Happiness can be an illusive prey. I think we all have times in our lives when we wonder if we will ever be happy again. Thankfully, we usually do become happy again. Sometimes, it takes a little more effort than usual to stabilize the muddy emotional ground and find our happy footing once more. I find that it is important to be proactive when I am down in the dumps and stuck in the mud.
Something that makes me happy is making other people happy. This can be a dangerous remedy for melancholia because it puts my emotional fate in the hands of somebody else. I try to remember that I can only be truly happy when I am the one making me happy. At times, I try to jump start the process by reaching out to others. This “selfish altruism” of mine has its detriments. I often feel like I have a tattoo on my forehead that proclaims “Ask Me” to the entire world. I always figured it did not cost anything to smile warmly at passersby and it is thrilling when they smile back. Sometimes, it does cost something. A colleague of mine used to say I could not leave our office to go to the bathroom without adopting some poor lost soul with a problem that needed fixing. And I, of course, would have to be the one to fix it. All in all, though, I’d say that it is almost always happy-making for me to see happiness exuding from others because of something I said or did.
Sometimes, I like to stop at Hardee’s (that’s Carl’s Jr to you folks west of the Mississippi) for a biscuit in the morning if I am out and about for some reason. There is something comforting about a hot, crispy, slightly salty biscuit. At my local Hardee’s, though, there is a challenge. One lady typically takes my order at the drive-thru speaker. She is warm and friendly and cheerful. She calls me “baby.” She is rather like a biscuit herself. The lady who actually hands me the “bag o’ biscuit” when I pull around to the window is more like a stale saltine cracker.
She has never done anything mean or rude exactly, but she always looks and sounds so miserable. I have no idea what her life is like. I am certainly not judging. I am sure she has problems that would make my troubles seem petty. Still, it makes me sad that she seems so sad. I really want to help her feel better. Not that I know for sure that she is sad, but it is hard to imagine that she is NOT gloomy. Her voice is monotone and gruff. Her shoulders sag as if she is carrying a very heavy yoke. I have never seen her close to anything like smiling. Thin lips and squinty eyes always sink towards the ground. She doesn’t even seem to see me. I know she is a real human and not a robot because I can feel pain radiating off her.
Recently, I have been on a mission. I have been challenging myself to imbue a little warmth and happiness in this lady’s workday. When I hand her the money and take my biscuit bag, I push charm out of my being with every cell in my body. I smile. I intentionally let my eyes sparkle. I speak clearly and gently. I move my head slightly to try to make eye contact. I make sure that I am facing her direction when conducting our transaction, rather than blindly grabbing from my side.
None of this seemed to make much of a difference. I enjoy my short tete a tete with the order-taking lady inside the drive-thru speaker. We exchange chipper. As I turn the corner to pull up to the window, my mood turns hopeful. I think, “today is the day she is going to smile.” It didn’t seem like it was ever going to happen.
The other day, FINALLY, we had a breakthrough. As I drove up to the window, I felt the resignation building. I tried to tap into my biscuit lady in the speaker to shield myself from disappointment. As I waited for my turn to pay, I pulled out money. I had exact change, which I took as a good omen. That day, as I took my biscuit bag from the sad lady, I slowed my movements. If one can be graceful in receiving a bag of take-out, then I was. I put the bag on the seat next to me deliberately. Then, I turned my head back to the takeout window and flashed the special smile I keep for people who look like they need it. I waited a beat or two and… I saw it! Not a smile, certainly, but the very beginning of a twinkle in her eye. Her body seemed to relax a little and she met my gaze.
It made my day.
What do you do to make yourself happy? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at email@example.com.
Have a smiley day!