How To Be Happy (For No Good Reason)

Written by Hollye Dexter

On Thursday, as many of you know, we lost a second round of court battles for custody of our dog Stitch. After three years of fighting, fundraising, campaigning…you could say I was depressed. Extremely depressed, in fact.
The next morning, as I was driving to yoga, I was running the whole thing over in my mind. Why is this happening? What am I going to do? And there in front of me, a car had a bumper sticker which read, “Be persistent. PRESS ON.”  I knew it was the truth, but that truth was daunting to me. More fight. More legal bills. More court appearances. Add to that that we are simultaneously trying to figure out how to get our two-year old grandson (who was taken by his mother to Japan) back into our lives. I could barely hold my head up with the weight of all my worries.
That night, too exhausted to cook, Troy, Evan and I went out to dinner at a little hole in the wall Mexican joint we frequent. Our posture was slumped, our faces drawn, but our busboy cheerfully delivered water and greeted us with such exuberance we couldn’t help but smile back. In fact, all through our meal, Jose would breeze through with a big smile, refilling our waters, bringing us chips and salsa with a few kind words thrown in.
I was perplexed. In my mind I assessed (judged) his situation. I mean, here is this grey-haired guy in his sixties, working as a busboy at a Mexican restaurant in the Valley. How happy could he be? But he was, and just being around him throughout the meal, I felt my spirits lift a little.
As we were about to leave, I told him, “I’ve really enjoyed being around your happy attitude tonight. You’ve made our meal very pleasant.”
 “I’m olways heppy!” he said in a heavy accent.
“How?” I heard myself say, “I mean, how do you do it?”
He smiled, pointed to his head and said, “Jou decide.”
Troy shot me a knowing look.
In the Dalai Lama’s book, The Art of Happiness, he says more or less the same thing. Happiness is an attitude you cultivate. Challenges will come in life, but you can decide to be happy, anyway. The Dalai Lama says in order to achieve happiness: focus on the things that make you happy, and do those things. (Conversely, find the things that bring you unhappiness, and avoid those things.)
Simple enough, right? Ridiculously simple.
And yet how often I spend time lamenting over things that have happened in the past (like losing an appeal) or worrying about things that may happen in the future (like losing another appeal), when I could refocus my energy onto all I have to be grateful for right now. I can focus on the things that make me happy and do those things, no matter what other challenges come.
As Jose, our Dalai-Busboy said, “Every morning, jou wake up, you poot jour feet on the floor, say Gracias! Jou are alive!”
Wisdom is most often delivered when I least expect it. It can be in the form of a bumper sticker, or a cheerful busboy in Canoga Park. When I’m paying attention, the answers are there.
I’ve got a load of challenges on my plate right now, and at times they appear to be insurmountable, but I’ve also got choices in how I want to live.
I want to be happy.
I know that happiness, like a garden, must be cultivated. If my garden is choked with weeds, happiness can not thrive. It is my choice to weed out unhappiness, worry, negativity, and to nurture and water happiness.
Like my friend Jose said, “Jou decide…”

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  1. Judy N

    The older I get, the more important it is to make that choice. But there is a discipline to remembering. You always inspire me to work harder at it. Thank you.

  2. Hollye Dexter

    Believe me, Judy, I write these posts to remind myself!

  3. Cathy

    Gosh darn it! I wish we lived closer to each other. I'd love to sip tea with you and talk about the Dolly Llama, and the Barbie Dolly Llama, and the llama farm.
    "The llama (Lama glama) is a domesticated South American camelid, widely used as …"

    "Lama (Tibetan: "chief" or "high priest") is a title for a Tibetan teacher of …"
    The real live Dalai Lama frequently uses humor, for himself and in his teachings. Humor works, oh how it works. I would not be alive today if I hadn't laughed my way out of anger, depression and suicidal thoughts. I know I've mentioned this before-it's my opinion, or "my way " and I humbly think it's worth repeating: peace and happiness became part of me when I awakened to the concept that living and dying are the same thing. It is simple.It just is. Zen. Or not to zen.There is no question. Ha ha, there are many questions,and many answers, or guesses. You might also like to read Sogyl Rinpoche and Thich Nhat Hanh, and Joan Halifax who wrote "Being With Dying. One need not be terminally ill, or have an ill loved one to garner new perspectives and understanding that make new concepts seem attainable. Your passion is tangible, and will help fuel you on your path. Now let's spill tea and chuckle Cheers!

  4. Deb and Barbara

    Oh, this is so so wonderful. And timely for me too. We get into slumps, don't we, when it appears everything is "falling apart" instead of "building us up". You are surely a better and better person for your travails. And, in your case, I truly believe the justice system will also become a better one (after all the shit goes down). Loving you!!! xoxo

  5. That Uncomfortable Itch

    This is so spot on and so very time for me. Thanks so much for sharing your story. It's so easy to get caught up in your own head and focus on all the noise. Cheers and peace to you and your family and wee Stitch.


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