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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.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The "So What?" of Being Happy

From natcom.org
Copyright ©2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only
Consider these two different conversations:
"Hey, how are you?"
"Great! Couldn't be better!"
"Super! See you later!"


"Hey, how are you?"
"Not good. My life has really gone south."
"Come on. Let me buy you a cup of coffee."

Human beings are prey for the roller coaster ride that constitutes our emotions. We can either be joyous, or sad, or living one of those grey days where one floats noncommitally inbetween.

We get brief glimpses of each other's lives during those moments we are thrown together to share a common space for a short time, usually an elevator ride. Occasionally, I take the time to scan the faces I see, trying to gage their mood. I do this surreptitously, and never regularly. Staring at a stranger in in an elevator, after all, is guaranteed to creep that person out. I'm also inclined tro listen to the conversations around me. I'm amazed at just how empty and hollow such exchanges can be. We ask "How are you?" without a shred of any real intent of wanting to know. We answer those vacant inquiries with equally vacant responses. We ask and answer to be polite, not to care.

But there are those other conversations, like the second one I outlined above. Not everyone is going to respond with that kind of compassion. Usually, it's a "sorry about that" tossed back with the inflection that really communicates the message "It sucks to be you."

We like to hear good news. But it is the bad news that really seems to grab our attentions.

Once, I pulled a little experiment. On one particular elevator ride, I asked the empty opener, and got the equally vacuuous response. The difference was that I followed up with a sincere, "Why?"

My lab rat looked at me blankly. "Why...what?"

"Why are you feeling so good today?"

He mumbled back a platitude or two and fled the elevator at the first opportunity. He probably had no stomach for someone he probably thought was a Dr. Phil wannabe.

You know, don't you, that when we get the negative response, most of us want to know why, as if feeling sad was somehow not allowed. Cheer up! Only happiness is spoken here! We want to know what caused the problem, dig down to the root, and solve it for them, all during a 45-second ride in a small square compartment.

On the other hand, if we get the positive rejoinder, the subject drops. They're happy. That's good. They're in line with company policy. And we let it go.

But being happy is every bit as important as sadness in the human experience. I think it's good to explore those moments of joy and remember what spurred the dopamine in our brains so we can recreate that happiness on a day when it's really needed.

For some reason, we don't want to critically examine happiness. Sadness gets the full diagnostic; joy is accepted without question. Does that really make sense?

Tragedy can draw us together, binding our common wounds through marshalling the strength of the group. But good feelings can also be a uniting influence. We should also know that the sound of someone's sorrow may actually be a muted cry for companionship. It's harder to ask for friendship than it is to plead for sympathy.

We dwell on sorrow. But we should also not be afraid to burrow into joy, to know what it is that lifted us so. To know those reasons, and to share them, is to spread that happiness.

Like it's darker brother, happiness is also very contagious.

Put on a smile, and spread that particular virus.
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