Once I called a friend whom I haven’t seen for more than 13 years. When I told him who I was, he became angry and said “Stop the nonsense, I am sick of the jokes. If you don’t stop pretending, I’ll hang up the phone.”
His reaction wasn’t what I was expecting so I started to laugh.
“It’s really you; no one could laugh so happily the way you do.”
I realised that my laugh had become one of my identifying characteristics.
The last time I visited my god-father in hospital, he had been in a violent mood for more than a day. All his relatives were in the room. A long illness had made every one of them prepared for his death for years. As soon as I walked into the room, he was ready to strike me. Many voices tried to stop me from getting close to him. He calmed done when he knew it was me. I could hear one voice whisper “We can all leave now.”
Ever since I was a child, my god-father had told me many times that I brought happiness wherever I went. That’s why my visits always made him happy. I am glad that I was the last person who was able to talk to him before he died so he didn’t leave this world with an unhappy attitude.
I remember we were a happy family before my parents divorced. There were no arguments between my parents – at least not in front of us children. My father spent lots of time with us. My younger siblings and I followed our elder sister around. She taught us to sing. We never questioned anything nor were we rebellious. Often father was singing opera in one room, mother was singing a modern pop song in another room and the four of us children sang at the top of our voices whatever our elder sister had taught us to sing. Those were the happiest days of my life.
Laughter disappeared after my step-mother, who couldn’t stand a smile, came to our home. Father dropped the opera singing, his interest in the kitchen vanished and he withdrew his attention from us. We weren’t his loves anymore but a burden and trouble – that’s how I felt; he might have a different opinion if he was still alive today.
My mother remarried as well but she never lost her happy spirit, no matter how life treated her. From being born into a prestigious family to her migration to America, she retained her status as a refined and out-spoken lady. Once in a social setting, a lady complained to many others that her husband found a younger woman and heartlessly dumped her. She cried out loud that her husband took her youth away. My mother quietly asked her, “If you hadn’t married him, you would still be 18 years old now?” Later someone thanked my mother for putting a stop to that lady’s endless self-pity.
At different times in my life, many people have told me that I am the happiest person they know. Many have tried to find out what my secret to being happy is. I could not give an answer, simply because I don’t know.
An acquaintance told me her about her sad life years ago when we had a drink one afternoon. She blamed her unhappy life on her family members. After watching her crying for more than an hour, I asked her to take a break and let me put on a few minutes of a commercial advertisement for a change – this did bring a smile to her face.
I said to her “You think I am so happy because I came from a loving family?” She nodded. I continued “I don’t have financial problems because my father is a film maker. He opened doors in society and made my life easy sailing. I always had what I wanted, right?”
She said, “It clearly shows on your smiling face and your attitude to living.”
“I chose to marry at 19 because I wanted to leave my father’s house and be far away from the step-mother who put Snow White’s step-mother to shame. I signed over the right to deal with my inheritance after my father’s death to my brother; I never heard from him again so I count him out of my life too. At 28, I was divorced from my gambling husband and left with children but no money, the youngest was only an infant. I worked hard for years to pay the bills and keep the family together. I had a pretty hard life compared with the general population. People can take material things away from me but I won’t let them take my happiness, it’s inside me. I can tell you how evil my step-mother was, how bad my ex-husbands were; I could cry for weeks and tell you the details, but I won’t. I’ve left my childhood suffering behind. I also walked away from four husbands because I don’t believe in spending my life with people that I can’t trust or respect. I think this world is treating us well because it lets us have choices.”
She was speechless. I hope my words and experience helped her. What I said to her I had repeated many times in my life. I’ve said it to anyone who needs to hear it. I hope it will help others to realise that most things in life are either a disappointment or not the way we like them, such as our lives, but all we can do is make the most of them in any situation.
I have no idea how to be a happy person; all I know is how to live my life.
My philosophy is to treat others the way I want to be treated and help anyone in need. Once when I was travelling overseas with one of my daughters, at one popular travellers’ spot, I saw a lady looking around like she was lost. I went up to her and asked if there was anything that I could do to help. Before too long, her friend found her. My daughter said to me later, “What could you have done? You are a stranger in this place just like her.” I laughed. She was right, I was as helpless as that lady but at least I showed her she wasn’t alone, although we spoke different languages.
Be kind to others, no matter what their race, skin colour, economic background, age, education level or social status. We are all brothers and sisters on this earth. A kind act or kind word could give the recipient more mental power and strength.
