Searching for Happiness

I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about happiness. Who is happy and what makes us happy? Are we born happy or do we become happy?  Is happiness something that comes naturally or do we need to work on it daily, or do some people simply wake up happy? I honestly don’t know, but these are some of the thoughts that have been running through my mind the past week.

I believe that I am a simple person. I don’t need much to make me happy. I drive a mini-van after all.  I don’t need a fancy car or even want one. We are blessed and have a lovely home and I find enjoyment in decorating and working on household projects. Making a house a home is something I love doing for my family and it brings me happiness.

I used to find happiness in gardening, but it’s something that Dr. Liar took away from me when he damaged my spinal cord. I can’t pull weeds, spread mulch, or plant shrubs and flowers.  I now have to be content with watching my husband do the work. It makes me sad that he has had to add this responsibility to his workload, but I know he does it for me. We have a lovely koi pond and even relocated our fish from Pennsylvania to Virginia. There is something very relaxing listening to the waterfall and watching the fish enjoy their lives. If things could be so simple in our daily lives.

It is my opinion that technology may have complicated our already stressful lives making happiness less important.  I enjoy listening to upbeat music in the car, but find that I am the exception. Most people are either talking on the cell phone, texting, eating or yelling at other drivers. Whatever happened to talking to the passengers who are actually in your vehicle?  Has checking email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. become the only way to communicate?  I know that social networking has helped me spread this blog to more than 12,000 readers, which makes me very happy, but I feel that technology has a time and a place. We all need to spend more time talking as well as listening. More time communicating face-to-face.

My six-year-old nephew seems to have soaked up the happiness gene. He loves to laugh and is always on the go.  He tells jokes and before he gets the punch line out he is cracking up.  He soaks up each and every moment of life.Is that where we spend most of our happiness…when we are young and before the responsibilities set in?  One of his favorite things to do is to try to give my husband an atomic wedgie and doesn’t mind getting them. He laughs so hard that he falls on the floor. And, his smile is contagious. When I am with him, I can’t help but feel happy.

On Wednesday, my daughter drove me to get an epidural injection. After the appointment, we spent real quality time together having lunch and talking. My daughter is one of the best things I have done in my life.  I can say that since I was a single mother for nine years and it was difficult work, but I raised her alone. Following that, her step father has been such a terrific influence and they have bonded during the past few years. She makes me very proud and happy.

While we were out earlier this week, the receptionist at the doctor’s office told my daughter and me that we looked like sisters instead of Mom and daughter.  She said there is no way you are her Mom — you look so young — and you have no wrinkles.  Then, the next day, I had to show my driver’s license to another woman who told me that I didn’t look my age and how did I not have any wrinkles.  While both women must need glasses…they both made me very happy and it was during a time when I really needed a bit of kindness. I don’t think I will ever forget how much joy those two comments gave me.

Is that another thing that has changed in our society — are we afraid to give people compliments?  I decided to test my theory and wow…what a change in people’s expressions.  While talking to a woman about decorating our homes I told her that she looked so nicely put together.  She said you don’t know how much that means to me since I am going through menopause and I feel like I am a mess.  Did I have a way of knowing what she needed to hear?  Is there a secret code we woman share?  I think living by the Golden Rule may have something to do with it.

I have learned that money doesn’t buy happiness.  Sadly, just ask Maria Shiver and the cheater she married — or any other member of the Kennedy’s. Hillary Clinton? And, poor Elizabeth Edwards. I am confident that she didn’t spend the remainder of her life being happy about her marriage and the actions of her husband. Would a reduction in stress have decreased the rapid spreading of the cancer in her body?

Other things that make me happy — spending time with my husband who would move the world for me if he could, my dogs, being closer to family, shopping for antiques, and many more things. Since we moved to Virginia I am able to see my parents whenever I want and that brings me happiness, although I am not sure they always feel that way. I get tired of hearing myself complaining about my woes so I am sure they must feel the same way. However, my parents (and my husband) are especially kind and patient and listen to whatever I have to say and for whatever length of time I need to talk. The sad thing is that I am not sure that I have ever told any of them how thankful I am for all the listening they have done — especially during the last six years. My parents grew up in a time where they did not say I love you often, but it was implied by all the things they did and continue to do for us, our spouses and their grandchildren. I, however, get great joy telling my Mom and Dad I love them and watching my Dad squirm around these words that don’t come easy for him to hear or say! Watching him squirm makes me very happy!

