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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Friday, May 14, 2010

Be Happy...for once!*

*Somerset, PA Daily American
June 6, 2010
as "How Are You?"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

It happens a hundred times each day.

“How’re you doing?”

“Fine.”

And the conversation dies. On the other hand…

“How’re you doing?”

“Not good.”

“What’s wrong?”

And things are off and running. An opener like that can keep two people engaged from a few minutes to several hours. Part of that is related to that unfortunate part of our psyches that seems to be fascinated by bad news. It drives us to “dish the dirt” on each other, and in that process passing judgment like a caffeinated Solomon. Most of the time, we feel motivated by an empathetic concern for another person’s welfare. Sometimes, however, it is a way for us to not think about our own situation and feel grateful that someone else is worse off than we are.

These things aren’t limited to the back fence, either. It’s the gossip that keeps the workplace grapevine twitching and lunging like a snake having a seizure. That most of the news thus delivered is patently false, or at least exaggerated certainly doesn’t stop us from taking the plunge again, and again. Even in church, the one place where you would think we’d be immune, the gossip gorilla still manages to rear its ugly head from time to time.

I have a friend who’s a clinical psychologist (and no, that’s not why he’s my friend!) who was the recipient of my inquiry on this subject. Perhaps out of sparing me an hour or so of highly technical explanation I couldn’t possibly comprehend, he merely shrugged and said. “Human nature.”

I pondered this on my commute one day, allowing my mind to take one of its interesting side trips. I revisited those times when I encountered bad news, both the factual and the fanciful, exploring my reactions. To be honest, I couldn’t figure out why bad news was so much more…fun?...that good news. So I decided to do a little experiment.

The next day, after climbing in the elevator with an acquaintance, I popped the usual opener…

“How’re you?”

To which he responded with the generic…

“Pretty good.”

Taking a quick breath, I followed up.

“Why?”

He turned quickly and regarded me, his face wearing a puzzled expression.

“Why…what?”

“You know…why are you pretty good?”

He glanced upward at the elevator panel, obviously praying vigorously for a quick end to the ride, while formulating an answer. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, the door opened and he left with a speed that would have done credit to an ejection seat, flinging a frightened “See ya...” in my direction.

Perhaps I should have waited until after the first cup of coffee.

Several times that day, I pulled the same question on people. Eventually, the word got around that “Couey’s being weird again today.” By early afternoon, obviously forewarned via grapevine, people began to give me answers reflecting those things that in fact were good in their lives.

It was an interesting thing to watch, mostly seeing the difference in attitudes. Smiles came easier, shoulders seemed less humped over. And truthfully, I felt better. After all, I had been marinated in the magic waters of good news all day long. It made a big difference.

We are bombarded every day by what’s wrong. Politics, the economy, crime, even weather. While we need to be aware of what is going on around us, we should still take time to dig for the items that reflect what’s right in our world, because that’s happening as well. Good news and positive things can help to fortify us against the tsunami of negativity that washes over us daily. And perhaps, from this new perspective, we might find out that our problems weren’t as big as we thought they were.

In my life I’ve planted my foot in the soil of some 20 different countries, spending time not only in the cities, but in the countryside as well. The truth I have learned from that experience is that even the poorest American lives a life far grander than about two-thirds of the world’s population.

It’s time to stop whining and take a good, long look at what we do have.
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