I got a belated Christmas letter this week from one of a very long-term friends, and the poor guy has had a hell of a year. He tells of helping his dear ones through devastating illnesses, and the deaths of others whom he held close. My heart grieves for him. Even at second hand, sorrow is deflating, and as my generation grows older, sorrow and suffering and loss are quite naturally become a larger part of our experience. I go to a lot more funerals now than I did in my younger days.
As I read my friend’s letter, I wondered: Is it even possible to be, on a day-to-day basis, happier now than I was at a younger age, considering that I have a lot more reasons nowadays for feeling low? It’s kinda’ hard to feel all jolly, fizzy and happy when sad things come our way. I wonder if I’m bucking an inevitably lowering tide. Oh dear!
On the other hand, I sure don’t want to be an unhappy old woman. I wouldn’t want to inflict that upon myself nor upon anyone else. For one thing, chronic unhappiness isn’t good for our health, so it can become a vicious cycle: we’re unhappy, our health deteriorates, which gives us more to be unhappy about. I don't want to jump onto that merry-go-round, nor be pushed onto it by circumstances. I'm reminded of my maternal grandmother.
A Family Story:
When Grandma was in the long, slow process of dying, many many year ago, my parents made a trip back to Nebraska to see her one last time. Poor Grandma was in hospital, where she had suffered the amputation of first one leg, then the other. (Don't know why; maybe an attempt to deal with diabetic neuropathy? I was a child at the time). This is the story my father brought home:
When they finally arrived at her bedside on a busy hospital ward, he told me, he was astounded to find that little old woman in very bright, good spirits. He knew that her prognosis wasn’t good; he knew that she knew it too.
"Mother D, how on earth can you be so cheerful?"
She gave him her gentle sweet smile. “If I'm unhappy, the people around me will be the same. I wouldn’t like that very much. I like to be surrounded by happy people."
Courageous woman, my grandmother. She's a role-model for this business of being happy in the face of adverse circumstances. I so much admire her determination. She would say, and I'd agree, that we simply cannot allow circumstances to be the determining factor in how we feel.
If we do, we become victims of circumstances. Oddly enough, being a victim of circumstances works both ways:
“There he is,” says the woman in the novel I’m reading. “Jonah! The reason for my happiness ….”
You know what happens in novels - pretty soon, her reason for being happy is going to up and do something wrong - fall for another woman, say the wrong thing, something ... and there her happiness will go, out the window!
It’s so easy to be dependent on circumstances for our happiness, and Oh! How fleeting such happiness can be! I’m fairly sure I’m not the only one who has discovered the elusiveness of happiness based on people and events. Here today, gone tomorrow, right? Who needs the disappointment?
Far better, I believe, to be happy regardless of circumstances. That's what I'm aiming for, this year. Will there be suffering? No doubt. What can we do, to lift our mood when life tastes like sour lemons? The cliche says, 'make lemonade' but what I want to know is, "HOW?" How do we 'make lemonade'?
Thankfully, along with the lemons, there will no doubt be sweeter fruits. I promise you, I'll be savoring those far more this year than I ever did in the past. I believe that is one, at least, of the antidotes for the circumstantially-induced unhappiness. I'm looking for others - and I'm more than open to suggestions! I'll be grateful if you'd put them in COMMENTS, below. I'd love to hear from you.
Sincerely, Elaine H
PS: More next week! Subscribe HERE and I’ll let you know when it's up.
As you know, I’m committed to buying into all of Wattles’ ideas this year, to see if this so-called Science of Getting Rich really works. I’m still in Chapter One, mulling on this idea that our purpose here on this planet is to live expanding lives.
The first time I read this chapter, just half a year ago, I bought into this idea, wholesale. It made sense that our purpose is to grow and flourish. As a gardener, as a country woman, I see that all of nature is that way inclined. Everywhere around me I see growth and expansion. Everything is in a state of becoming, growing and changing.
