Posts Tagged ‘how to be happy’

Most of us are afflicted — at least somewhat — with amassitude, anothery and an acute strain of likewiseness.

Last night, for a snack, I took seconds and thirds and a small fourth on some yummy Frosted Mini-Wheats. I added honey and almond milk.  Sweet on sweet, or double sweet.  Yum!

Then I got a yearning to see my Padres hit another home run against the Dodgers so I stayed up late to watch. They did, and again. Watching them play so hard made me tired, so I went to bed happy, and I got double-sleep by rolling over twice this morning and sleeping in.

“Ah and oh,” I love my firsts — and my seconds, sometimes my thirds. But I don’t like it when my waist line increases because of too much sweet cereal, or my sleep cycles are interrupted by too much coffee. I sometimes tend toward a little too much.

Thus and so, mostly and consistently, we are all, at times extendawonkers, increasaboys, supplementicators, expandimongers.

We indulge, then ask politely — sometimes not — for more, more cereal, condiments, compliments, constaments, cashiments, communications, curiosa,

A bit of this is normal, and good, but there is one unpleasant side effect to dipping in again and again and again — insatiably. It’s discontent. And its dissatisfaction. We may feed a human penchant for never-enough. We may become addicted to an incessant always-a-little-more.

What to do?

Don’t push it. Don’t feed, grow and propagate addiction. Be very happy with your one portion, perhaps a small second; be good with good that isn’t jumboed, big-gulped, value-added, honeyed, home-runned or supersized.

I think of Solomon and his erotic poem in the Bible, his sage, “Do not stir up love until it pleases,” smack in the middle of his well-kindled romantic ardor.

Pleasures will come to us when they will come to us, but if we force them we risk ruining them. To be puke-drunken, gorge-mucked, sex-smuckered or gagged-guzzled — it may be fun for some,  kind of, sort of at first (do you think so?), but it’s not that much fun, especially in the end.

Surfeit and its consequences — this is suffered willingly by fools, but the wise moderate, and enjoy life, and contentment. They partake, then they stop and they are happy holding back until the just-right-once-again-moment.

I had one latte this morning, brewed with my favorite, smooth Best Friends blend of Dark Horse coffee and 2% milk. So good!

Nothing in excess; some things not at all.


I looked at the steps above and below me. All the available space was covered — with people.

The concrete steps were literally paved with seated people — something like you might see at the Spanish steps in Rome, but different —  people with dirt on their arms and water bottles beside them, people smiling and laughing.

And moreover and thusly, they were eating pizza, set out in boxes, stacked in the center of the steps.

It was a volunteer earth care team, and we sitting on the church entry steps, after work, on a mid-week evening. We had just been digging grass out of the yard, building a decorative retaining wall and constructing a pretty, curving, decomposed granite pathway.


Earth care, water saving and beauty — and community. The new plants that will be planted at the church will use less water, flower more, inspire us and the people who walk or drive by.

And that’s the thing, the people. On the steps that evening — laughing about goofy horror movies we have seen, woofing down tasty pizza, taking a break from work — we were a collection, a collaboration, a unit, an entity, a team, a people, a family. This is good church.

This is in fact, the highest social good, our best moment.  When we refuse to stay home, when we defeat isolationism, when we come out, when we team up to care for the earth and each other, when we have social discourse, when we become a pod, a murmuration,  a collaborative — this is deep, satisfiying good-good.

Want to live well? Want to please God?

Want the best experiences life can offer?

Find people, do earth care work with them, get pizza, put the pizza in the center of the group, eat, hobnob, laugh and then look around at the beauty you are celebrating.

This is your earth; this is your human family.

Fun is dribs, then some drabs, a call for dibs, a plea for dabs.

The quest for pleasure, the science of pleasure, it’s literature, it’s armamentarium, it’s practice has always been a dab elusive.  The hunt, peck and grab for fun, laughs, parties, happiness, good times — it’s tough hiking.

What do we do, we epicures, we gourmands, we hopeful debauchees?

I have just a few thoughts.

We can let  life’s pleasures come us as they will. 

