The Happiness Curse

The Washington Post Science page recently covered a decidedly non-scientific subject: happiness. Turns out there is a study, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, testing the idea that happiness is the sum of positive and negative events that happen to us each day, instead of longer-term achievements such as a stable marriage, children or economic security.

"Researchers found that people need a certain ratio of positive to negative events to be happy," the article explained. The problem for Americans, who report being generally happier than people from most other countries, is that we are too happy. "Being happy raises your expectations about being happy. When good things happen, they don't count for much because they are what you expect. When bad things happen, you temporarily feel terrible, because you've gotten used to being happy."

Finally, a scientific answer: We'd be happier if we were unhappier. It does kind of make sense in a way. On this blog, we've tackled serious problems that most of us, fortunately, don't have: postpartum depression, restrictive Saudi Arabian laws, infertility and disabilities. Confronting others' problems helps us remember how good we have life.

How happy are you?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  October 15, 2007; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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Happy to be first!

Posted by: mehitabel | October 15, 2007 7:41 AM

I would be happier today but my first cousin, a 844 lbs Mako was caught off Destin, Fl on Saturday.

But wait, I guess I am a bit happier today it was not me or Mrs. Mako!


http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003950490_shark15.html

Posted by: nonamehere | October 15, 2007 7:59 AM

from MaryB:

I've been trying to use writer Sarah Vowell's method for pulling herself out of self-absorbed negativism: think about horrific times in history and say to your self "It could be worse!" Her favorites for this exercise are: Andersonville, the Salem witch trials, the Trail of Tears.

Posted by: nahnah | October 15, 2007 8:25 AM

Happiness is like healthiness: you really only notice it when it's missing! You know how you feel when the vomiting stops? Not 24 hour later and you've completely forgotten what a miracle it is to walk around without a fever or headache. I'm most appreciative and happy when I stop and think about it, especially when I put it in context. Man this house is a giant pain in my arse. Or, wow, I own a house, the fridge is full, and my family is healthy. This is hard to do in traffic, but my vision of hell is being stuck in traffic (with a crying baby and a whining dog, having to pee really badly). Maybe I should try that next time I'm in traffic, visualizing a full bladder and unhappy baby and dog and being thankful it's not worse!

Posted by: atb2 | October 15, 2007 8:39 AM

That research actually backs up what I've been seeing. Do you guys ever go to the true confessions sites? A lot of the confessions are something along the lines of: "I've got a great spouse, good job, a new house and car, and two beautiful kids. Why am I so unhappy?" Apparently people feel more happiness with day-to-day successes versus a lifetime of success (unless I'm misunderstanding the article).

I like thinking positive thoughts, so I'm constantly thinking and saying things like "Our lawn is going to look so good!" when I am dreading mowing it. It sounds silly, but making myself think positive things actually makes me happy. It's like when someone tells you to smile when you're sad because the act of smiling actually makes you feel better. It's corny, but it's true.

Posted by: Meesh | October 15, 2007 8:54 AM

Happiness is a warm puppy. (tm Charles Schulz)

We got a dog from the animal shelter about 18 months ago. When he plops down next to you and rolls over because he wants his belly rubbed, it's hard to be unhappy.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 15, 2007 8:58 AM

The big picture, it fades into the background, we look only at today, today, today, as it creeps in its petty pace from day to day. What is the big picture? The scene, we are placed on this scene, the Compassionate One, the Merciful One, He put us here, we think of this, then we are happy, as the Qur'an says, «Truly, in remembering Allah do hearts find rest.» (Quran, 13:28)
Happiness, to keep it, keep doing as the Compassionate One tells us to do, because «whoever turns away from the Quran, he will have a hard life, and We will raise him up blind on the Day of Judgment.» (Quran, 20:124) Blind, this refers to wood alcohol in moonshine, it will make you blind. The fool says in his heart, «happy hour means alcoholic drinks». For a true happy hour and happy day and happy week, stay away from alcoholic spirits, then your own spirits will rise, you will be sober and happy.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | October 15, 2007 9:25 AM

Abu,

If I could have as many husbands as I could support, I'd be a pretty, pretty happy camper.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 9:28 AM

During Ramadan, Meesh asked this question:

«Matt, what's the Western woman's burden?»
«Posted by: Meesh | September 26, 2007 01:28 PM»

This question, no one answered it, but the answer, it is easy. The Western woman's burden, it is the Western man! This, we can see it especially on Fridays.

