Friday, September 25, 2009

Be Happy, Give Thanks ....

from Jacqueline

While driving along today, I was listening to a segment on NPR about being happy. The feature cited a series of recent articles in the press – here and in Europe – based upon research findings pointing to the fact that women today are less happy than they were in the 1950’s. Soon the conversation started making distinctions about happiness, and those being interviewed went on a bit about the women’s movement, then someone called in and said that it was the fact that women are more sensitive to world problems that made them more depressed. A few men commented, and then they got to the issue of whether single men or married men were the happiest, and the fact that the unhappiest married couples are (according to research conducted by THEY, whoever they may be) those who have young children. I’ve always thought that “They, Inc.” would be a good name for a polling company, after all, upon reading these research papers, you always hear someone say, “They reckon that ...”

So, it seems that They have been having a field day regarding our happiness quota. Throughout the show, I kept thinking back to a conversation I had with my mother when I was about fourteen, maybe younger. She picked me up from school – this in itself was rare, as she usually worked until six – and I think I must have had a rough day because I sat in the passenger seat, and announced, “I think I’m depressed.” That was a mistake, if ever there was one. “Depressed? Depressed? What have you got to be depressed about? You want to know depressed? I’ll tell you all about depressed – when I was your age I’d just been hauled back from being evacuated and I was working in a laundry. You think you’re depressed? Try that on for size. You’ve never had it so good!” Well, she had a point, and in that last line she was paraphrasing the British Prime Minister of the 1950’s, Harold Macmillan, who in 1957 said, “Most of our people have never had it so good.” That was pushing it a bit, because London was still a bomb site and rationing had only been over for a couple of years.

In any case, I started thinking about this business of happiness, and – sorry, this is how I am – about people who are so much less fortunate than the people being interviewed. And I also wondered how these musings might seem to that generation of forefathers and mothers who had to shoulder the weight of poverty in the Great Depression, of loss in our wars, and who tried to keep children safe at a time when diphtheria killed three out of every five children, and there were no such things as antibiotics. That's even before you start in on today's challenges, from Katrina, to Afghanistan. It therefore came as no surprise to hear (from They, Inc) that a significant leap in reported cases of happiness followed a time of loss – whether that loss was a house, a livelihood, a way of life – because it gave cause for gratitude for what remained. Gratitude, it turns out, keeps the clouds at bay.

It took a very expensive research project to come to that conclusion. No wonder the firm of They, Inc., are doing so well.

I’m not happy all the time, and frankly, I’m glad I’m not, after all, how would you know happy if that was all there was in life? We need the slings and arrows of our daily round to see the distinctions in experience. To be able to say “I’m happy” one must know how sad feels. We are only thought of as brave at those times when bravery is required, because we have it in us to draw back, to run and hide, but we don’t. We need the gray areas as much as we need the distinctions to experience the full measure of life itself.

We Naked Authors have been writing our posts for your reading pleasure for a while now, so it stands to reason that - all reference to the aging gray matter aside - we are apt to repeat ourselves on occasion, so I am sure I have written about gratitude before. All the same, it’s probably due for another outing.

For my part, I have my down days and my up days, my ordinary and not so ordinary days, but overall I’m a pretty average person. I’ve had my fair share of challenges and there have been the high points. Life is like a map, really – human geography, with valleys and meadows and places to linger; streams and rivers to take you to whatever comes next; highways to the good and the bad and oh heck, here comes a mountain to negotiate. But there’s so much to be grateful for along the way. If I had to think of just a handful of things right off the top of my head, here’s what would be on my list:

I was born to people who taught me the value of hard work, who impressed upon me the idea that you can turn your hand to anything if you choose. I confess, I hated working in the egg-packing factory in the summer of my sixteenth year, but hey, my mum was really grateful for the free eggs.

I had a good and sometimes surprising education, and am grateful that my parents – who had never had those opportunities – set so much stock in education.