No evil deeds – they can cause ruin, injury, pain and suffering. Keep liars, cheaters, gossipers and dishonest and deceitful people away. Setting a high standard will protect our own wellbeing. I hear too many women and men complain about how they wish they had left their husband / wife / partner a long time ago. Unhappy experiences had destroyed their faith, gradually ruining their health. Don’t do bad thing to others; don’t accept bad acts from others either.
Don’t be greedy; staying with someone or in some place just for an easier life isn’t smart. Money can’t bring anyone happiness. Just look around the world – rich people are like prey, surrounded by people like vultures. Princess Di had looks and background, she even gave the royal family heir, but youth and popularity didn’t win her husband’s heart. If she had married another man or stayed single, she might be still alive today. No amount of money can improve the wrong match.
An elderly lady I met at work was always sick. She was in and out of hospital a few times one year. She asked to have lunch with me one day. I agreed. She was a quiet lady, kept everything to herself, with a gentle and lady-like manner. She said during our lunch that she wished to be happy like me. Then she told me how she found out her husband had been unfaithful to her, how she wished she could leave him a long time ago, how she worked to stay out of the house and she couldn’t bear to be in the same room with him. Her hatred towards him was eating her health away. I couldn’t tell her that I agreed with her that she should have left her husband a long ago; that would not have helped her. I suggested that she forgive her husband and talk to him, let out the anger and hate and then make a brand new start all over again with him. After a long marriage, companionship is more important than love. They could survive all those years together; they should be able to make a way to live in harmony and share their twilight time until the end.
Respect yourself, always do the right thing. Others might not know what you are doing but you do. Don’t compromise your own integrity; that is the core of your worth. It’s easy to jump into sex when the other person showers you with fireworks. Have you thought about how that person might carry some sexual disease which might ruin your health? What kind of life would you have when you have an incurable or lingering sexual disease? Respect your body and mind, do the right thing. We all want to have a good companion to walk through our lives together. A sexual encounter is not a good indicator of compatibility and desirability.
Sometimes being alone is a far better way to live than being in an unhappy living arrangement. Learning to be alone might well save lots of lives. Alone and lonely are totally different things. Alone is simply the state of being apart from others, lonely is an unpleasant emotional reaction to perceived isolation. Loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people.
On top of all the qualities that we try to achieve to be happy, don’t forget health should be the most important thing. How can anyone be happy when the body is suffering? Doctors told my parents that with my weak body it was not possible for me to live beyond 10 years. I built a self-help system in my mind unconsciously. My health gradually improved. Cross-sectional studies from all over the world support the relationship between happiness and fruit and vegetable intake. Those eating fruits and vegetables each day have a higher likelihood of being classified as “very happy,” suggesting a strong and positive correlation between fruit and vegetable consumption and happiness, perhaps feelings of optimism too. How can eating plants improve happiness on their own? Well, many fruits and veggies contain high levels of vitamin C, which is a co-factor in the production of dopamine, the “zest for life” neurotransmitter. The antioxidants in fruits and veggies reduce inflammation, which may lead to higher levels of happiness and well-being. A healthy body carries a healthy mind. Spend time on good eating habits. The reward is more than just good physical health.
I learnt how to keep away from entanglement. I won’t accept any unnecessary unpleasantness from anyone. My first step is to walk away. The choices that I make impact my life. I learn how to let go and how to take in. Make the most of what I have, don’t worry about what I don’t have. Many acquaintances have remarked that I am a very happy person, why not? To be happy or not is one of the choices each one of us has. Don’t blame others for your own unhappiness because it’s a personal choice.
Like anyone else, I have had my fair share of bad things happen. Much bad luck has dropped on me – I’ve felt vulnerable, frustrated, hopeless or sad. I could get all the details on paper and print a thick book. I won’t, those are negative things; once you get over them, who wants to spend time to recall them? Experience has taught me that they aren’t worth my effort. One day I might use that material as the backdrop for a story, to entertain others.
Often, I thank the universe for providing us with wonderful nature. After I absorb psychological nourishment from it, I can feel the physical and emotional benefits I received are limitless.
Where is the happy place that the universe provides for us? The answer is in cities and the country side, natural and artificial areas, public and private places, in fact anywhere. If you are unhappy in a place, get out of there. It might take a while to be able to leave that place but taking the step to make it happen will change your mental state; it’s as simple as that.
We are complex beings, often stirring up ripples without cause. If we are capable of getting rid of all the clutter that blinds our vision and influences our judgment, go back to basics, use our child-like pure heart to feel and child-like pure brain to think, we will recognise that the place to be happy is where we are physically!