Friday - Western man cashes his paycheck and drives straight to Happy Hour at the bar.
There, he drinks a glass of beer.
Then, a stein of beer.
Then, a whole pitcher of beer.
Why? Because he's Western man!
A drunkard he is, drink he must, because he's Western man.

Friday - Eastern man hears the call of the muezzin and hurries to the masjid.
There, he takes off his sandals, washes his hands and feet.
Then, he listens to verses chanted from the Holy Qur'an.
Then, he bows down low and prays.
Why? Because he's Eastern man!
Sober he is, pray he must, because he's Eastern man.

Friday - Western man comes out of the bar and drives home, drunk.
He misses the driveway and crashes into a lawn ornament and breaks it.
He growls at his children, slaps his wife when she burns the pork chops.
He rampages into the bedroom, tears open pillows, scatters feathers all over.
Why? Because he's Western man!
A drunkard he is, rampage he must, because he's Western man.

Friday - Eastern man comes out of the masjid and goes to his tent.
There, he greets his wives and children in peace.
He sits on his cushion in peace.
He drinks his coffee in peace.
Why? Because he's Eastern man!
Sober he is, peace he must seek, because he's Eastern man.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | October 15, 2007 9:30 AM

It's the basic yin and yang of life. This is exactly what balance is. If we were happy all the time, we would forget how wonderful it is. It's a very simple concept and makes perfect sense.

Posted by: kirkpatrickkg | October 15, 2007 9:39 AM

Abu

"He rampages into the bedroom, tears open pillows, scatters feathers all over."

Western woman does this, as well as Western man!

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 9:39 AM

Abu, I agree that if you're spiritual, praising your god will make you happy. I take time to thank my god every day, which reinforces to me how good my life is, which in turn makes me happy.

But I disagree that the Western woman's burden is Western man. That kind of thinking supports the idiotic idea that women are made to care for men. It also puts way too much importance on men's needs and not enough on women's needs.

Also, your extrapolation of drinking at happy hour to wife beating is alarmist. If you drink responsibly, which most people do, alcohol is not the devil. In my house, I'm the happy hour frequenter while my husband stays at home. No one gets beaten, even the dogs.

Posted by: Meesh | October 15, 2007 9:52 AM

But who will tie down the rampaging elephants during the hurricane if western man is drunk and eastern man is sitting on his cushion drinking his coffee?

Posted by: nonamehere | October 15, 2007 9:56 AM

I think (without having any scientific evidence to back up my thought) that some people are predisposed to be happy, approximately the same number are predisposed to be miserable, and the rest lead lives somewhere in between ('though not lives of quiet desperation as Thoreau would have us believe). I am fortunate to be one of the lucky ones, but it's also a choice I make many times every day. Do I want to find the good side of this crappy event or do I want to wallow? Sometimes I wallow for a bit, but then I pick myself up. It definitely runs in my family.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 15, 2007 9:59 AM

WorkingMomX

I agree that happiness is a choice. Why are there so many martyrs?

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 10:16 AM

Chitty, I hate the word martyrs. However, to answer your question, I really don't know. People want attention? Maybe they don't realize how much power they have over their own emotions? But it's also easy for me to be happy. I have led a very blessed life by any standard, so the choice to continue to be happy is simple. I might not be so disgustingly upbeat if I had been raised as a ward of the state or been a victim of abuse or something like that.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 15, 2007 10:25 AM

"I might not be so disgustingly upbeat if I had been raised as a ward of the state or been a victim of abuse or something like that."

It's a choice.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 10:33 AM

I also think that happiness is usually a choice in that your reaction to an event can be positive or negative.

