My father was a lunatic. And still is. And, he’d agree. Happily. It’s funny what our parents can teach us about happiness.
During his speech at my wedding, he extracted a long-ago Father’s Day card, from me, from his suit pocket, which I had forgotten until that moment. In it, I had quoted Spike Milligan. My father, with great relish, read said quote: “My father had a profound influence upon me. He was a lunatic.”
I adore my father.
That’s him, snoozing with a teddy bear at a family friend’s party several years ago.
When things are going well, one of his favourite sayings is “life wasn’t meant to be this easy!” with a feigned tone of astonishment.
I was reminded of this when I read a rather radical statement in the thought-provoking book Intentional Parenting. The author, Dr Yvonne Sum, asks us to “imagine what it would be like to believe that life is easy.” She suggests that we “have been indoctrinated to believe these rules:
– Life is bitter.
– Suffer for your art – or else it’s not worth it.
– Honest living comes from good hard work.
– We work to live, we live to work.
– Easy come, easy go.
– It’s too good to be true.
… If your reality is to believe life is hard, evidence justifying that in your life validates the rule. Each event reinforces your belief that it is so – and you make decisions according to that reality. To change your reality, you must change the rules you live by.”
In other words, it is our learned attitudes and thought processes that make life more difficult and complicated and prosaic than it should or needs to be. I am convinced the universe lead me to this book and this idea I was in a crabby mood. I was presented with just the opportunity and inspiration for the attitude adjustment I needed. It was like Dad and the universe were conspiring to show us what our parents can teach us about happiness (and our kids too for that matter).
My life is easy. I am one of the luckiest people I know. Of course I have experienced suffering and tragedy. I do not think it is realistic to maintain a state of ecstatic joy during every life experience.
However, quite simply, I can now see my periods of mental funk for what they were – a relapse into my old, habitual pessimism and melancholy. When I made the conscious decision at the beginning of the year to fall in love with life again, I knew it would require work, attention, reflection and, above all, action, and I knew it would not happen instantly.
I choose to apply two of my new rules, gratitude and self-compassion, and sally forth.
“To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And again I am strong.
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong.”
– William Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality
PS – My father’s favourite song is the Monty Python classic, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life Apt, non?
Some useful links
Dr Happy’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald on what the elderly can teach us about living happier lives – http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellbeing/wellbeing/what-the-elderly-can-teach-us-about-living-happier-lives-20160920-grktn9.html
Dr Yvonne Sum’s book “Intentional Parenting – How to Get Results for Both You and Your Kids – https://penguin.com.au/books/intentional-parenting-9781742753584
Monty Python’s “Always look on the bright side of life” video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlBiLNN1NhQ
TedX talk by Jon Jandai on “Life is easy. Why do we make it so hard?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21j_OCNLuYg
Photo credit: Kate and her Dad_supplied