Why thus and so this way? 

The opposite doesn’t work well. Coerced pleasures, forced joys, over-arranged fun has an artifical, trying-to-hard, unsatisfying flavor to it. Forced eating, forced laughs, forced sex — it’s yuck. 

Mandate pleasure and remain dissatisfied. 

But in contrast, as we relax, choose well, live at peace with our neighbors it seems that pleasure, using the element of surprise, peaks shyly at us from within the mystical realm of the divine ordinary. 

This morning, sitting in the car with my daughter in a parking lot, I was struck by the beauty of the small, pink flowers of a hedge blowing in the rainy wind as I prayed for her to be guided and safe. The beauty in front of me, moving in the storm, was not scripted nor orchestrated by me, not even expected. It was small, momentary, ephemeral — it was peace giving. 

I think of ataraxia, Epicurus’s state of lucid and robust tranquilty. That kind of pleasure, found in peace, seems to me to come from a conscious acceptance of the now, a making friends with reality, a seeing what is, not a forcing of what we want.

Want pleasure? Accept it as it shows up, bobbing in the wind in front of  you.

The other thought I have, meager as it is, perhaps helpful to us, is to be watchful, aware, tuned in, even purposely aligned toward the good and the pleasurable. It may come to us, and we may miss it, if we are not watchful for it. 

There are many whiners in life, in fact they are the majority. They are always looking at what they don’t like. And there is always something not to like, some pain, some health issue, some relational hurt, some slight, some jeaousy, some hate, someone to stumble on and take up arms against. But whiners are unhappy as they focus on the unhappy and so they miss the simple pleasures right in front of them. 

But in contrast, how refreshing it is to be in the presence of those who look for the good, and put their minds on the lovely, humorous, fetching nature of reality. 

In pain they laugh, hurt they help, sick they smile, irritated they keep their mouth shut, hopeful they pray. There is a kind of courageous gorgeousness to those who enjoy and celebrate the good, the pleasurable, the beautiful in a world of evil, pain and ugliness. They focus on the delectable-good. 

Pleasure is intrinsic to life. The enjoyable is everywhere. It is the gift of God. But it is found by those who look for it. Pleasure arises out of our own purposeful awareness of the good gifts of God. Pleasure is something we should keep an eye out for —  not force or mandate. It is something that happens as we watch. It comes to us now and again naturally as we wait expectantly — as the watchmen wait for the morning. 

Today, as it rains, and I write at home alone, my cat has snuggled up to me, keeping warm, seeking companionship, being close. 

It is a small thing, a micro-pleasure, a natural movement. It is a dab. I put the back of my hand on her silky, soft fur. This reassures me all is well. 


Of all the desultory tenderness of life to love, the household intimacies stand out.

This morning I cleaned my master bathroom. My wife cleaned the downstairs bathroom. My daughter cleaned her bathroom. I liked it. My cleaning time was a happy spraying, scrubbing and rinsing, a kind of putter-headed hum and buzz and calm that comes amid the keeping, caring circular motions of washing things. 

The ho-hum, assign-and-be-done, domestic particularities,  the dirty dishes, the tubs of laundry, the vacuuming , the dusting — chorish and dutified as they be thought — they rank, crank and bank sweet, sane, solid satisfaction.

It’s not the little things in life that drive us crazy; it’s the little things that keep us sane — a clean toilet, an uncluttered counter, a folded stack of clothes.

What we do to order the borders of our rooms and homes and yards  and offices make up the warp and woof of wondrous, wellish, woofish world.

Cleaning is craft.

This morning, with a spray bottle and a rag I humanized my most intimate space, my master bathroom, turning spotted, stained, dust-covered counters and toilets into gleaming, clean, smooth surfaces for my most intimate preparation rituals — those everyday, private motions of cleaning, brushing, trimming, washing, combing, moisturizing and scenting my own body.

The art and trade of cleaning and of organizing is the art and trade of personalizing our most sacred spaces.

