It’s the International Day of Happiness. I began celebrating it with violent cursing and screaming at an unexpected road closure that turned my normal 35 minute commute to work into a 50 minute meltdown of rage and anxiety.
I sat at my desk, barely making it there in time for the kids to come running in, pushing and shoving to get to the coat rack. I was holding my head in my hands when a student came to my desk. This student, who has multiple disabilities which include an inability to read social cues, says, “Mrs. Cory! Mrs. Cory! Mrs. Cory! Mrs. Cory! Mrs. Cory!” And when I lifted my head and said, “WHAT?!”, he said, “Mrs. Cory, it’s Happy Day! Get happy, Mrs. Cory!”
And so I did.
I brought up the video for Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” on the board and we danced, all 18 of us, twirling and Ninja kicking and clapping and jumping like crazy people. Be jealous, all you non-first grade teachers. I freaking twirl at work.
I have been reading The Art of Happiness, written by The Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, Ph.D., and the insights into the nature of humankind and the practice of becoming happy are fascinating. (I have yet to get to the part about how to cultivate happiness during an outrageously stupid detour that takes a person 20 miles out of her way, but I’m hoping it’s in Chapter 7.) The book states that our happiness depends greatly on our outlook, and that the choice to approach life with positivity (and the willingness to actually put effort into doing so) is the only way to achieve it.
Mr. Lama (yes..I realize that isn’t his name, but he’s pretty awesomely cool so I don’t think he would mind…) suggests that if we base our happiness on material things, then we eventually become bound by our limits and will never be fully satisfied. If we love what we have, instead of needing to have what we love, we will be happier. If our happiness is internal, not external, then it doesn’t matter if we live in a palace or a tent – we can experience happiness.
But cultivating inner peace and internal happiness isn’t an easy task. It’s difficult to check a bad attitude at the door especially when confronted by suffering, by angry people, and by IT customer service a week before your period. The best we can do is breathe deeply, remember that anger breeds anger (and alternatively, love breeds love) and step away from the kitchen knives. It is a practice, not something that hits you suddenly, like the Holy Ghost at a tent revival. It takes a conscious effort and a lot of self-reflection, as in, “Well, earlier today I didn’t flip off the guy who turned in front of me, but I did drown my feelings of inadequacy in a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, so I’m 1-for-1.” The greatest thing is you know that you have the most ultimate gift, another day to try again to be a little happier.
And if all else fails, put on some music and twirl.