I could also see the flip side of the coin: I know how beeping restrictive it is to have insufficient income. As a young person looking forward to my life, I wanted to go far beyond the narrow limits of my upbringing. I wanted to live in many places, study and learn and create and generally wallow in all the variety of a richly variable world. And here’s how illogical I was:
I didn’t realize that the sort of life I visualized would be far more do-able if I took time, first, to get rich. As it was, I couldn’t afford the varied and interesting life I wanted. I was restricted by the narrow limits of what I could afford. I became a real expert at doing-without.
It’s not that I ever wanted a lot of “stuff”. I’m more of a minimalist than a consumer in regard to things. Not that there’s anything innately wrong with wanting stuff - the economy (and my income) are largely fueled by a trickle-down from those who enjoy ownership of material goods - but I’m not constituted that way. If I’d been richer years ago, I would have bought a lot more academic education. If I had more income now, I’d buy a lot more books and I’d hire people to do the housework, help with the gardening, etc. so that I’d have time to read them, as well as time to write more, sew more, maybe sign up for drawing lessons … So many things to experience! If only I were rich.
Oh yes, I was sold on the idea that we are born to live expanding lives, and on the idea to remove the limits on our lives is by getting rich - when I first read The Science of Getting Rich.
Then my old programming began kicking in: It’s wrong to want to be rich. We aren’t balloons that need to be puffed up. I’m fine the way I am, I have enough to live on, I should be grateful for what I have instead of wanting to get rich, and anyway, getting rich is an impossibility for a person like me …. And so on. You probably know this rant - you may have ranted it yourself.
This is the catch: In order to test this so-called Science, I’m going to have to put aside all those money-&-finance ideas that were programmed into my innocent child’s mind, and buy into the idea that it is Right to WANT to Get Rich. Is it actually possible to do that? We’ll find out.
If you’d like to hang with me as I continue to experiment with The Science of Getting Rich, you can sign in HERE and I’ll let you know when I write next week. Thanks for doing so!
Optimistically Yours, Elaine H
Sometimes I forget that I’m doing this Happiness Experiment. Hours go by and then suddenly I wake up and remember: Oh right, I promised myself I’d choose happiness!
Back to work I go, and yes, it does feel like work sometimes, I must admit. There’s part me that doesn’t want to make the effort. Happily, the part that made the promise is stronger. Also happily, I’ve found a number of ways to increase my happiness quotient. Last week, I wrote about how thoughts of appreciation and gratitude lifted me out of the bathroom-cleaning funk. If you missed that, it’s HERE.
This week I’ve been using a different strategy: I intend to feel happy, I say to myself. I choose to feel happy. I do! I feel happy, right now….”
And there it is, that delicious, fizziness in the chest, like I’m filled with the very best of imaginary champagnes. There’s the smile. OH, how I love this feeling! I am vibrating with bubbly delight.
I wonder if it works this way for everyone? Can we just say, “I choose to feel happy, right here and now, in this very moment,” and it's like drinking champagne? We feel the fizz and our mood levitates? Does it work for you? Can you just say, “I feel happy,” and there you go, smiling?
I’d like to think it works that way for everyone, but who knows? I’ve been working at this for a few weeks now, perhaps it comes with practice?
For that matter, I’ve been working on this art of deliberate emotional-control for several years. Funny, isn’t it, how we usually think of “emotional control” as the tamping down of our feelings, rather than the deliberate choosing of how we feel? Here’s a story for you:
A few years ago, I got fed up with the anxiety I habitually felt around money and finances. Even though I could manufacture LOTS of good reasons to feel anxious in this area, I knew my life would be much pleasanter if I could foster different feelings. Anxiety didn’t really serve me, it was just a habit I’d picked up from my Mom. It took several years, but I eventually taught myself to feel comfortable, rather than anxious, about that particular area of my life. What a relief! My circumstances hadn’t changed, but I sure felt a lot better without all that self-inflicted stress!
During those years of moving from anxiety to feeling comfortable around money, I backslid a lot. Consequently it comes as no great surprise, now, when I find myself falling off this Happiness wagon. As soon as my attention wanders, the wonderful fizziness of the happiness champagne evaporates. Well, rats-a-frat! Here I am, flat-lining again.
