Contemplations about Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Meaningful Existence…

Archive for the tag “happiness”

Redefining Happy


The greatest privilege of being a flight attendant is crossing paths with passengers who completely transform your day life…


Born three months early and diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Jon’s future appeared hopeless. The doctors told his parents that his brain’s frontal lobe deformation was such that he’d likely never be more than a vegetable.

They were wrong.

Jon rolled down the jetway in a motorized wheelchair, which allowed him to stand upright, looking like Robert Downey Jr. in the Iron Man movie. His megawatt smile and larger-than-life personality swiftly amplified my superhero impression. When I asked where he was headed, he proudly informed me that he’d been selected as one of only seventy college students nationwide to participate in a five-day leadership conference. He’d be giving several motivational speeches.

“I love talking. Put a tree in front of me, and I’ll talk to it.” He laughed. “My plan, once I get my master’s, is to be a motivational speaker. I’ve already produced a few short films, and I’m writing a book.”

“What’s it about?” I asked, thinking I had a fairly good idea.

“It’s about how the definition of happy is completely inaccurate,” he said, upending my presumption. “Happiness isn’t a single emotion. It’s the ability to appreciate all emotional states, learning and growing from both positive and negative experiences. People buy all these self-help books on how to be happy when they really just need to constructively connect with the world around them. Happiness isn’t an adjective — it’s a verb.”

“Impressive wisdom coming from a college kid.” I winked.

“Well, I wasn’t always so smart.” He fidgeted with his cell phone. “In high school I got a little depressed, focusing on all the stuff I couldn’t do. Fortunately, my mom is a very smart lady. She let me wallow in self-pity exactly three days before dragging me out to visit a kid born with my same condition. There I was, staring into the eyes of a boy roughly my age, except he can’t move, can’t speak, can’t feed himself — nothing. He wasn’t as lucky as me!”

I nodded, fingernails sinking into my palms to keep the tears at bay.

“Anyway, like I was saying,” he continued, “happiness boils down to how you choose to interact with the world. A perfect example occurred just this morning coming through security. When the TSA spoke to my travel assistant, their tone was totally normal. But when they turned to me, their voices slowed and shot up several decibels, as if they were speaking to a kindergartener. Was I going to let that ruin my day? No way, Jose! I started joking around with them until they were clutching their bellies. By the time they finished scanning all my metal parts, I’m pretty sure they saw me as someone not all that different from themselves.”

He shrugged. “And that’s my secret to happiness. When others treat me with indifference or disrespect, I surprise them with a story, a joke — whatever I think is going to dispel the negative cloud the quickest. Most people are so accustomed to confrontation, they don’t even know how to process this. Then, something shifts, and their entire disposition changes. That’s super cool to watch.” His smile illuminated the cabin.

“You’d make a great flight attendant.”

His eyes lit up. “I’d even sing!”

I’ll Be Happy Then…


What?! I can be happy — right now? There are at least fifteen more dramatic adjectives I can insert here — but happy?? Life isn’t supposed to be easy. One must work hard, suffer, fail, work even harder. But happy — right now?  I mean, I’m a work in progress.

For example, this sudden jiggle in my thighs. I intend to commence a diligent lunge program first thing tomorrow. Then there’s the crow’s feet forging a crinkly frame around what was once my best feature. And what’s up with this blooming nodule on my jawline; will I be senile and still breaking out?

Of course I have less superficial goals. I want to take voice lessons, learn the Tango, perfect my Spanish, perhaps study French. What I really need to do is focus on being less preoccupied. And I definitely need to establish a “girl’s group” in my neighborhood. We could go to a comedy club, a play, a concert, or just rent a movie and hang out with a vat of popcorn. But not this month because my schedule is nuts.

My roots are screaming for high-lights, and I have nothing to wear. My summer wardrobe is just not me anymore. My coloring has changed. Everything I put on looks ghastly. Maybe I should get a spray tan. Oh, and there was a miracle skin-clearing product I read about in Oprah Magazine. I wonder if they FedEx? And what about dinner? First, I must get the clothes into the drier and iron my work shirts. Did I water the plants yet? I need to pick a specific day each week so I won’t keep forgetting. Thank goodness the cats have a self-feeding/watering device. I can’t believe the roses on my desk are dying already. I hope I remember not to buy them from that store again.

Oops, there goes my cellphone. It’s my mom calling for our weekly chat. I’ll have to call her back. Because my main goal is to be a writer. And the truth is, I haven’t spent nearly enough time pursuing this dream. Next week, after my husband upgrades my computer system, I’ll begin. No sense in losing my prose to an unanticipated computer crash, right? Next Wednesday it is! I’m committed. Once I return from my 3-day trip as a flight attendant, after I work out, return phone calls, run errands, do the laundry, water the plants, give the husband and cats some love, prepare dinner…

I’ll be happy then.

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