Friday, October 21, 2011

Sick day

One of the wonderful consequences of cohabiting with the one you love is that you double the probability of getting sick.

When my hubs got sick several days ago, I felt perfectly fine, despite his coughing, sniffling and wheezing all day. But after a few days of nonstop exposure, I too started coughing, sniffling and wheezing. Bleh.

I imagine that once a couple has children, the probability of catching a cold triples or quadruples (depending on the number of kids).

If there is ever a test for my immune system, the future is it.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Being happy

Ever since I was a child, I have wondered what makes people happy.

One of my friends apparently has everything. She is intelligent and attractive, has a high-paying job with minimal hours, does intellectually stimulating work, and has a boyfriend who adores her.

Yet she always finds something to be unhappy about. And she complains.

A lot.

She complains about the boss who likes her so much, he annoys her. (Never mind she always has glowing performance reviews.) She complains about her mortgage payments and interest rate. (Never mind that her salary enables her to pay her mortgage payments tenfold per month.) She complains about her weight. (Never mind that she's skinny as a stick.)

Her negativity extends beyond herself to her immediate surroundings and acquaintances. Suppose I planned a soiree and 99.9% of it went swimmingly. Afterwards, she will bluntly point out the 0.1% that went awry and discuss how it went awry.

This behavior irks me because:

(1) Negativity is contagious. If I am surrounded by negativity, I begin to breed negativity.

(2) She has so much more going for her. To complain about her weight in front of ladies heavier than she is, or complain about finances in front of ladies who make less than she does or who don't even have a job is uncouth, to say the least.

And then it occurred to me: She might be incapable of being happy. Something fundamental in her chemical wiring renders it impossible to be happy. No life circumstance -- no matter how wonderful or serendipitous -- could ever make her happy.

Then I think about my other girlfriend. She grew up without a father, and so her mother struggled financially throughout her childhood. She was sexually abused by an uncle when she was in high school. And not too long ago, her mother passed away from a long battle with ovarian cancer. She does not make that much money and works long hours, yet somehow, she is a happier person. Yes, she suffered when awful events occurred, but she never lost her natural tendency to be positive and forward thinking.

This friend is somehow hard-wired to be a happier person, regardless of life circumstance.

I remember a study that I once heard that struck me. (Bear in mind, it could be from a movie or novel and, therefore, entirely fictional.) It was a study of two groups of people over a six-month period. One group tended to be positive and happy. The other group tended to be negative and unhappy. The study then focused on positive life experiences, such as winning the lottery or getting married, and negative life experiences, such as becoming quadriplegic, or losing a spouse or friend.

It turned out that when the positive/happy group suffered negative life events, they were temporarily depressed, but eventually reverted back to their positive/happy state. And when the negative/unhappy group enjoyed positive life events, they were temporarily uplifted before reverting back to their negative/unhappy state.

Are some people born with a physiology that enables them to be happier than others?

Is happiness simply a matter of neurological fate?

As for me, I think I've become happier as I've gotten older. Maybe because I found a life partner. Maybe because I learned not to sweat the small stuff as much. Maybe because I have a little more perspective on life. It takes time to realize that the things that do inevitably go wrong in life end up working out, albeit not perfectly. And after experiencing the passing of a friend or relative, you learn to focus on the important things in life instead of trivial matters.

I have distanced myself from the above-mentioned negative friend, and grown closer to the happy friend. And I think that helped too. Surrounding oneself with positive people rather than negative folks uplifts the mood.

These are the things I tell myself when I get annoyed by an obnoxious driver during rush hour or a snide remark at work. They are what they are -- inconsequential life circumstances that have no bearing on my happiness.
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