But there is a line to that choice. If you choose to be happy about the death of a family memeber or when you hear about a horrible disaster, you are alienating yourself from society by not choosing the normal reaction. So a mix of both happiness and sadness is ideal. A person who chooses sadness or happiness for all occasions is not functioning normally based on society's expectations.

Posted by: Meesh | October 15, 2007 10:38 AM

Just because being happy is a choice doesn't mean it's easy to do. It can take years of grueling therapy to learn how to be happy. Like it or not, you train your brain how to react to stimuli, and once firmly established, those chemical signatures are hard to rewire. It's no different than relearning how to walk with an artificial limb.

Posted by: atb2 | October 15, 2007 10:50 AM

atb, I love that analogy and completely agree with you.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 15, 2007 10:52 AM

atb

"Just because being happy is a choice doesn't mean it's easy to do."

It's a choice.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 10:53 AM

Now you're just being boring and contrary, hillary.

Posted by: atb2 | October 15, 2007 10:57 AM

"happiness is a choice"

OK Chitty, and all you who think happiness is a personal decision, when you get stricken with an unfortunate incident that, for instance (as in my case), leaves you blind and when you realize that you will never see the light of day as long as you live...

come on over and tell me all about this happiness is a choice crap...

And we'll all have a good laugh together!

Posted by: DandyLion | October 15, 2007 10:59 AM

Fo4, I'm surprised! I've always thought of you as a very optimistic person.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 15, 2007 11:00 AM

Father of 4

"come on over and tell me all about this happiness is a choice crap..."

You made your choice.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 11:02 AM

I ALWAYS feel happier when I pray and count my blessings. I feel like the gloom dissipates and everything is put into a better context. It is especially effective first thing in the morning.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 15, 2007 11:09 AM

pATRICK

" I ALWAYS feel happier when I pray and count my blessings."

I put on Sinatra's "Come Fly with
Me". It's the same idea. You chose to be happy and you chose do stuff that will enable you to continue to be happy.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 11:20 AM

Hi pATRICK -- meditation works the same way for me to create a feeling of peace and gratitude. I agree with you about doing it first thing in the morning. It makes for a better day all around.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 15, 2007 11:22 AM

Happiness is a choice up to a point, but unhappiness is often valuable information that something needs to be addressed in life. When I'm unhappy, I try to figure out why. Sometimes there's more that needs to be fixed than my attitude. And I'm not so cocky as to think losing my eyesight wouldn't be a MAJOR bummer.
And for the little stuff, it helps me to have a personal list of pick-me-ups: as in asking for a hug, buying flowers, making a nice meal, going for a run.

Posted by: anne.saunders | October 15, 2007 11:26 AM

Friday - Eastern man comes out of the masjid and goes to his tent.
There, he greets his wives and children in peace.
He sits on his cushion in peace.
He drinks his coffee in peace.
Why? Because he's Eastern man!
Sober he is, peace he must seek, because he's Eastern man

You forgot the blowing up of the market and killing innocent civilians, because he is Eastern man and all those people were infidels anyway.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 15, 2007 11:30 AM

Father of 4

"come on over and tell me all about this happiness is a choice crap..."

You made your choice.


Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 11:02 AM

Right.

and Elizabeth Edwards chose cancer;

Stephen Hawking chose ALS; and

John McCain chose to spend a few nights at the Hanoi Hilton.

chitty can choose to be an a-hole. Some people have real challenges that a happy pill can't solve.

Posted by: anonfornow | October 15, 2007 11:31 AM

"I've always thought of you as a very optimistic person."

Well, I didn't suggest the "happiness is a choice" crowd to get together and *CRY* about our misfortunes, now did I?

Posted by: DandyLion | October 15, 2007 11:32 AM

Friday - Western man comes out of the bar and drives home, drunk.
He misses the driveway and crashes into a lawn ornament and breaks it.
He growls at his children, slaps his wife when she burns the pork chops.
He rampages into the bedroom, tears open pillows, scatters feathers all over.
Why? Because he's Western man!
A drunkard he is, rampage he must, because he's Western man.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | October 15, 2007 09:30 AM


Sounds like that's the wife's fault for burning the pork chops, sheesh.