Put the smile back on, I remind myself. Choose to feel happy. Repeat the exercise …. Repeat … Repeat again. This is how to become a happier person, by being happier as often as I can.
How about you? If you tried that business of saying, "I feel happy", let me know how it felt for you. Did it work? Yes/No/Maybe? I'd love hear about your experiences with Deliberate Happiness.
PS: Want to follow the Happiness Blog? Click HERE to join the fun
I’m plunging into The Science of Getting Rich, and Chapter One makes me feel like I’ve been pushed in the deep end! It begins with “The Right to be Rich”.
It’s right to be rich? Really? That certainly goes SLAP right up against my programming! I was always taught that it is wrong to be rich. “Harder for a rich (person) to get into heaven it is for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle,” as it says in the Bible. My parents, shabby Christians though they were, certainly agreed with that.
Years later, a would-be biblical scholar told me that “the eye of the needle” was actually a reference to a geographic feature - a narrow and treacherous passage through the mountainous desert.
Imagine it: A caravan of heavy-laden camels threads their way in slow single file through the twisting passage, each one tied by a looping rope to the next in line. The heat of the desert sun beats down, its merciless rays reflected from the walls of the crevasse. Dust billows up around men and beasts as they plod doggedly onward, longing for the cool of the oasis that awaits on the far side of this shortcut.
Suddenly the entire lineup stumbles to a halt. An overloaded pack has caught between the rocky outcroppings of a corner, the camel wedged like a cork in a bottle. She tries to lunge forward, to no effect. Her dismal bellow of protest sets the others to similar noisy protest, while men add their own raised voices to the cacophony.
Someone squeezes past the hairy legs to grab at the stuck one’s lead-rope. She is detached from those in front and behind, while other hands struggle to free the pack from the clutches of the narrow passage. The caravan master makes his way through the herd, takes one look, and barks an order.
“Back her up!” Camels don’t like backing up, but at last she is free. A jerk on her lead line and a couple sharp raps on her bony knees bring her down into a crouch on the stony trail. Furious at this delay, the caravan leader demands to know which of them had loaded her.
“Any idiot could see this pack wouldn’t make it through the Eye!” The pack is taken off the saddle, the bundles retied, the whole load rebuilt. When the adjustments are done, the dromedary is urged to her feet and the order comes to proceed, through the Eye of the Needle and out to the oasis beyond.
It’s a challenging passage, but do-able. So too, it may be hard for a rich person to get into Heaven - but no one said it is impossible. Some adjustments may be needed, of course.
That being the case, I’m willing to make some adjustments. The first one will be my surrender of this idea that it is WRONG to be rich.
Chapter One gives us a pretty good argument for the rightness. I choose to believe, with Wattles, that we are here to live expanding lives. I’ll write more about that next time.
All the Best, Elaine H
PS: If you don’t have a copy of the Science of Getting Rich, click below:
Or you can check out the Preview (1st chapter) HERE
aka, "Cleaning a Mind That's Lost Its Shine"
Monday is bathroom-cleaning day around here. Needless to say, that is not my most-favourite way to spend half an hour, but it’s got to be done, doesn’t it? Yesterday I found myself standing in the tub, scrubbing down the walls with these standard bathroom-cleaning thoughts running through my mind:
I hate this job. It’s hard physical work, too hard for a woman of my age. And talk about tedious - Mirror, sink, shower, toilet, floor; change out the towels. Then when I’m done here, the towels have to go into the washing machine, then the dryer, then they have to be folded and put away and then next week I’ll have it to do all over again. What a waste of my precious time!!
Why am I the one who always has to clean the blasted bathroom? Why can’t himself do it once in a while? I’m sure not the only one who uses it, but he never thinks about that, does he? He probably thinks the bathroom just gets clean by magic; I just wiggle my nose and voila! Shiny taps! I hate this … “
There was a lot more to the spiel before, out of the blue, a jolt of awareness hit.
