Happiness, 101 by Heidi Hirsch
How can I be happy when I see so much sadness in the world?
It was from the book Happy No Matter What that changed my thinking about what happiness is.
Dr. Carol Bliss, author of Happy No Matter What, and I have been friends for more than 30 years. I first met Carol at a SCWU (Southern California Women for Understanding) meeting. She drove a corvette with a potato in the front seat. That was all it took! We were instant friends.
In her book she writes about everyday people experiencing the challenges of life and how they met those challenges head-on continuing to retain a semblance of happiness in their lives. Several years ago Carol experienced a stroke and she had to start from scratch. Her recovery is remarkable and extraordinary. We talked about her journey since her stroke and how she has rebuilt her life.
Below are challenges (in her own words) that Carol faced:
“I have holes in my short term memory. I have tried 600 times to memorize Patsy Cline I Fall to Pieces and I can’t seem to do it.
I had to go upstairs, three flights four times this morning because I forgot my keys, I forgot my water, and my map of the art tour! I got confused on the freeways at night coming home from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. My eyes are blinded by bright lights coming toward me. It is a wild ride for me.
I get lost and don’t know where I am. I have to wear cotton in my ears all the time because I can’t stand loud noises. They are so painful. I am out of balance because my right side feels 15 pounds heavier than my left side.
I have apraxia which means that I can’t connect what I know and get it out fast enough. The right side of my throat and vocal cords are numb, causing me to have to work really hard when I speak or sing. I have to lie down from fatigue when I speak or sing too much.
I have problems with proprioception, which means I can’t feel the fork in my right hand and I can’t feel where my right arm is in space. So as I’m eating, I have to watch the fork all the time.
I can’t feel my right hand on the mouse. Online job applications are way way, way, too hard for me. I can’t feel my right foot on the gas pedal.
Since my left brain was affected, I have trouble with numbers and facts. I tend to get hurt a lot like a kid, since the left frontal pre-cortex was also affected.”
Since Carol’s stroke she has written two books, paints, (the cover of her book is her work), practices yoga, performs in a vocal chorus, kayaks in the Pacific Ocean, and when she isn’t doing that, she is a docent at the Long Beach Art Museum! She recently completed her 114th hike. This is after the stroke!
While she will tell you that she is limited, I will tell you that she is profound in her determination and my greatest inspiration. Through the years we have had may adventures from roller skating to Leather and Lace meetings on etiquette. Yeah, Carol, I remembered that one!
In Carol’s book she has a passage devoted to humor and gratitude. Two powerful components that make up happiness. In every situation no matter how somber, we need to see humor and gratitude. Not an easy task, I admit but if you can find something to be grateful for and humor in the situation, those two emotions dilute the sting. The key is to identify the happiness core that powers up and let it take charge.
Happiness is always there. I believe that it is our natural state of being. It isn’t something you buy but something you need to uncover from years of being inundated with Madison Avenue propaganda.
I think of happiness as a fruit. The natural sugars of fruit are so sweet. If you pile sugar onto a piece of fruit, after awhile, the natural flavor taste blah. The more sugar, the further you are from enjoying the natural flavor. Hence, the more things need to be happy, the harder it is fine happiness. Happiness comes from within.
Since reading Carol’s book, I have settled into a pattern which has strengthen my preservation of happiness. My copy of Carol’s book looks like it has been through armageddon. I carry it with me in the morning. As I sit in the great outdoors, I’ll flip though the book and randomly land on a page and start reading from there. Recently I opened the book to page 61 titled “Happiness in the Natural World.”
I have found that getting outside as soon as possible in the morning is my first course of action when I start my day. Once you are safely in the natural world, relax. As your breathing becomes rhythmic, breath in the movement around you. The sounds and the stillness. I know that this sounds a bit crazy but I promise if you do this your body will start to acclimate to the patterns of the universe. Adding the sound and movement of running water will infuse the cycle of earth energy into your body keeping you in balance and alignment which equates to the true definition of happiness.
I asked Carol about her morning ritual which is vital to her continued recovery. She told me, “I get up naturally at about 7:10 feeling grateful, listen to motivational YouTube videos by Louise Hay or Oprah. I read a couple of deeply inspirational nature poems of Rumi, or Hafiz. Then I post an inspirational quote tying it in with my own artistic photo on Facebook. Out for a walk at 9 o’clock carrying my iPhone to photograph beauty. At home I send the photos out to someone who looks like they could use more beauty in their life. And then I call a couple of people who are in need of comfort. Often I go to yoga, or swimming, or to the museum, or to vocal performance class.”
Your goal is to do your best to prevent any input that is contrary to your balance.
I recently made the decision to delete my Facebook account. I felt so inundated and agitated with political rhetoric, animal stories that wrenched my heart, countless ads, and postings that honestly should be addressed by a licensed Psychiatrist . ENOUGH! It terrified me but I’m taking small steps to move towards total elimination. I started with deleting it from my phone.
As hard as it was, I also started unfriending people.
In order to maintain the balance of happiness there are other steps I take in the morning and at night. I don’t look at my cell phone in the morning until I’m truly ready to let the outside world in. And when I’m done for the day, I leave my cell phone out of reach and off. That’s it until the next day. I am one of the few people left that actually have a land line. There are only a few people that have that number and for a good reason! That goes for my email too. And finally, I don’t turn on the TV in the morning and turn it off before the news at night! Do I really need to know about, accidents, kidnappings, murders, rapes, and worse of all, the White House??? Keeping all these instruments of torture out of my reach has made a big difference in my increased happiness.
So, what makes me happy? Making the best decisions that increase my balance and the feeling of contentment. My good fortune to have a friend, a mentor, a guide, and a soul that decided to have this human experience with me and reminds me everyday that there is nothing that can stand in the way of my happiness.
And if for some foolish reason, I’ve lost my way, I’ve got the Divine and friends like Carol to set me on my path again.
Happy & Proud
Heidi Hirsch lives in the Los Angeles area with two birds, a bunch of Koi and very demanding squirrels. As a project developer for Reveal Studio, Inc. she oversees the production and development of the themed entertainment division. Heidi has recently achieved the status of “Seasoned Citizen”. In her downtime, she fancies herself as an urban farmer. “Never did I think I would get so excited over tomatoes and cucumbers without salad dressing!”.
About Dr. Carol Bliss
Carol Bliss is an author/artist and award-winning professor. She teaches spirituality, creativity, communication, and ancient wisdom traditions. She is the author of three books on New Thought spirituality and is featured in the graduate text, Media, Spiritualities, and Social Change.
Happy No Matter What