My husband doesn't drink, at all, Abu. Not because religious reasons, he just doesn't. It's not something he ever came to enjoy and was not part of the culture he was raised in. He doesn't eat pork either! So what's my burden? What does western man do what he isn't drinking or eating pork, huh?

I think happiness is something to look forward to. When I feel a sense of accomplishment at work, or feel respected AND liked (though respect is more important) I feel happier overall. When there's something I can look forward to that's an enjoyable amount of leisure (the weekend, a planned movie-outing, dinner with my family, etc) I'm happier, no matter what else I have to do first that I don't enjoy. Finally got my piano moved into our house, so that makes me happy. I enjoy playing, and playing takes my mind off of all the little things that make me unhappy...

Posted by: _Miles | October 15, 2007 11:33 AM

Fo4 -- good point, you little stinker. Guess I need more coffee.

Anon for now -- None of those people CHOSE the horrors they're dealing with or dealt with. But they can choose to handle what happens next to a certain extent. I am not advocating some kind of "cheerful idiot" approach to life: I'm saying that you can look at the challenges you face and try to be positive about the way you deal with, trying to learn something instead of submerging yourself into a pool of self-pity/loathing.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 15, 2007 11:37 AM

Until you've walked in the shoes if a person dealing with a chronic illness, you should focus the happiness chatter on yourself rather than others.

Posted by: anonfornow | October 15, 2007 11:57 AM

Hey DandyLion, how are you responding to this chat if you are blind? Do you have the speech software or is someone reading/responding for you? Just curious.

Posted by: wesleykirk | October 15, 2007 12:02 PM

Happiness is a warm adult cat you adopted from the streets.
Happiness is listening to the Baltimore Symphony - check it out.
Enjoyment of the moment begins when, after terrible trauma, you have no choice but to let go of the past.

Posted by: dc_ca_2004 | October 15, 2007 12:07 PM

"Until you've walked in the shoes if a person dealing with a chronic illness, you should focus the happiness chatter on yourself rather than others."

Is that the standard for this blog?

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 12:23 PM

Happiness is having time to analyze if we are happy. :-)

On different days, happiness can be alone time (for me on the running path) OR social time (phone call with one of my out of town friends or grabbing a cup of coffee with one of my in town friends). Knowing what you need at any given moment is one my keys to happiness.

Posted by: tntkate | October 15, 2007 12:26 PM

Suffering and satisfaction aside, the most long-lasting and overall happiness comes from the knowledge that we are truly loved by others. It's real simple, if we feel loved, we feel happy, if we feel hated, (the opposite of love), we become sad and lonely.

I think the universal desire to be loved is interesting. It's selfish in that it doesn't require any particular effort on our part, it requires actions from others. It's not like you can go out and express love to someone to pull yourself out of depression. It has to be received.

That's why those of us with poor self images will always struggle to achieve happiness. somewhere along the way, somehow, someone, possibly ourselves, has convinced us that we are not worthy enough to be truly loved. If a person can't think for themselves that they deserve to be loved, there is nothing anybody can do to make them happy.

Posted by: DandyLion | October 15, 2007 12:35 PM

I think I am both happy, but cognizant of lots of little annoyances day-to-day.

I strongly agree with Leslie's implicit point that unless you can appreciate the little things it is hard to be happy. If you are going to wait to consider yourself "happy" until the day you hit MegaMillions, you will be waiting an awfully long time.

The strangest little things can give you a lift. I called my toddler to dinner last night and he said "Daddy, Shush! Superman is sleeping!" He keeps blowing me away with how advanced his imagination is at 26 months and seeing a happy, healthy kid progress every day should supply you with lots of little things to be happy about. (IMHO)

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 15, 2007 12:39 PM

"Until you've walked in the shoes if a person dealing with a chronic illness, you should focus the happiness chatter on yourself rather than others."

Is that the standard for this blog?

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 12:23 PM

Are you only comfortable in an environment with rules and standards? When you graduate from kindergarten, let us know.