A wonderful massage from my favorite massage therapist N.H.B.? Now, that makes me very happy.  Also, this week something that might have put me over the top with too much happiness would have been an in ground irrigation system. Like the way I felt when it rained this afternoon. Pure joy.

I have learned that many people can let happiness be snapped from them for something simple. Road rage. Having to wait in line to pay for items. To me it seems that they let their happiness be drained for the silliest of things. I like to talk to people while waiting in line or think about what I am going to write in the next blog while I am driving. I also am very thankful that I am able to drive since I lost the ability to do so for so many months following my spinal cord injury. Complain enough about something and then have it taken away…you somehow gain a new healthy respect and appreciation once you gain it back.

Earlier this week I had a doctor’s appointment and received some unsettling news. While I need some additional tests to confirm the diagnosis I could feel the happiness slipping out of my body while I sat in the exam room talking with the doctor. Despite the fact that I was fighting internally to hold on to it, I failed.  The doctor and I talked and formulated our plan and I left the office. It was 100 degrees outside and most likely 150 degrees in my car, but I just sat, in my car, for about 10 minutes. No air conditioning, no circulating air movement, nothing. I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t even notice. I was numb — a feeling that I have come to know quite well during the last six years.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I believe that God won’t give me more than I can handle. However, I also am feeling overly tested following my last doctor’s appointment.  I feel that my medical plate is now a platter and that it is overflowing and turning into a buffet. I am hurting from the spinal cord injury from the migraines to the Restless Legs — literally from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Now, to complicate things further — I have this new diagnosis to address.  I feel as if I am getting beaten up and all I want to know is…why? 

On top of this new medical problem, I was told on Monday that I need an additional sinus surgery.  However, until this new problem is ironed out I will have to wait.  I have an infection that has spread into the sinus bone and is creating additional problems on a daily basis and continuous sinus infections.

I feel like I am under water…drowning.  What did I do or not do in my life to have all these medical problems?  Thanks to my mother, I was eating organic before it was popular.  I took vitamins and was interested in holistic before most people knew about it. I took care of myself, my body and this is the thanks I get?  Now I wonder why I bothered?

If we are able to choose to be happy — then why are more and more people relying on anti-depressant prescriptions each year?  Is it nature or nurture?  Are you happy if you surround yourself with happy people and if so, how do you manage that?  We can’t be happy all the time, or can we? Or, should we?  Abraham Lincoln stated that “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  I would say that is very true.

I have vowed that I am going to start looking for happiness in the things I do, the places I go and the people I am around and in those I meet.  No matter where I go, people approach me and ask my opinion or begin chit-chatting, which I love. I have learned so much about people in doing this. I have helped people pick out clothing, toys, shoes, even engagement rings. People love to talk about themselves and it allows me to put my journalism background to good use. It also allows me time away from my problems…a mini escape from the medical drama I have been facing for many years. I find people very interesting and enjoy getting to know them. It often makes me run late to where I am going, but I wouldn’t trade those conversations and experiences for the world. Other people are helping me with my plan to be happy and I am so grateful.

All along, I believe that I have been  looking for happiness in all the wrong places or maybe expecting it to come to me. I suppose you have to go half way sometimes. That reminds me of a story told by Rabbi Bob Alper about a guy praying to God to win the lottery. Weeks go by and he keeps praying to God asking why won’t you let me win the lottery?  Finally God speaks to him and says “Well, buy a ticket”.  I have decided that when people talk about me and my life that want to be remembered as someone who experienced a lot both physically and medically, but learned to find real joy in the things that mattered. I believe if you find happiness and joy in your life that happiness and joy will find you. So I am searching and hoping that with a little bit of rain that a rainbow and the sun will soon follow.

©My Unplanned Life and 2011.


