Like to Be Picked Up

They say you can’t help people who don’t help themselves. They say you have to pick yourself up by your own bootstraps. And, most importantly, they say when you get knocked down, you should get up again (because they’re never going to keep you down).

So, why do people insist on trying to pick you up themselves?

Have you ever had someone tell you to calm down when you’re really angry? It is the most frustrating, infuriating thing in the world, right? Almost as bad as stepping on a Lego. And how many times have you heard “there are plenty of more fish in the sea” when you’ve had troubles of a romantic nature? Yeah, okay, but what happens when you want that fish, who has not only swam away, but is moving up the stream? It’s all so horribly futile.

Well, it’s the same when someone says that it’s going to be “A OK” when everything seems like it has just blown up in a large mushroom cloud that used to resemble your life. I mean, when it feels like your house is crashing down around your ears, it is really not helpful to have someone tap you on the shoulder and make a joke about not having to pay rent anymore. Okay, call it petty or childish that I’m not able to look directly at the cloud with the silver lining when something bad happens, but when the gloom and doom has arrived, the bright side is a little blinding.

Which is why I don’t like to be picked up. I don’t like to be told that things will be alright. I don’t like to be told that I should be more optimistic and grateful. In the end, I like to discover these things on my own, and only then, do they have true meaning in my life. When I realize that my own situation isn’t as bad as it seems, well, that’s a lot more freeing than being told that time heals all wounds by someone else. Plus, your comment is like putting a band aid on a bullet wound: it does nothing for the immediate woe.

Here’s an example. Today, I suffered a generic loss. On a scale of 1 to Maroon 5’s latest album, I was about a 6 on the disappointment scale. So, I sought my typical creature comforts, food, warmth, and finally music. You see, no one was going to be able to bring me out of that slump but me.

Sure, the condolences from my family and friends helped, but they didn’t take away the pain. Do you know what did? Just Around the Riverbend by Disney’s Pocahontas, on repeat. After the 5th time I heard her ask if she should marry Kocoum or if her dreaming was at an end, I realized that everyone questions their decisions and choices, and that this is a universal feeling, even in the Disney universe. I didn’t tell myself to get over it, but I was able to ease myself over it anyway, like slipping into a tub of hot water, one toe at a time.

Sure, humans are gregarious creatures in that we like to be social, not that we travel in packs (although, if you go to a mall on a Friday night, you may see that some teenagers in dark clothing will band together like water buffaloes). However, when it comes to healing, we already have everything that we need. We already have the peace and solace inside us that we can use to scab over our wounds. While sentiments from others are nice, it is up to us to take action.

In the end, seek support from your friends, but don’t ask them to do all of the heavy lifting when it comes to picking you up when you’re down.