Posted by: anonfornow | October 15, 2007 12:40 PM

DandyLion wrote: "It's not like you can go out and express love to someone to pull yourself out of depression."

I must respectfully dissent.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 15, 2007 12:40 PM

I think it depends on how you are defining happiness. If you think about it as the equivalent of being in a good mood, I do think that you can 'choose' that state of mind, if you try a bit. Fake it till you make it, as they say.

On the other hand, if you're talking about deeper contentment, serenity and inner satisfaction, that's harder to achieve (meaning it takes more than self-talk). That comes from living a life true to yourself and your principles, and doing all you can to live well for yourself, and to give to those closest to you.

And, if all else fails, there is always dark chocolate...

Posted by: educmom__615 | October 15, 2007 12:53 PM

Happiness was easier to secure when we were kids: there was less at stake, we had a safety net, and there was always another chance to succeed. At 40, things are different: the more you achieve, the more you are at risk of losing if things go wrong. Plus you don't have as many chances to start over. The clock keeps ticking and you realize you're not as young and flexible as you were. Sounds depressing, I know, but all I feel I do lately is keep a bad situation from getting any worse.

Posted by: bobh1967 | October 15, 2007 12:58 PM

OK Mehitabel, would you like to share with us why you are dissenting?

Posted by: DandyLion | October 15, 2007 1:00 PM

Hello pATRICK:

Wanna come out to play???? Oh, by the way, hello Abu!!!!

Posted by: antipATRICK | October 15, 2007 1:02 PM

"Hello pATRICK:

Wanna come out to play???? Oh, by the way, hello Abu!!!!"

IT is back and with a catchy new handle. Yawn. Ready to fill up the obscenity files again for Leslie?

Posted by: pATRICK | October 15, 2007 1:05 PM

DandyLion, don't you think that doing something kind for someone else has the potential to cheer up the giver as well as the recipient?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 15, 2007 1:06 PM

"DandyLion wrote: "It's not like you can go out and express love to someone to pull yourself out of depression."

I must respectfully dissent."

Me too. This is exactly what will pull you out of a depression.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 15, 2007 1:06 PM

Posted by: antipATRICK | October 15, 2007 01:02 PM

There's nothing more boring to the casual reader of this blog than the neurotic personal focus of this one troll.

Posted by: anonfornow | October 15, 2007 1:07 PM

Oh pATRICK:

I know not of what you speak. Yawn to you too, my little Texas Bush-loving friend. You are so predictable my little pATRICK. It almost makes you lovable. I said almost.

Posted by: antipATRICK | October 15, 2007 1:07 PM

My Wage

I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store;

For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial's hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have gladly paid.


~ Jessie B Rittenhouse

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 15, 2007 1:08 PM

"There's nothing more boring to the casual reader of this blog than the neurotic personal focus of this one troll."

Don't be so hard on pATRICK!!! He is rude to many people, not just one!!!!

Posted by: antipATRICK | October 15, 2007 1:09 PM

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 15, 2007 01:08 PM

(Science and Business majors everywhere staring quizically at screen, scratching head.)

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 15, 2007 1:11 PM

I LOVE YOU Patrick!!!! BACK TO THE ETHER FOR ME!!! I will pop up again when you least expect it. God forbid that we should ever meet. pATRICK and antipATRICK. The universe would explode!!!!

Posted by: antipATRICK | October 15, 2007 1:12 PM

ProudPapa15

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 15, 2007 01:08 PM

"(Science and Business majors everywhere staring quizically at screen, scratching head.)"

Ha, ha! Cute!

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 1:13 PM

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 15, 2007 01:08 PM

(Science and Business majors everywhere staring quizically at screen, scratching head.)

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 15, 2007 01:11 PM
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Not all of us business majors are so literal minded.


Posted by: anonthistime | October 15, 2007 1:23 PM

"Not all of us business majors are so literal minded"

Perry?

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 1:27 PM

I was just joking, anon.

I get it.

This lady's boss' last name was "Life". She was upset because she did not negotiate more money during her last review. Everybody else got a bigger raise. I would have been "dismayed" too.

