“When I was 5 years old, my mom always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment and I told them they didn’t understand life.”–John Lennon
Fine, I’ll own up to the truth that I do, indeed, routinely talk to myself. When things are not going right, when i’m mad at myself or itsy bitsy butterflies are doing cartwheels in my belly, i’ll do it. I’ll stare at my measly frizzed-haired reflection in the bathroom mirror and ill say, “Jennifer, pull yourself together”. That’s if I am in a good mood. Normally, I’ll go with something a tad bit more outrageous such as, “You blonde haired tall flamingo, you chose to wear this mismatched wrinkled outfit today so you will deal with it and you will make it work”.
And on days when I’m just too tired to pick my head up from the soft bed of my shoulders or swirl my lips upward and crack a smile, I throw some ice cold water on my face.
There are two times a day when misery stares me in the face, literally. Taking the subway to work and taking the subway home from work.
In the mornings, I sit on the laps of people clenching their briefcases, first whipping the crud out of their good-morning eyes and refusing to show any expression with their mouths, unless they are stuffing a croissant into the side of their paisley shaped lips. On the way home, people’s faces look droopy, holding on to the pole in the subway cart, letting each rattle jolt their body as if they were jamming their fingers into an electrical socket.
One morning I decided enough was enough. I was still stained with my Florida friendliness and bronzed skin and I decided that I was going to single-handedly make the subway an enclosed cattle packed box of happiness! Which really meant that I would have to be creative, be loud, be in your face out there because around here, it’s hard to get noticed. The person in the corner flapping their hands like a mad man or doing the Cupid Shuffle, is deemed as just a passerby and not worthy of a second look.
So I did something this city is not used to and with every person in my way, I made eye-contact and I smiled. Smiles are more contagious than bed bugs here and even the people who were tired or too knocked out to know that they are on an express train heading for an 8 hour day, would shoot me an upper lip wiggle. Some, I would like to proclaim, just smiled with their eyes.
5 Ways to Convert Misery to Happiness:
Loud Music & Hidden Dance Moves:: My 7:30am day begins with techno music and is accessorized by inconspicuous dance moves that I bust out while I waltz my way on over to the train. But it’s the same for all hours of the day. To flip your mood you need a good dance track and you need to let go. Wobble around and shake like you have ants in your pants. For best results, do this in front of a full length body mirror so you can occasionally catch a glimpse of yourself at your finest. (See example)
Turn It Off:: We, my friends, are overloaded. We’re stressed and forced to multitask and compartmentalize all of the information that we come across and that comes across our technological sidekicks throughout the day. I have had way too many joyful days stomped on via a casual peruse of my Facebook newsfeed, seeing that the bully from third grade is going to be wed and some boy I have my eyes on is smooching with a supermodel. I’m not pro-deletion of social media because it’s too drastic and unrealistic. But it’s important to turn it off and to look away, sometimes –especially when you are hanging out with REAL, LIVE PEOPLE!
Collect Your Change:: We change our underwear daily, but that seems to be the only change we don’t wince about! We so often forget that instead of complaining like a broken record or a Dubstep track, we need to move our apple-bottoms off the couch and do something. We need to deal with the things that give us lingering heartburn.
Fight or Flight:: Before your head hits the pillow and after you gulp down a glass of warm milk and chow down a handful of cookies, address and fix all the fights and problems that are floating above your head like Los Angeles Smog.
Write the Worries:: When nouns are causing bubbles to form inside your stomach, project what is making you anxious and uneasy by writing down the worry on one side of the page and writing down potential ways to solve, make better or erase the problem on the other side of the page. Visualization makes things come alive and in turn allows us to deal with them and see, quickly, that they may not be as harsh or scary as we feared.
I once took a 7 am philosophy class while studying at the University of Central Florida and the one thing that stuck to me like banana in my hair that early in the morning was this lesson from the good ol’ pal Socrates: The root of “happen” is “hap”, the Middle English word for “chance” or “luck”. That is also the root of the modern English word “happiness”. This is an indication of how little we know ourselves, how materialistic and externalistic and shallow we habitually are. We think happiness “happens”.If we follow the tutelage of “the love of wisdom” we will eventually reach the Socratic level of self-knowledge in which we understand that true happiness never happens; we are responsible for it.
I see this one man almost every morning while waiting for the 8:56 F train. We never speak. Just plant our blistered feet down on the platform and stare, into the tired eyes of another, until one of us smiles first. By Wednesday, he always wins.