Last week I emptied a drawer in a cupboard, threw out all the faded, fossilized flotsam that had piled up there over several years  —  old phone chargers, abandon power cords, beat up photo frames, a stray dice —  and put back in order those things I still want and need to keep on hand.

Life is just this —  the fiddling though detail, the categorization of the personal particular, the cleaning, placing and keeping of our stuff, and the tossing of the dice. It is a decision, to live as orderly or as messy as we choose, to ignore the voices of our mothers telling us to clean our rooms, and to heed our own soft, non-judgmental voices, telling us what degree of mess, muss or made-bed we want.

Life is a sorting, a chucking and a storing business that takes place within the vertical and horizontal props and privacies of our favorite walls and floors and ceilings. There we hunker down, do our own work, make our own domestic map, live as we choose.

I love it.

I’m not for maids or house keepers, or yard guys either.  I’d rather clean up after myself, or not, as I choose.

I am my own standard of order, I vibrate to my own cleaning chord — and sometimes my wife’s. I  live as I choose on my own steamed-cleaned carpet, mown lawn, within my own flower garden, my own lily pond, my own patio, in the cubicles of my own closet organizer, in my own self-painted, self-decorated bedroom.

I wish to keep it this way, to do my own household tasks, to live close to my own humanity, to make my own bed, clean my own toilet, say my own household prayers, wash my own dishes, mow my own yard, shave my own face, take out my own trash.

It’s sanity, this happy, soothing looking after oneself and ones family.

I want to keep cleaning my own bathroom, not because it’s humbling, but because it is intimate.

Lately I’ve taken special note of  my appreciatives, my approbatories, my applaudables, and also those small salvific islands of gratitude lurking along the waterways of my supra-conciousness.

I make a grocery list of them. 1. I like being male.  2.I like being married. 3. I like being comedic.

These idiosynratic commendatories are my cognitive Jacanas, the colorful water birds living on my cerebral Lake Nicaragua, and I watch for them as I round the corners of my mental islands,  putting along in my smoking, psychic motor boat, and I flush them out when I can — my favorables. I exult when they run on the tops of the lily pads on my everyday perspectives.

Dr. Christine Carter, excecutive director at the Greater Good Science Center at University of California Berkeley says her research shows that the more we practice gratitude the happier we will actually be. She suggests keeping a gratitude journal.

I respect Dr. Christine, and I appoint her my mentor, and in my mind, I mind her counsel and keep a mental journal of my gratefulness. I prop it up on the back shelf of  my short-term memory and work it over. I  listify my thankfuls, lining them up, one, two and three.  1. I am thankful for my black  glossy cats with their ulta-soft, outrageously fluffy furification. 2. I am thankful for my wife, particularly her drop-dead gorgeous cerebral cortex and the droll and wry desultory three-storied thoughts housed therein 3.  And I like my hazelnut coffee with milk every 6 am.

I love these and all of my other precious gratitudes. They are my safety nets, hanging above the lower levels of my extreme dissatisfactions.  They are my psychological floaties; they keep me from drowning in my own deep waters;  they are my sport’s brain seat belts, clamping me in my as I accelerate hard out of all my life’s sharp corners.

I  trot them out often, my idosyncratic applaudables.  1. I like my house, the big windows and the odd angles of the high ceilings. 2. I like my two daughters, particularly the way the call me “daddy” and sit close to watch TV or just talk  3.  I adore my job, the taylor-made, custom-designed, hyper-precise fit of it. 4. I love God and the way he loves me back and  how he is so outrageously gentle, patient and gracious with me. 5. I like my pain, and how it eloquently informs me about being human.

By laying out my admirables like this, I anchor what I are grateful for in my brain. These positives, these pluses, these commemoratives — they moor me. When I don’t like something about my job, I  coounter that with something I do like about my job. My thankfuls act like my very own team of counter-insurrgents against negativity. I don’t like my work stress, but I do love my work challenges, and so I embrace them, and I go on this way, cloaked with strength.

What will happen tomorrow? I think that more good will happen tomorrow, and if it does not, then I will roof over my losses with a thick thatch of approvables , and this is how I will survive, and shelter my happiness.

I will be thankful.