Who's got some harder poetry for me to tackle?

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 15, 2007 1:33 PM

Arguably the worst poem ever written about happiness is this:

Just a State Of Mind

Happiness is just a state of mind
Happiness can be a glass of wine
Happiness is just you and me
You cant grow it on a tree
Happiness was just you and me
It was year's ago i know
We were different people then
The world was younger then
Happiness just went away
Going down just like the sun
Happiness was blinded by the night
Now we both cant see
That happiness was you and me
Happiness was you and me
Happiness come back to me

allan james saywell

Posted by: anonfornow | October 15, 2007 1:38 PM

Mehitabel, pATRICK, sure an act of kindness or love brings about happiness when it is accepted and appreciated..., but if it is rejected, there is no satisfaction. That's why it is tough for a person to ask another out on a date, there is that fear of rejection.

Easy targets like feeding the hungry, volunteer work, which is good, are pretty safe ways to achieve satisfaction because their is little risk of rejection.

Posted by: DandyLion | October 15, 2007 1:47 PM

I was just joking, anon

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For sure about the business majors, I am not quite so certain about the science majors. They might interpert the poem to be literally about a person named Life.

Posted by: anonthistime | October 15, 2007 1:49 PM

Happiness is a warm gun

Posted by: johnlennon | October 15, 2007 1:52 PM

Yes ... I am drowning in happiness.

But I've also come to realize that happiness has a tendency to depend on circumstances.

It's joy that I desire (as in "the joy of the Lord is my strength).

There is a difference. A big difference.

Posted by: winjonnic | October 15, 2007 1:54 PM

DandyLion wrote: "...sure an act of kindness or love brings about happiness when it is accepted and appreciated..., but if it is rejected, there is no satisfaction."

Do you only tell your children you love them because you need for them to reply in kind? Isn't the fount from which the decision to tell them springs enough?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 15, 2007 1:59 PM

Is happiness a choice or an attitude we are born with? I'd love to see research on THAT. Because it seems some people are happy people just like others are morning people or night owls. And I know lots of curmudgeons who I would classify as happy. Go figure.

Posted by: leslie4 | October 15, 2007 2:01 PM

«What does western man do what he isn't drinking or eating pork, huh?»
«Posted by: _Miles | October 15, 2007 11:33 AM»

O Miles, Western man composes beautiful music. Palestrina. Handel. Couperin. Vivaldi. Schumann. Saint-Saens. Verdi. Notorious B.I.G.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | October 15, 2007 2:05 PM

"Easy targets like feeding the hungry, volunteer work, which is good, are pretty safe ways to achieve satisfaction because their is little risk of rejection."

I disagree that feeding the hungry and volunteer work are necessarily easiy targets for giving and receiving love. Look at Mother Teresa and the apparent despair that she endured through much of her life, even as she spent it giving to others, and giving and giving and giving. Frankly, I think there is a happiness gene out there, and some people can find happiness even in the midst of tragedy and suffering, while others will never be happy, even if their lives are charmed. My husband has the happiness gene. He had a terrible childhood, and yet, he is able to look at the sunny side of life, just like Monty Python's Brian. Nothing seems to get him down for long.

Posted by: Emily | October 15, 2007 2:11 PM

Pulling from the quote collection on my cubicle wall: "A refugee would like to have your problems." -Ms. Gonick, San Francisco Chronicle columnist.

No matter what happens DH and I always know there are some who have it worse than we do. He was a ward of the state from age 10 until emancipation at 17. He knew a kid who ran away from the group home, went to his family home and was beaten with the cord of an iron. I was raised by a bi-polar and/or schizophrenic mother. Growing up I knew two girls who were being sexually abused by their fathers.

I could go on and on with the difficulties of our lives and the contrasts with people who have it worse - but the point is simple: no matter what one's sufferings, someone out there is suffering even more, and thinking of that can make one feel less miserable, if not exactly happy.

Posted by: sue | October 15, 2007 2:12 PM

Abu, you forgot Al Green!

No parody today, just straight up excellent music on today's topic!