About mswd

I am an individual living with a spinal cord injury. How the injury occurred, how I found out how severe my injury was and how my planned life suddenly became 'unplanned' is included in this blog. Also included is how the injury has tested my family and me. I believe you will discover it has been both a mentally and physically challenging ordeal and I learned a few lessons along the way. While I am still defining my life’s purpose since the injury, I have uncovered those who are injured, live with pain or have other obstacles to navigate are never able to escape. However, come with me as I explore ways to improve my life, learn to live with multiple neurological conditions, educate others and look for the silver lining. I believe with a little willpower, my caring family and God's guidance I will learn to forgive, hopefully forget how I was treated and dismissed by a doctor and uncover life's new purpose. I pray for painfree days and answers to questions that keep swirling through my mind. I also pray for a cure for neurological conditions and for the doctors to treat their patients with respect. Welcome to my journey. I would love to hear about yours!
This entry was posted in Disability, Don't Give Up, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, Dr. Liar, Faith, God, Happiness, Joy, Medical Malpractice, Pain, Pain Management, Self Discovery, Spinal Cord Injury and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Searching for Happiness

  1. Bette says:

    I have a bulging disc at the L5 – S1 area in my lower back which causes considerable pain down the entire sciatic nerve. My father suggested using the Tiger Balm (http://tig​erbalm.50w​ pain patches. They give immense relief to even the most intolerable days. I have highly recommended this product to my friends. One added extra is the menthol and camphor helps to relieve my sinus problems at the same time!

    • mswd says:

      Dearest Bette ~ thank you so much for your kind message! I have been using a prescription patch (Flector), but it never seems to stay in place (which means it doesn’t work). I thank you for your recommendation. I am going to definitely get the patches and some of the rub (I did my research). After I read your message I thought back to many years ago when I used a mental product (on my sinuses) to help breathe throughout the night. I ordered it from a friend who sold it through a homepathic company, but she stopped selling so I couldn’t get it any longer. Sunbreeze Balm was the product and it had a mental smell. I thank you for reminding me. I will let you know how I make out. Again, I sincerely, thank you for thinking enough of me to take the time to send a message. Best of luck with your ongoing back problems. Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you. Also, thank you for reading the blog. I am really humbled that people like you are reading the blog, writing messages, and that together we are learning and growing. I am making new friends, which means so much. Please keep in touch.

  2. clpollock says:

    Very moving post. Thank you for sharing. Simplicity = happiness, if we can remember that amidst all this technology, as you describe. Connecting with people is so important, and you’re doing that. I love how you decided to consciously try to make a positive comment to someone, and how you saw their wonderful response. Best to you.

    • mswd says:

      Thank you so much for you mesage clpollock! I keep telling my family just because the telephone or cell phone is ringing doesn’t mean you have to answer it! 🙂 And, I have been complimenting people more often and have made some wonderful new friends. I have found there can never be too much kindness so I try to do my share to spread as much as possible. If we all did this, what a great place the world would be! Thank you again for your throughtful message ~ wishing you all the best!

  3. Vijay says:

    My mother is going through many medical issues at the same time and she asks these questions too, “I eat good food, exercise and have taken care of myself and I don’t know why there are so many things wrong with me.” A line that you wrote resonated with that and a lot of what you wrote seemed like something my mom would say.

    I found amazing courage and beauty in your words.

    I don’t really believe in god. But I do believe in a prayer said for someone else. A heart felt prayer that you will see a rainbow soon.

    • mswd says:

      Thank you for taking the time to write and for reading the blog! I am very sorry to read about your Mom’s medical struggles. What I have learned from those who have written via the blog, Facebook and email is so many of us are dealing with illnesses, injuries or other medical problems that complicate life…even though life is complicated enough. I agree with your Mom…it doesn’t seem fair when you are doing all the right things for your body not to respond positively. Lately, I have come to the conclusion I could have been far worse if I hadn’t taken care of myself prior to my injury. My father has an expression he says on a regular basis and I have been thinking a lot about it as the anniversary of my injury approaches “Look where you are going — not where you have been.” While I wish my future (where I am going) was one filled with pain-free days, I have learned to take one day at a time and hang on to a little thing called hope. Hope for a cure for spinal cord injuries, Cervical Dystonia, Restless Legs and a host of other medical conditions people are experiencing. That is how I cope these days. I thank you again for your message, for the prayer and for your kindness ~ it means more than you know! 🙂

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