My big extended family. They’re a real mixed bunch, and I have such cherished memories – there’s gratitude for all those laughs over the years. May there be many more to come.

I was always a writer, whatever else I might have been doing, but I am bursting with gratitude every time I sit and think about how fortunate I am to be published, how lucky I am to be able to talk to other writers, to be part of a writing community (several, in fact). To make one’s living being – in essence – a storyteller is just as good as it gets, in my book.

I am grateful for my health, for my wellbeing. There are so many struggling with illness and suffering in pain; to have good health is a blessing.

I am grateful that I am loved and that I love. Love is nothing to be sniffed at.

And I am grateful for dreams that come true – and for the ones that don’t, because if they all came true, how would we know recognize the trail of stardust that accompanies a dream coming true? That stardust heralds joy, and joy is something to be grateful for, to be cherished.

So, there’s a few points of gratitude, in no particular order, and you know I could go on and on. But now it’s over to you. What are you grateful for? Go on, serious or lighthearted, let’s have your Lines of Gratitude. Maybe one day I’ll write a book called "Lines of Gratitude: Charting A Course For Happiness." Hmmm, well, maybe not.

Come on, what are you grateful for?


  1. My mother worked in a laundry, too. She was a marker and took her job very seriously.

    I'm grateful for many of the same things you are, Our J, and also for my sense of humor, which has gotten me through several rough spots.

  2. from Jacqueline

    Oh yes, Patty, a good sense of humor goes far, especially during the worst of times. I'd add that to my list, too.

  3. James O. Born9/25/2009 11:39 AM

    My parents seemed happy bu I know I'm lucky to live where I do, in the times that I do with relative health. If that's not happiness then I don't what is.

    I recognize the troules inthe world but also that compared to the violence, wars, practices like slavery and disease, today is a step up.

    Good post, Jackie.


  4. I think I am a young Jackie today, plunking myself down and saying, "I think I'm depressed." It is my wont, right now, to focus on the negative, but at least there are always good stories to be told from there.

  5. I'm grateful to have friends like my fellow naked scribblers.

  6. oh jackie, i love your idea that 'life is like a map'! it really says it all.

    over the last few weeks i had to deal with a lot of grief. my oldest friend of more than 40 years died suddenly. i locked myself away to remember all the great times we had and how positive he always was, no matter what. and i am grateful to have know him and the times i was able to spent with him and later on with his family as well.

    i am grateful for every day that brings new adventures and challenges, for my family and friends and for their wellbeing. i am grateful for being where i am today and for where i have been and whom i met on the way. i am grateful for every smile i manage to put on someones face.

    jackie, i have just read up on all the posts from the last three or four weeks and i love the idea of your husband starting to write songs. i wish him the best of luck because i know how hard it is to get established. please let your naked fans know how he is getting on. all the best to him and all of you.


  7. Sybille, I'm so sorry about your loss. We missed you and worried. Glad you're back.

    Paulie, you softie you. Here's a bunch of gratitude back at you.

  8. from Jacqueline

    James, I love the idea that "today is a step up." I think I'll post that above my computer, and will every day to be a step up.

    Louise, the thing about the abyss, when we're in it, is to know that somewhere there's a ladder upon which to climb out and a light above to guide you back to the top and onto the trail. Think of Jim's words, quoted above. "Today is a step up."

    Paul, I'm echoing Patty - you softie, you. I mean, we always knew you were a softie, but there you are grateful for all of us - and straight back atcha, Our Paulie.

    Sybille, I had wondered where you were these last few weeks. I am so sorry to hear about your friend. Losing someone who has been witness to our journey through the years is tantamount to losing a part of ourselves. But what memories to give thanks for, and to have had such an enduring friendship is one of life's great gifts. Our thoughts are with you.

    And if you want to hear John's songs, here's where you can listen to them:

    They're not everyone's cup of tea, and in this incarnation, they're what you might call "middle of the road" - but I think they're great!