Love and happiness...
something that can make you do wrong, make you do right...
Love...

Love and happiness
Wait a minute...
something's going wrong
someone's on the phone
three o'clock in the morning, yeah
talkin' about how she can make it right, yeah
well,
happiness is when you really feel good about somebody
nothing wrong with being in love with someone, yeah
oh, baby, love and happiness
love and happiness...
love and happiness...

Happy say

Love and happiness
You be good to me
I'll be good to you
we'll be together, yeah
we'll see each other

walk away with victory
oh baby,
love and happiness...
love and happiness...

Make you do right... love'll make you do wrong...
make you come home early...
make you stay out all night long...
the power of love...

wait a minute,
let me tell you...
the power of love...
make you do right... love'll make you do wrong...
make you want to dance...
love and happiness...
love and happiness...

love is... wait a minute... love is...
walkin' together...
talkin' together...
say it again...
say it together...
Mmmm....

Posted by: Songster | October 15, 2007 2:16 PM

sue

"no matter what one's sufferings, someone out there is suffering even more, and thinking of that can make one feel less miserable, if not exactly happy."

No sale here.

I CHOSE to be happy.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 2:17 PM

I CHOSE to be happy.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 02:17 PM

Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

Maybe you are stubborn. Maybe you are thoughtless, shallow and unconcerned. Maybe you have never given a moment's thought to the reality of your existence. Without more than your terse criticism of others, who can know?

Posted by: anonfornow | October 15, 2007 2:21 PM

Happiness is different for everyone. Someone wrote that a dog lying on it's back waiting for it's belly to be rubbed is happiness for them. Happiness can be sending a package of snacks to your mother in a nursing home, knowing how much she looks forward to it.
Did anyone read Jeanne Marie Laska's column from yesterday (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/10/AR2007101001579.html)? It was about this same type of thing.
On a larger scale, every day I walk into work I feel lucky to be walking. There are so many amputees here that no matter what chances are you are having a better day than they are.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | October 15, 2007 2:24 PM

KLB, I had a near-fatal illness last year. Like you, sometimes I'm happy just for little things I used to take for granted, like being to be able to get up, walk around a bit, log onto my computer -- yes, even to this cat, sometimes -- and above all to work from home. Other times I miss skills I'm no longer able to do, that I fear I may be physically unable to regain. Life is full of tradeoffs, though.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 15, 2007 2:40 PM

CHAT, not cat. Must be Freudian?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 15, 2007 2:42 PM

"Do you only tell your children you love them because you need for them to reply in kind?"

I tell my kids I love them because I want them to be happy. Sometimes I get affection from it, sometimes not. No matter, at least they should know that I love them, so I remind them regularly.

On the other hand, I feel real uneasy telling my mom and dad that I love them. It's not like I don't want them to be happy or that I don't love them, I just feel uncomfortable telling them. don't know why.

Posted by: DandyLion | October 15, 2007 2:49 PM

"Ready to fill up the obscenity files again for Leslie?" My very first thought, pATRICK!

I have nothing more to add. Despite the fact that my 9 month old is waking up screaming every 60 mins at night, I'm still pretty happy. I don't want anyone else's life, but I'd be happy to take their money.

Posted by: atb2 | October 15, 2007 2:53 PM

"Finally got my piano moved into our house, so that makes me happy. I enjoy playing, and playing takes my mind off of all the little things that make me unhappy..."

Posted by: _Miles | October 15, 2007 11:33 AM

Way to go, Miles! Keep playing. You may just find the Lost Chord. That'll make you forget all those little things:

"Seated one day at the organ,
I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys.

"I know not what I was playing,
Or what I was dreaming then;
But I struck one chord of music,
Like the sound of a great Amen.

"It flooded the crimson twilight,
Like the close of an angel's psalm,
And it lay on my fevered spirit
With a touch of infinite calm.

"It quieted pain and sorrow,
Like love overcoming strife;
It seemed the harmonious echo
From our discordant life.

"It linked all perplexèd meanings
Into one perfect peace,
And trembled away into silence
As if it were loth to cease.