“WHOA!” I exclaimed. “Wait a minute here. Whoa, stop. What the heck am I thinking? This is NOT happiness!”
Those ugly thoughts I was running were anything but happy, but trust me, The bathroom fixtures weren’t the only thing that needed a good scrub and polish.
I turned on the shower, rinsed down the shower and reminded myself of my 2019 motto, the basis of this whole Happiness Experiment: “Happiness is a choice we can make as we start the day.” Since I have such a deeply engrained habit of being not-happy, the choice to feel happy is one I have to make over and over and over again throughout the course of the day.
I picked up the toilet brush, and asked myself, “Would it make me happier to down tools and NOT clean the bathroom?”
No, because I like living in a clean home, it is a gift I give myself. I could ask himself to do this job occasionally, but then he might reasonably expect me to do my share of lawn-mowing, vehicle-maintenance, etc., none of which I care to tackle. We sorted out this division of household labour a long time ago. Who does the work isn’t the crucial question. The crux of the matter is what thoughts, what attitudes, do I choose to run as the background music for my work?
I took out another dry rag and began the final dry-and-polish. Cleaning the bathroom is routine that it takes but little mind-power, so I began to deliberately thing thoughts that would make me happier: “This is a pretty nice bathroom; I like my pretty shower curtain, and especially this curving curtain rod; thank you to whatever genius bathroom-designer came up with that idea, a decade or two ago! Thank you to the previous owner of this house for installing one here for me to enjoy and appreciate.”
My rant of appreciation continued as I mopped my way out of the room, a smile on my face. I felt satisfied with two jobs well-done: a clean bathroom, and thoughts I didn’t want or need successfully flushed away (couldn’t resist that) on a flood of happier ones.
I wonder what other tricks or techniques we could use when our mood is lowered by circumstances, or rather, by our thoughts and reactions to circumstances? Share yours in COMMENTS below, because we’re all in this together.
All the Best Always, Elaine H
PS: If you’ve enjoyed this and would like to follow the Happiness Experiment, please ENROLL HERE and I will let you know when there’s a new post.
The Preface to our book begins with a statement that The Science of Getting Rich is “pragmatic, not philosophical.” Already, he’s got me confused - I always thought pragmatism was a philosophy!
To me, pragmatism means deciding what to think based on a yardstick of practicality. In other words, I like to ask, “How useful is this idea or concept?” rather than, “Is this idea True or False?
Forget true or false; I want “works well in my life”! I think that’s what Wattles is implying here, by saying this book is pragmatic. I’m all for that! To tell you the truth, my beliefs and perceptions about money and finances haven’t worked all that well for me. I got them from my parents, for the most part.
That’s not to blame Mom and Dad. They got the darned things from their own folks. They probably modified them a bit due to their own experiences. That’s what I’ve done. Basically, though, I have a set of beliefs about money that I have used all my life, and here’s the bottom line: “They’re MINE! They must be TRUE!”
With that said - I’m more than willing to trade them in on some new beliefs, if the new ones work better!
The question remains, How can I know if Wattles’ ideas are going to work any better than what I’ve used in the past?
So far as I can see, the only way to find out is by test-driving the new ideas. OK. I’m willing to park my old beliefs while I try out these new ones.
I think that my willingness to do that is what Wattles calls faith. He doesn’t mean “faith in God” (although he gets to that, later in the book) but rather faith as the practice of believing in something without having any objective proof about it. In other words, the practice of irrational acceptance. Tricky stuff for those of us who honour rationality!
However, if that’s what it takes to get rich, I’m willing to give it a try. As he says at the end of his Preface, “…we can read this book and do exactly as it tells us to do.” A large part of the do-ing is believing. We have a choice, always, of what we believe, so I promise - for the duration of this study, I’ll believe what Wattles says to the very best of my ability. We'll find out what really happens when a person does exactly what we're advised to do, although I must admit that I find that "exactly" part a bit scary. I'll do my best. Can’t say fairer than that, can I?
All the Best Always, Elaine H
PS: If you haven't read the PREVIEW, you'll find it over HERE