5 Ways to Avoid the Happiness Hijacker


Has your light ever faded? You know what I mean? The wind of contention, even the slightest breeze, comes along, and extinguishes your sense of well being. There you are, fumbling around in the dark, bruising your shin on the coffee table, tripping over trivial things? Which leads to cussing and blaming of the poor soul who mistakenly snuffed out your light? Sometimes it’s referred to as Karma, and as you know, she’s a bitch.

But then something miraculous happens. 

Someone comes along, offers you a smidgeon of kindness, and it’s as if encountering a blow torch, you’re reignited, back in the light, flickering flame of joy, ready to host a marshmallow roast. 

Wait a minute – is it really that easy?

Oh thee of little faith. 

I’m compelled to explore this seemingly irreverent topic, even if it takes me to places I prefer to avoid, dissecting my own life in search of evidence. You’re welcome. I have decades of research. It’s not filed or anything, try not to judge me, it’s Christmas, 13 days and counting. 

It appears I fall prey to this hijacking act when I let someone down, usually myself, or encounter seeds of anger. Which of course I water, dowsing my little flame in the process, as if someone called Cal Fire. I know you’re trying to be helpful? Please don’t.

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. John 12:46

For example, let’s consider the annual Christmas card fiasco, I want it to represent an entire year, well actually only the good parts. Right? The perfect picture that captures the light, the smiles, the false reality I’m hoping to project. It doesn’t exist. How could it? Larry’s ready to use a grainy picture from two years ago, that makes me look fat, and half the family is missing. I’m not willing to settle. We start watering our angry seeds, I’m perturbed, he’s exasperated. Merry Christmas. 


The thing I find most troubling is how determined I am to serve my own needs. The majority of my frustrations have to do with foiled expectations I set for others. Especially when it comes to Christmas cards. Yes, that is right, I am officially my own worst enemy, an odious disappointment.

What is a flameless (shameless fits here too) woman to do?

Here’s a clue, be kind, someone within arms length needs your affection right now, don’t be a statue, respond!  

I have a secret weapon, it’s true, most of you know her as Nancy, but she’s my sister, and although I lend her out on a case to case basis, she’s mine. She happens to be the definition of kindness (what the hell happened to me you might ask ~ second born ~ we only get half the attention). It doesn’t matter what I do, she’s supportive, even if she has to spin my behavior to find an upside. She does this because she loves me, and love liberates says Maya Angelou, it doesn’t just hold, that’s all ego. She’s a liberator, my little lamp lighter, and I’m enormously grateful.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

If you don’t have a secret weapon, call me, and I’ll give you Nancy’s number as backup (try not to abuse my secret weapon)!

Some people (I won’t mention names) turn to their fur babies. I know it’s not for everyone, but if you have one, they are pure presence (in a simplistic way). Shaggy, my Portuguese Water dog, lays peacefully at my feet, total acceptance, no expectations, and best of all he seems fairly happy that I exist. See, you find what you are looking for, even if it’s only validation. 

And then there’s pure, unsolicited information, and as luck would have it, this article fell into my lap, well sort of, it was actually sent to my email, by Krista Tippett (my BFF) of On Being, and it explores the practice of mindfulness as a way of preserving our happiness. Can you believe it? I realize the term mindfulness is overused, abused, and possibly annoying, but Thich Nhat Hanh makes it so appealing, like Eve, I took the bait, and now I’m offering it to you. 

He asks us to consider ourselves as five year old children, fragile, easily wounded, sort of delinquent, and with simple breathing exercises (meditation), he asks us to show compassion to ourselves. I repeat. He asks us to show compassion to ourselves

I realize six of you just signed off.

Stay with me, you don’t want to miss the list, it comes near the end, so you’ll keep reading.

Thich Nhat Hanh (full article linked below) calls us towards compassion, not just for ourselves, but he asks us to extend this compassion to the woundedness of others. A simple idea with enormous impact. 

You “carry” your reality

with you all the time.