"I have sought, but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the organ,
And entered into mine.

"It may be that death's bright angel
Will speak in that chord again,
It may be that only in Heav'n
I shall hear that grand Amen."
-- Adelaide Anne Procter, 1858

After an iceberg sank the Titanic, no less of a grief counselor than Enrico Caruso sang this in 1912 for the families of the drowned. You can hear him sing it at
http://www.archive.org/details/Caruso-Sullivan

The only one I know besides Mrs. Procter who ever found the Lost Chord was Jimmy Durante, but keep playing -- you may find it tomorrow.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | October 15, 2007 2:55 PM

"CHAT, not cat. Must be Freudian?"

Posted by: mehitabel | October 15, 2007 02:42 PM

"cat," c'est "chat" en anglais.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | October 15, 2007 3:00 PM

Bien sûr, Matt. But my typo was in the context of "even to this chat."

Posted by: mehitabel | October 15, 2007 3:03 PM

"CHAT, not cat. Must be Freudian?"

Primeval truth-cats rule!!!

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 15, 2007 3:03 PM

I can take Al Green and even Notorious B.I.G., on 'happiness day' but I would like to prohibitively discourage Bobby McPherrin references. Or that animated movie with the tap dancing penguin.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 15, 2007 3:09 PM

The Songster's brain did misfire this am and Mr. McPherrin came up and was puked out.

Fortunatley, the Rev. Green has been there ever since! Ahhh. Happiness.

Posted by: Songster | October 15, 2007 3:19 PM

I was busy running around today and as I was driving my son home from pre-school a fire truck, police car and ambulance come rushing up to the house across from the light where I was waiting. The men came running from the trucks and all I could see and hear was a sobbing woman in the arms of two other older women. It brought tears to my eyes and served as a potent reminder that this life that I love could all change in an instant. I'm not exaultant all the time ( I don't think that is maintainable or desirable), but I am content and satisfied most of the time which I equate with happiness.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 15, 2007 3:59 PM

It brought tears to my eyes and served as a potent reminder that this life that I love could all change in an instant

Yep or slowly. I spoke with my dad, he keeps getting thanksgiving and christmas mixed up and i can tell he's very embarrased. Enjoy life while you can.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 15, 2007 4:02 PM

Thanks Abu, lots of beautiful music to go around both east and west.

Matt, thank you for the lyrics, had never heard that song before. It's a very touching situation. I have no hope of finding the lost chord, just to keep my hands and brain from being idle for a little while (you know what they say about idle hands).

Rethinking with Songster's very appropo Al Green reference, maybe happiness is love. Loving yourself, loving someone else and being loved in return, loving your life, loving who you are...obviously love is just a word and many others could be substituted for it in various situations (respect, appreciation, etc).

Chitty - I don't think you have to love something terrible that's happened to you. I'm pretty sure Fo4's presence here, zest for life, and general lack of complaining about the bad hand he's been given proves he's already made his choice. However, by you pointing the finger and saying that anyone can be happy, all it takes is a little bit of willpower...well maybe you should go live in a poverty stricken village for a decade and see how happy people choose to be when they don't even have the food to feed their children. Or maybe you should go hang out with Tom Cruise who criticized Brooke Shields for taking medication for post-partum depression. I'm just saying; stop pointing the finger. Offer something up that's positive and live your advice.

Posted by: _Miles | October 15, 2007 4:03 PM

Patrick - so sorry about your dad. I never can decide which is the more cruel end; abrupt or slow! Trading places with your parents is one of the more painful of life experiences. Best of luck to both you and him.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 15, 2007 4:10 PM

"Patrick - so sorry about your dad. I never can decide which is the more cruel end; abrupt or slow! Trading places with your parents is one of the more painful of life experiences. Best of luck to both you and him."

Thanks. I think abrupt is worse. It happens on ordinary days and you can't prepare yourself.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 15, 2007 4:40 PM

pATRICK, I think abrupt is often easier for the person dying, but harder on survivors (especially the shock).

Posted by: mehitabel | October 15, 2007 5:14 PM

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