There are a few things I hate about cheesy holiday movies: They follow the same script, someone is always advising someone else that he/she deserves to be happy, and one of the sages on the stage is going to utter “follow your heart.”
[Insert screech-crash-dead silence here.]
Reality check number one: People don’t always follow the script. If you move stage right, make your sweetheart a sandwich, and compliment the way he holds the remote control, do not expect him to repay that gesture with an Alaskan cruise,* a new ring, or a channel turn to something you’d rather watch. (And for those of you who think I’m being sexist, just flip the script. She’s likely to tell you in no uncertain terms that it was a nice try but there’s another TV in the bedroom.) By the same token, if you act like a total butt, choose to see everything through a lens of self-pity, and basically flip the universe off every time you don’t get your way, there are still people on this messy little planet who will love you, forgive you, and wisely tell you the truth about yourself. (That is in The Script, by the way. But don’t expect everyone to have read that one, much less actually follow it.)
Reality check number two: Happiness is not a little somethin’-somethin’ Santa or Cupid or Apple slips into your stocking because you’ve been good all year…or at least you haven’t been as bad as you could have been, as in you mostly dressed modestly, avoided the f-word**in public, and didn’t punch anybody in the face. Happiness isn’t something “deserved” by virtue of birth like,say, justice. If it’s deserved, it’s a right; if it’s a right, it’s something that can be demanded. From whom? From people who don’t follow scripts? Good luck with that.
No, happiness isn’t under the jurisdiction of a government, a people group, a social situation, or everyday circumstances. Happy people are everywhere, even in places we’d never think to look for them: hospitals, shelters, third world countries, even (gasp) Wall Street. And here’s what positive psychology has discovered happy people have in common: They are smarter, more successful, healthier, and better able to manage stress than chronically unhappy people. And those bonuses are the EFFECT of their happiness, not the cause. In other words, gratitude and optimism–the two main ingredients of happiness–have pretty sweet benefits. But if we wait for the benefits to create the happiness, we are doing the illogical, impossible equivalent of waiting for the muscle tone and weight loss to create the desire to start exercising and eating right. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.*** Happy people follow the biblical precept of humility: They recognize they aren’t all that thus they have no expectation of special treatment, they attend to the needs of others before their own desires, and they are grateful for the smallest of gestures and the simplest of pleasures. (That’ll travel. And it has. Through time and space.)
Reality check number three: Your “heart” is stupid sometimes. Do not, I repeat, do not follow it without checking with your head, your gut, and a long-range financial planner. (Sort of just kidding on that last part.) Here’s the thing: In real life–which is nothing like TV life, Hallmark–hearts are smart. [Pause while the unintentional rhyme is acknowledged.] Hearts are so smart that they are constantly sending complex messages to brains that keep bodies functioning efficiently. The heart is the body’s pace car; it’s the organ the other organs will die for. Seriously. So it’s no pink tissue paper decoration for your rib cage. But what Hallmark calls “the heart” is actually the emotions. And emotions, while valid measures of things like grief and excitement and desire to parachute out of a plane, can be messed with by lack of sleep, rubber snakes, and hormones. So emotions aren’t bad tour guides but they make pretty lousy team leaders. And they should never be your pace car. Wisdom should be the voice in your head when your emotions are screaming and rattling their crib…or their cage. Emotions may tell you everyone but you has it great and you just can’t get a break. Wisdom knows that’s absurd and if you’d stop whining and start making better choices, you’d be more likely to accomplish and/or attract the very thing you desire. Emotions may tell you that you’ve been through a lot and you deserve to feel miserable. Wisdom won’t even be listening to that mess because it’ll be too busy helping someone else out of his misery. Emotions may tell you that it’s too late, that there’s no hope for you. But wisdom will patiently, gently, tirelessly remind you that every breath represents the gift of hope and that it’s never too late as long as there’s still time on the clock.
There’s still time on the clock, dear one. There’s still time on the clock, breath in your body, hope in your heart, and light in the window. Come home.
*I want an Alaskan cruise.
**I more or less lifted these two lines from a blog a friend shared with me…but it sounds like something I would say…which is why she shared it with me…