Reflections: “It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” –Dale Carnegie
I wasn’t sure I heard her right.
“Her” being the middle-aged Botox Barbie standing in front of me in line at the grocery store at noon on the last day of 2012. As the diamond-studded blonde fumbled through her Prada purse with her frighteningly long, perfectly manicured acrylic nails, she repeated herself – but this time, with feeling.
“I HATE New Year’s!” she said vehemently as she slammed a few items down on the checkout counter.
Yep, I had heard her right.
Her comment was aimed at no one in particular but was said loud enough to be understood by anyone within earshot – which was pretty much the entire market, save maybe the frozen foods section. The young cashier made a scrunched-up face that illustrated her obvious displeasure with Barbie’s behavior as she swiped several bottles of cheap champagne across the scanner. Miss Thang, turning around to scan the aisles as if looking for someone, once again paraphrased her disgust for the year-end event as she extracted a bejeweled cosmetic case from the depths of her slick Italian leather bag. She opened a mirror and still mumbling, reapplied her bright orange lipstick with a pucker and a self-admiring pout.
“I absolutely despise New Year’s Eve – damn the resolutions anyway. Jesus! There you are, Mort. What took you so [bleep] long? And, for God’s sake, why we have to have all these [bleep] people over tonight?” This was directed at her husband, a much senior, rotund gentleman draped in gold jewelry, reeking of musky cologne, who had just returned from apparently being sent to procure a block of cream cheese.
“It was YOUR idea to have a huge [bleep] cocktail party, Martha! So just put a sock in it,” he said hatefully and dismissively with a very heavy New York accent. He tossed the cream cheese in the general direction of the cashier, which tumbled off the counter and fell to the ground at my feet. I bent down and handed it to the flustered employee. She and I exchanged knowing glances that this situation was about to get uglier.
Which it did. Insults – unbelievably cruel and inappropriately made public – flew back and forth, each one more hurtful than the next. The argument/scream fest continued even as the red-faced couple paid for their wares, as they exited the building and as they made their way across the parking lot. All the remaining customers, wide-eyed and stunned but still watching the now muted war of words as if witnessing a train wreck, scoffed and shook their heads in disbelief. A few unflattering observations were made by a local man I recognized, which elicited a hardy “Here, here!” from several others.
As I left the store through the automatic doors after bagging my groceries, the couple drove past me in their fancy car, still arguing, still finger-wagging. It made me cringe as I wondered just how far the bickering actually goes behind closed doors.
I shut my eyes tightly and sighed loudly. On the outside, they seemed to “have it all.” Rich, obviously – McMansions, Bentleys, the Hope Diamond probably. Yet these people were so poor of spirit, so emotionally bankrupt and so very misguided. Watching those two go at each other like that made my heart heavy and questions, mostly rhetorical, swarmed around my head. Why would anyone stay in a situation that miserable? That abusive? That…unhappy? Did they know it could be different? Or did they even want their lives to change? Was money the only reason those two stay together? What a bloody price to pay.
And another thought came to me. One that I so vividly recall my grandmother telling me – and, as much as I loved that dear blue-eyed woman, God rest her soul, one that I couldn’t have disagreed with more. She once told me as a little girl, “Cheri, happiness is a sometimes thing,” putting exaggerated emphasis on that qualifying word. I remember thinking to myself that…no! NO! That couldn’t be right! I reasoned in my wee little brain that happiness isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something that you choose…right? Isn’t that right? My eight-year-old self couldn’t help but wonder.
As I slid into my car and fastened my seat belt, I sat there for several minutes thinking. Yes, there are times that warrant genuine sadness in the face of tragedy and loss. But, as my friend’s Dad used to say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff – and remember it’s mostly small stuff.” I suddenly felt immensely grateful that my marriage is incredibly wonderful – loving and filled with mutual respect. That my days are inherently sunshine and smiles, some more so than others, of course, but there’s not a single morning that I don’t wake up feeling fortunate to have such an amazing husband and my furry four-legged family. In a world so full of rage and angst, now more than ever, we should all be hopeful and live each day as fully as possible.
I believe that happiness is a choice.
This year, let’s all resolve to choose more wisely. I know I will. Won’t you join me?
Life is too short to postpone your joy.