Happiness

One of the things I love about Americans is that, when they set up their government, they took the trouble to guarantee the right to life, liberty and (this is the best bit!) the pursuit of happiness.  They didn’t go nuts and say Americans have the unalienable right to BE happy; all they said was they have the legal right to try.  Not everybody does that.  For example, in my country, the government doesn’t give a damn if I’m happy or not.  They’re far more concerned that I keep my mouth shut when I’m pissed off.  Anyway, happiness is a relatively recent invention.  Before those good old boys from Virginia came along, survival was the biggie.  Singing in the sunshine and laughing every day took second place to making it through the winter, the war, the plague, the drought, the fire, the flood, the famine or any of the other 1,001 calamities that used to regularly wander by.  However, now that happiness is on the menu, everybody wants a slice, and nobody’s sure if their piece is quite big enough.  Here’s a quick and dirty guide to find out whether you are happy or not.

Do you own a rocking chair?  It’s scientifically proven that rocking chairs release enough endorphins to fill a room.  Add a sleeping baby or a cat on your lap and you’ll practically drown in the stuff.

Do you have a pet?  Dogs are better than cats: cats are better than fish: a platypus is the best, but even a well-loved houseplant will change you from a miserable self-centred bastard into a caring, sharing person of quality.  Thinking about something other than yourself will always make you a happy person.

Do you live west of the Vistula River?  For some reason, Europeans are happier than the rest of the world.  I don’t know why.  It must be the cheese — or the wine.

Do you have lunch money?  Money will not make you happy, but if you don’t have any — uh — you’re kinda screwed.  And constantly getting screwed will definitely make you grouchy.

Do you get earworms?  Ohrwurm in German.  (Those people have a word for everything.) These are those stupid songs that get stuck in your head and won’t go away.  Yeah, they’re annoying, but washing the dishes to “Barbie Girl” by Aqua isn’t all that bad.  My personal favourite is “All About The Bass.”  And, quite frankly, it’s impossible to be depressed if your brain is playing “Call Me, Maybe?”  (Are any of these in your head yet?)

Do you procrastinate?  The truth is procrastinators are cockeyed optimists.  They actually think that sometime in the future, they’re going to get their act together and clean out the closet or vacuum behind the refrigerator.  They probably won’t — but believing in a better future is one of the key components of happiness.  Therefore, procrastinators, by definition, are happy people.

Do you laugh at stuff that’s not supposed to be funny?  This is the stuff that catches you off guard and you giggle — even though you know you really shouldn’t.  Stuff that’s inappropriate.  Stuff that buttoned-down people might even find offensive.  Stuff that you really can’t repeat to anyone except your most trusted, trusted friend.  Here’s the deal: being silly in the face of all the pompous ass seriousness in our oversensitive world is a sure sign that you’re happy.

But I’ve saved the best for last:

Are you in love?  If you’re in love, you’re happy — full stop.  Unlike “relationships” that you have to “work at” so hard they eventually just turn into a total pain in the ass, love is the real meal deal.  If you look across the breakfast table and can’t think of any other place you’d rather be, then you’re in love.  And folks, if you do that often enough, you’re not pursuing happiness anymore: you’ve caught it.

Given these troubled times I thought I’d reprint this from May, 2018.

Advice For Life

Life does not come with a set of instructions.  Around the time we learn to crawl, we’re taught what bites, what burns, what tickles and which farts just can’t be trusted — but after that, it’s all on-the-job training with live ammunition.  Unfortunately, without any guidelines we really never know how we’re doing.  Essentially, if life were a parlour game, we’d have no way to keep score or even know where we are on the board.  C’est le vie!

There are, however, a few tricks one learns along the way.  Since I’m a good guy who’s been wandering this world for a few years now, I’m going to pass a random sample along to you.  They’re in no particular order — because if I actually knew what was important in life, I’d write the book.

1 — A low-cut sweater will fix a bad hair day.

2 — Nobody is ever going to look at you the way women in yogurt commercials look at yogurt — get over it.

3 — You know you’re fat when people start saying “Have you lost weight?” Nobody ever says that to skinny people.

4 —  After high school you’re never going to use algebra again — ever.

5 — You know the relationship isn’t love when, during sex, you fantasize that your partner is someone else and, after sex, you fantasize you are.

6 — You’ve become an adult when your towels match.

7 — Eventually, every parent secretly eats a candy bar in the car, or the closet, or just around the corner so they don’t have to share it with their kids.  (So you aren’t a selfish bastard, after all.)

8 — You know you’re old when younger people talk to you in that tone of voice we all reserve for children and pets.

9 — Later on in life, nobody but you is going to give a rat’s ass how hot you were in college, so you might as well take the four years and actually learn something.

10 — If you’re over 26 and your job still involves extra pickles, you’re doing something wrong.

11 — The biggest lie you’re ever going to tell yourself is “I’ll remember that.”

12 — You know you’re rich when you don’t have to look at the prices on a menu.  You know you’re wealthy when you can do that at the car dealership.

13 — The difference between tragic hero/heroine and perpetual loser is five years.

14 — As you get older, Christmas comes faster and faster.

15 – There’s never going to be anything quite as cool as the other side of the pillow on a warm night.

And finally:

16 — The real secret to a happy and successful life is comfortable underwear.  But you need to have enough money to afford it and the good sense to buy it.

I Wish I’d Said That – 2021

As I get older, I realize a ton of people are a lot smarter than I am.  When I look at the world (even wearing my rose-coloured glasses) mostly all I see is benign chaos.  However, some people can look through all that and see where the little bits of truth are hiding.  These are the folks who instantly grasp an idea, distill it down to a single sentence, flip it onto their tongues and then effortlessly blend it into the conversation.  I know envy is one of the 7 Deadly Sins, but, for all the world, I envy these people because on the rare occasions when I do that, I spend the rest of the day walking just a little taller.  Here are some examples and each one, when read carefully, demonstrates some serious understanding of the world we live in.

Journalism largely consists of saying “Lord Jones is dead,” to people who didn’t know he was alive.
G.K. Chesterton

The perfect lover is one who turns into a pizza at 4:00 am.
Charles Pierce

Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other.
Ann Landers

It’s dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.
Voltaire

A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks for a funeral.
H.L. Mencken

The trouble with her is she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech.
George Bernard Shaw

A critic is a man who knows the way but can’t drive the car.
Kenneth Tynan

The trouble with some women is that they get all excited about nothing — and then marry him.
Cher

An alcoholic is someone you don’t like who drinks as much as you do.
Dylan Thomas

It was as stupid as taking a cauldron and a broom to a witch hunt.
Najira Olsen

Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.
A.H. Miller

Do you realize that, if it weren’t for Edison, we’d be watching television by candlelight?
Al Boliska

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
Jean Rostand

Love thy neighbour as thyself, but choose your neighbourhood.
Louise Beal

The average person thinks he isn’t.
L. Lorenzoni

What this country needs is more free speech worth listening to.
Hansell Duckett

We’re all in this alone.
Lily Tomlin

Where did I find the time to not read so many books?
Karl Krause

A fair fight is the one you win.
French Foreign Legion

And that greatest philosopher of them all — Anonymous

Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.

If it wasn’t for the last minute, nobody would get anything done.

Whoever said “money can’t buy happiness,” didn’t know where to shop.

No one ever bets enough money on a winning horse.

If you talk to God, you’re praying.  If God talks to you, you’re nuts.

Originally written September, 2017