  9. thank you for your kind words, jackie.
    and thanks for the link. i just finished listening to the songs. they sure are very lovely songs. i imagined myself sitting in front of the fireplace with a glas of something. some of them i would like to hear sung with a warm male voice. Love Works Both Ways reminded me in parts a bit of another song that i can't put my finger on right now. Bad Boy Blues and the uptempo Strange and Fateful Day are the two i like best at the moment - but i have only listened to them once and that might still change.

    wonderful songs - again good luck to john.


  10. thanks patty,
    i'm sorry i just wondered off like that.
    he died in the middle of preparations for his 60th birthday. when i spoke to him last just a couple of days before, he was getting the old crowd together for the party. so instead of the party, we all got together to bury him.

  11. I'm grateful for the quiet every-day-happiness - all the small things that are so easy to forget, from a perfect cup of tea, a purring cat, a beautiful view to mail from a friend, an unread book and being able to pay the bills.

    And I have to add that health is an overrated blessing. Don't get me wrong - I'd love to be healthy and able to work, but I get irritated (to put it nicely) when people say things like "If you have a good health you have everything". Oh yes, being grateful for a good health is one thing - but I do feel sorry for everybody who needs a good health to be happy.

  12. The thing I'm always most grateful for is time: time with my friends, time to myself for daydreaming or reading or listening to music, time away from all the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.

    This morning, having just returned from a fairly lengthy (for me) trip, I'm very grateful for my fuzzballs, and that they only barfed a little while I was away ;-)

  13. E & Rae, both your comments speak to the so-called simple pleasures - the time to enjoy a cup of tea, a walk, a snuggle with either a much loved pet or person (maybe even both!). Ah, bliss ....

    And Em, I perfectly understand what you mean about health - we don't need to be as fit as a fiddle to be happy, but seeing others who are challenged by ill-health, and the toll it takes on energy and resources, certainly makes me give thanks for the gift of health. I've had some ongoing health "issues" over the past year, but I'm still pretty happy - I just get a bit fed up with it every now and again!

  14. There are so many things we can be grateful for, but sometimes life's distractions get in the way.

    When my car breaks down, my son is home sick, my house is a mess, and my coworker is really getting under my skin I just take a moment to have a heart to heart with myself. I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am grateful I have a car to get me where I am going on most days. I am grateful that I have a son that is happy, usually healthy and this is just a temporary sickness. I am grateful I have a home to call my own, especially when so many are faced with poverty and homelessness across the world. AND with unemployment at a rise across the nation, I am grateful to have a job TO complain about. After telling myself that, it makes me realize I am grateful for the life that i do have and grateful it's not as bad as it could be.

  15. Kim, those moments of quiet reflection upon what we have are key to some sort of grace in this life.

  16. I'm happy for the mornings when I wake up and I'm not tired or hurting. They make me think that perhaps God isn't dead after all. :)

  17. I can't remember when I enjoyed an article so much as "Be Happy, Give Thanks..." For this I am thankful! There is much I could write in response but would end up being a blog in it's self! Jacqueline, your words are powerful and comforting. To sum it up, I believe you hit the bull's eye with a simple word and action that we have lost along the way...L O V E! But if I may add one more word...U N C O N D I T I O N A L. For with out this there is no true love. For with out this word and it's action, it is no wonder we lose our maps and stray off course. I rencently lost both my parents. I didn't have the chance to say good bye to my father. But my mother lived with me for the last three years of her life. We had our ups and downs and right to the very end, we were able to express our forgiveness and love. This may seem weird, but I have got to know my parents more now than when they were here with me. I am gratful for them, I realize they did for me and gave to me only what they knew how from what they recieved. I know I am my father's son...for he suffered silently, but lived a full life of hard work and giving to all around him, unconditional love. He was a survivor of this world because he never lost his map. Thank you, I look forward to that book idea of your's on this subject of "Be Happy, Give Thanks...."