Delusions of Grandeur

The Pursuit of Happiness

Posted on: June 24, 2010

Alright internet at large, I have to put a warning right here at the top…..this post was written in three different installments and several things happened between each of them so a post that started out on a more lighthearted note turns a bit more introspective than planned.  It also rambles even more than usual.  I decided just to go with it because frankly I’m ready to be done with it and finally get it posted.  But I felt I had to give you fair warning.


There’s an old saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him you have a plan”.  I think that I provide a great many laughs for God because I’m constantly making plans for him to find ways to derail.  That being said, half the time whatever I planned isn’t nearly as much fun as what I end up with so I guess overall I have a lot to be grateful for. 🙂   In this instance it wasn’t any sort of big deal all caps sort of plan that provided comedic fodder for the big guy, just a simple update to this blog that I meant to do over two months ago back on my birthday in the beginning of May.  Of course my birthday coincided with Mother’s Day this year so I was busy that day doing birthday and mother’s day sorts of things and enjoying every minute of it so I wasn’t too bothered that I didn’t get around to writing my planned post.  And since then a variety of things have popped up from school work to a crashed computer and just the random minutiae of every day life.  So with that rambling introduction I’ll proceed on to the blog post that I’ve now been thinking about and meaning to write for quite some time.  You would think with all that time to come up with it that it would be polished to a fine sheen, but alas, no such luck.  It is what it is and I’m just happy to finally get it down on paper….err screen.

Like many people I have a habit of saying “Thank God” when I talk about some good big thing that happened in my life or, more commonly, some near miss that would have been tragic.  As in, that old lady in the cadillac almost side swiped me, but thank god I was able to swerve out of the way.”  One day while I was talking to one of my friends I decided that perhaps instead of just using the phrase in conversation I should actually take the time to actively say thanks when something like that happened.  But then I had to decide what exactly qualified as something that I should say thanks for.  So I decided that I would just say thank you for everything good that I noticed and set a goal for myself to notice at least five things a day.  What I quickly found is that it was actually really easy to find things to say thank you for.  Not only that, but by consciously looking for things to be grateful for I generally felt happier and more relaxed.  I was saying thank you when I made it to work with nothing but green lights, thank you when there wasn’t a line at the grocery store, and even giving a quick thanks when the nice shady parking spot was available when I got to work.  The experiment was going nicely and I was pretty pleased with the idea in general.  For somebody as generally cynical and pessimistic as I am the idea of stopping and appreciating dozens of little things throughout the day really was a game changer.  It’s actually an addictive feeling, you should try it.  And once you do, you’ll probably find yourself moving on to the next logical progression.

One day, in the midst of all of this thanksgiving, I found myself sitting in Shul and musing absentmindedly after the Mourner’s Kaddish.  Prayer in Judaism is an interesting thing.  It’s extremely formulaic.  In fact, a great many of the prayers that I can think of off the top of my head begin with the words “Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheynu melech ha’olam asher” or “Blessed are you Lord, our G-d, King of the Universe who….”  There are a lot of different rationales behind this, but that would make an already long and rambling post even longer.  But one of the other characteristics of Jewish prayer is that it rarely asks for anything specific, rather it tends to praise the lord for something he’s already done, for some general characteristic or if it does ask for something it usually involves a general request for peace.  This got me thinking about the idea of modifying my experiment.  What if, instead of only saying thank you when something good happened and asking for help when something bad happens, I took those bad occurrences and found something to say thank you for?  I decided to formalize the whole thing and actually formulate the thank you’s into prayers in the aforementioned style.  So for example when I got a “D” on my calculus test instead of getting angry or upset I had to look for a way to turn the experience into something that I could say thank you for.  In that instance I believe that I eventually settled on something along the lines of “Blessed are you Lord, our G-d, King of the Universe, who creates opportunities for us to learn from our mistakes.”   Anyways, you get the general idea.

The end result of all of this was that I found myself going throughout my days increasingly happy and unperturbed by things like traffic jams and lost car keys.  I kept this up for almost three months and I can honestly state that it was one of the most content times of my life.  I’m not entirely sure why I eventually fell out of the habit.  I have decided to pick it back up again though because honestly life is a lot happier when you can find the positive in things.  My plan is to try to keep doing this throughout the entire next year until my next birthday in the hopes that after a year it will become so deeply ingrained as a habit that it will be second nature.  I sort of outlook on life makeover if you will.  I’m hoping that I’ll actually remember and have time to blog about it throughout this year simply because I think that doing so will serve as a reminder to keep the thank you’s flowing.  I suppose we’ll see.

Coincidentally while I was halfway through writing this post and it was sitting in draft form on my computer screen my husband’s car was stolen.  It’s an older car so it’s not worth much on paper and it’s paid in full so we don’t have full coverage on it.  Beyond the financial repercussions which are considerable, there is the emotional loss.  My husband truly loved that car and had no intention of ever getting rid of it.  He knew that eventually he would have to get a new car but he planned to still keep this one to tinker around with.  Obviously that isn’t going to happen now.  It’s easy enough to turn around a traffic jam or even a failed assignment and find something to be grateful for, but how do you find the silver lining in this cloud?  In my case all I can think is that there must have been some reason which we will never know about.  I know that there was a bolt that was working its way loose in the car which my husband kept meaning to take the car to the garage for.  Perhaps if the car hadn’t been stolen then he would have continued to procrastinate on getting it fixed until one day it came lose while he was driving on the highway and caused some sort of catastrophic accident.  Who knows.  But in cases like this I can only remind myself that there are a great many things in this world that are beyond our comprehension and so when something like this happens I have to turn my eyes heavenward and say “Blessed are you Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, who watches over his creation” and just leave it at that.


1 Response to "The Pursuit of Happiness"

thank you for writing this post! it was a great reminder for me to appreciate the many gifts that i take for granted, especially the small stuff, on a daily basis. i am truly sorry for the loss of s’s car, which very obviously had a lot of sentimental value. i hope that the two of you will find some peace soon. ❤

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