It is a question of how

you choose to interpret

the things occupying the reality

you are “carrying

Gordana Biernat

Thich Nhat Hanh says it is important to heal our interior wounds or we risk bringing these wounds into our relationships, into our children’s lives, and out into the world. It might start with the Christmas card, but it quickly moves on to bigger things, like dinner options, visa bills, and a vacuous social calendar. Is there no end to the contention? 

No, but there are techniques that can be helpful. 

He says we have to be careful to produce thoughts that are in line with right thinking, the kind of thinking that goes along with empathy, understanding and compassion. I know, it’s not easy, coffee helps. 

He claims, we have opportunities to produce right thinking in every moment of our lives, your words bear your signature, and that becomes your legacy. Um, this is sort of important. By the way Jesus had the same message, a radical reordering of our priorities, where extreme acts of kindness are common place, it’s called the reign of God. Get on board people! 

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Mother Teresa

The quality of our happiness depends on the quality of seeds we carry, plant, and water. What we see, hear, read, eat, drink, or think either nourishes the good or feeds the bad in us (yes, just for the sake of transparency, lust, lies, gluttony, pride, envy, greed, anger, and laziness are bad, sorry). Therefore what comes out of us is reflective of our interior environment. I realize manure is normally considered a fertilizer, but in this circumstance, not so much. 

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” Robert A. Heinlein

Environment is crucial. You become that which you surround yourself with, so choose wisely, toxic people are not only without light, they are professional happiness hijackers. Who has time for that? 

As a couple (not necessarily married) there are ways to avoid suffering. Who knew? Thich Nhat Hanh says by acknowledging the harmful seeds each of us carries, and committing to not watering those seeds in each other, we can avoid all sorts of pain in our relationships. If I choose not to water your seeds of anger, jealousy, and fear, and you promise not to water mine, we protect each other. See how that works? We also have good seeds, which germinate awakening, compassion, joy and forgiveness, but it takes awareness to satiate these vibrant roots. Get a watering can.  
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing  
and right doing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”  
Jalal Ad-Din Rumi
Love is warm, inviting, compassionate, palpable, manifest through our very actions. And by the way words count, see he’s about to be made flesh, bringing his undouseable light into the world, so that we may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) 

Clift notes on avoiding the Happiness Hijacker:

You will need…
1. Three nice people in your life, two at a bare minimum, who are available 24/7, and love you. (References available upon request).
2. A good dog, cat, bird, or fish (if you have commitment issues).
3. To smile, reach out, assist, calm, compliment, forgive, support, restore, rectify, remedy, and liberate one another, especially your significant other. (Hello, it’s not all about me).
4. Meditate on your inner child, better yet meditate on your wounded children, carefully bandaging the most painful abrasions, and set those babies free. (That is the objective)
5. Stop expecting others to do what you want. (just stop) 

They say you find that which you are looking for? It’s true. In times of distress look for the heros says Mr. Rogers. These are the lamplighters, spreading good cheer, watering the good seeds every where they go. 

In spite of all the contrary evidence, if we search for the good in each other, we will find it. It’s what Santa does, “gonna find out who’s naughty or nice,” because it matters, kindness is a gift, bestowed by those who are wise (think gold, frankincense, and myrrh). The good news is while we wait in joyful hope, we can act as beacons for each other, so those of us stumbling around in the darkness, can avoid bruising their shins. Do I hear an amen?

There is only one thing that makes one truly grow old, to grow old interiorly: not age, but sin. Sin makes one old, because it makes the heart inflexible. It closes it, renders it inert, it makes it wither. Pope Francis


I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll sing some Christmas carols. 

