Are You Happy?


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 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.


Stress — The Final Frontier

stressOkay! It’s two weeks into a new year and you’ve discovered 3 visits to the gym don’t qualify you for a bikini, no matter how positive you are; Jan, at work, is still an asshole, and if you don’t get some cookies soon, you’re going to punch somebody in the face — probably Jan.  Life is hard, folks, and it’s even harder when you’re striving for perfection.  But that’s the mistake we all make.  We strive for perfection, especially at this time of year.  But, here’s a tip: forget perfection!  The only thing between you and that happy camper you want to be is stress.  Shoot stress in the head and, believe me, perfection is never going to come up on the agenda again.  So, in the spirit of Good Works (one of my New Year’s Resolutions) here are a few things that might be of assistance.  Good luck!

Get out of bed — You’d be surprised how good a day you get when your morning doesn’t look like the Mad Hatter is having a two-for-one sale on crazy.  Running out the door, 10 minutes late, with a hairbrush in one hand, a toothbrush in the other and your underwear on backwards is not the way to face the world.  You need to sneak up on it — slowly — so give yourself some time to wake up in the morning and metaphorically put your underwear on properly.

Take 3 deep breaths — Unless you’re the President, the Pope or Vladimir Putin, there’s no situation you’re ever going face that won’t wait five minutes.  Going straight at a problem might work at deadline time, but if you’re constantly letting things get that far, you’re already screwed.  People need time to think.  Besides, sometimes staring out the window for a while can give you a fresh perspective on why Jan is being such an obstructionist bitch.

Sex — Try to get beyond Date Night — but if that’s all ya got, make it the best Date Night ever!

Get some comedy — A steady diet of news, documentaries and PBS drama will kill ya.  Laughing at a fat kid on YouTube getting beaned by a beach ball will cleanse your soul.

Forget about the last word — Arguments are part of life; turning every one of them into the Alamo just isn’t healthy.  There’s no future in being right if you’re still having the mental conversation two days later.  Let the idiots win every once in awhile.

And finally:

Celebrate — Turn off the mobile phone, step away from the video screen and have a glass of wine, a Root Beer float or a slice of chocolate cake (preferably, with two forks.)  This is the reason we get up in the morning and do what we do.  Don’t ever let just doing become the priority.

Now, back to the gym! — That bathing suit isn’t going to wear itself!

You Might be a West Coaster If….

The story goes that a true Cockney must be born within the sound of Bow Bells – or, more precisely, within the sound of the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow church.  Nice try!  St. Mary-le-Bow church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and although it was eventually rebuilt, it was destroyed again during the Blitz in 1941.  Actually, there’s hasn’t been a maternity ward in the East End of London for nearly fifty years.  Likewise, it’s said that only a true Southerner can tell the difference between a Redneck and White Trash.  I’ve personally put that one to the test and have discovered that the Mason-Dixon Line has got nothing to do with either one.  You don’t have to look very hard to find Rednecks as far north as the Arctic Circle, and if you’re looking for White Trash, check out the Mall – any Mall – anywhere – including France.

My point is that these labels, Cockney, Southerner, Boston Brahmin, Highlander, Romany Gypsy etc. etc. might refer to a physical location, but they are also a state of mind, a way of doing business that is recognizable regardless of where you live.

For example, the West Coast of North America is populated by people who are markedly different from those of the rest of the continent.  Obviously, these are the folks stuck somewhere between a range of coastal mountains and the Pacific Ocean.  (Actually, it’s everybody from the Whistler/Blackcomb Ski Resort in Canada south to San Diego, California.)  But it’s also an attitude that transcends time and space.  Therefore, as a public service, I have compiled a list that will help you find out if you are a West Coaster — even if you don’t live there.  FYI, I have never heard of Jeff Foxworthy.  I do not know he is a comedian.  I have never seen his “You Might be a Redneck” routine on HBO, YouTube or anywhere else.  Any resemblance between it and this blog is purely coincidental.

So, you might be a West Coaster if:

You’re on a first name basis with more than one barista.

Your yoga pants have actually been to yoga.

Nobody you know has an opinion about snow tires.

Dogs and cats have birthday parties, too.

Your lawyer’s a witch.

Swag is a biodegradable lunch bag and a reusable coffee cup.

You carry your own filtered drinking water.

Your roommate was the best man and the maid of honor at your cousin’s wedding.

Your winter wardrobe is a scarf.

You know how to get to at least one Vegan restaurant – on the bus.

You have Feng Shui on speed dial.

Flip flops are for everyday wear; sandals are formal.

Your other car is a bicycle.

Your best friend’s children are named Mowayva Daisy, Last Lost Star and Jedfire.

You serve sushi on Thanksgiving.

You’ve smoked most of the plants in your herb garden.

You call soccer “futbol” and watch it religiously — once every four years.

You read the New Yorker — even though you don’t live in New York and, in fact, have never been there.