Thursday, March 1, 2012

How to Be Happy

Le lit défait  (The Unmade Bed) by Eugene Delacroix

            Don’t read articles about how to be happy. Wait until your friend reads them and then take her hostage until she reveals what actually works. Recoil as if from a screaming toddler when she tells you that in order to even get out of bed each day you should really make a gratitude list. Don’t scrunch your face up, stick your tongue out and decide now’s the perfect time to get a new friend.   

            Spend the morning in bed wondering if your journal can even contain such multitudes. Don’t curse your husband for using the last of the milk and the nondairy creamer. Take a multi-vitamin and drink your coffee black. You’re going to need it.

Start with the floor furnace. Realize that if it hadn’t died last winter you would never have known the sweet smell of kerosene or the sound of a rocket readying for blastoff when the replacement forced air heater you call the ghettoblaster suddenly ignites in the next room. Think of all the opportunities your family has had to grow closer and more fire retardant huddled around its fluorescent orange flame.

Next, be glad you were raised on food stamps because now when you have a dollar you know what to do with it. Daydream about what you could do with it and then be grateful for your magnificent imagination.

Thank your lucky stars that the hot, rich guy in the silk scarf dumped you so you don’t have to be some dumb trophy wife in a boring city like Paris.

Thank God that your prince wears coveralls instead of shining armor. Be glad he refused to get a regular, full time job because if you hadn’t had to find work you’d be lying on the couch watching cable, instead of curled up in bed thinking how superior you are that you’re not. You’d be able to afford cable but you’d be watching Toddlers and Tiaras, trying to figure out how to force your son into a huge blonde wig so that he could curtsy on the catwalk instead of attending first grade while you engage in a meaningful line of work that brings you great joy. 

Thank God you were broke when you wanted to get that divorce.

When you see the thirteen inch scar stretched across your side, remember that if you were tough enough to survive going under the knife you can probably survive another year of filing federal income taxes.  

Thank God that you have a friend who’s always bouncing off to exotic, foreign lands so that you don’t have to get all those nasty shots or wait in line at the post office to renew your passport in order to own powerful looking tribal dolls or beautifully hand-painted ceramic plaques that say “Shalom Y’all.”

Be glad that you still live in the house you grew up in because you never have to waste precious time changing the information fields when you reorder address labels. And that being so rooted has made you part of an intricate network of friends and relatives that steer you back onto the right course, holding your hand through the detritus and rubble until you’ve finally uncovered  the faintest glimmer of the silver lining.

Consider getting dressed for the day and then be grateful that since getting laid off from the office you can work from home.

            Walk back into the kitchen to see if milk has magically reappeared in the fridge and resist the temptation to throw the “Every Problem Contains a Gift” magnet in the trash. Tape it to your forehead, instead.


  1. I am grateful for the deep valleys from which the mountains that once seemed terrible become inspiring and through which meander shared walks that bring wisdom.

  2. I'm supposed to be offline for 2 weeks, so don't tell anyone I read and loved your piece!

  3. Eliezer, I am unbelievably tempted to copy and paste your comment onto FaceBook right now. I will resist today but I can't speak for tomorrow!

  4. Great article Valley. I remember the floor furnaces with the hot metal grill designed to either barbecue the toes of toddlers or teach them incredible balance while trying to get to the only bathroom in the house 1st thing in the morning.