Anecdotes: 

  • Embracing the Child Within – Thich Nhat Hanh link to full podcast and transcript. Thanks Krista. 
  • They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” Tom Bodett
  • “I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.” Nikos Kazantzakis,

2 Comments

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  1. Hello! Thank you for again giving me something to think (and write) about as we head toward the shortest (aka dreariest) day of the ear. Your words give me pause, and allow me to reflect upon myself and my life. My life is filled with numerous ups and downs. The downs are invariably work related or due to fatigue. When work is too stressful and I am too tired it is a double whammy, and I invariable think about when it will be time to hang it up, so to speak. But then, as you point out, something happens, and the clouds are swept away. Be that a smile from Gail, a call from the kids, a great song, kind words from a patient or just fun with friends. I chuckle at your mention of the annual Christmas card fiasco, though that is not really my cross to bear (thank you Gail.) The saga of which pictures to include, what to write, the invariable typo that is missed, the new typo created when the old typo is fixed. Oh well, thankfully I pretty much don’t care that my hair is out of place, or that a few pounds have been added (ok, I lie, that one pisses me off.) With regards to your secret weapon, I have news for you. She is not so secret. I have met her and the jig is up. You won the sister is a saint lottery. Well, I have to confess. You introduced me to something or someone new. Thich Nhat Hanh An amazing man and an amazing life. As MLK said, his ideas and works, if applied to the world, would be a monument to ecumenism. The reflections on watering only the good seeds; truly words to live by. And then you had to sneak in a Heinlein quote. One of my favorite authors. Gail and I both loved the Moon is a harsh Mistress, and she constantly brings up how some jokes are only funny to guys (ie my jokes are not funny,) and what makes a joke funny only once or repeatedly (a theme explored by a sentient computer in the book.) I like Heinlein for the adventure, she likes it for the deep thought.My favorite Heinlein quotes: “Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.” Or: “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards. “And of course, his popularization of the acronym: TANSTAAFLAnyway, I drag on. Thanks for spreading some sunshine. And as you have said before, choose happy.Oh, and you thought you we wouldn’t notice a little Tom Bodett. Well, when you and Larry visit, “we will leave the light on for you.”So, sticking to the religious theme,The Rivers of Babylon, Psalm 137 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDYAqz603TE

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  2. Greetings Mike, It is a good day when I see your reflection appear in the comments. This morning I woke up at the lake (Larry and I drove up late last night to attend a winery event). There was warm coffee brewing, a fire set, with a little drizzle and fog going on outside, so perfect. I snuggle into my favorite chair, wrap up in a blanket, and prepare to properly enjoy your thoughts. Work woes seems to be the topic of the day. My girlfriend Sue and I were just discussing the energy drain caused by stressful work weeks, long hours (darker days), and unruly people who seem bent on creating as much chaos as possible in the office. We both agreed age is part of the equation. What's a middle-aged person to do?I feel as if I'm impatiently awaiting for my 21st birthday, I have this idea that I will finally be free to explore new realms of possibilities, but it's months away, and the days are passing slowly. I'm on a new cusp these days, retirement is just around the corner, but the truth is I fear the reality of retirement will not match up to this image I've built up in my mind. You know what I mean? Will I be bored, will there be too much time on my hands, will I feel useless, unchallenged, spending my days waiting for the children to drop by? It could be a total disaster. Or not? Time to linger with my thoughts, read all those books I've been collecting, write that novel, travel, middle of the week dinner parties, finally organize the pantry? Who knows? It's the thing I play with in my day dreams but secretly hope it will never become a reality.I'm so glad you've been introduced to Thich Nhat Hanh! I love his stuff. I remember a time in my life with I was feeling overwhelmed and I read something by Hanh that helped me sort things out. He said life is like a tangerine, you peel it, and consume only one section at a time, enjoying the flavors, and experiences singly but know they are all part of the same orange. I'm sure I'm botching his point but it helped me at the time. I absolutely love the writing quote (wash your hands afterwards) by Heinlein (that might end up in a blog!) And it is true, \”There ain't no such thing as a free lunch,\” interesting this saying refers to the 19th century practice where American bars started offering a \”free lunch\” in order to entice drinking customers! But I agree nothing is free.I so enjoyed sipping coffee with you this morning Mike and of course the Rivers of Babylon playing in the background. It's bound to be a good day ~ thank you.

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