48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Posts Tagged ‘happy’

Essay #14: joy is a vitamin

In Love on June 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm

“I’ve wasted enough time not being happy,” said Jessica Lange (Oprah Magazine, April 2009). “I regret those times I’ve chosen the dark side.”

So many brilliant, beautiful women choose the dark side: actors, writers, mothers. There’s tons in the arts, exploring the seamy side of life. Which is fine. But when it becomes your only reality, when it became my only reality, it almost killed me. I forgot about joy. I turned away from love. Happiness was a myth I couldn’t access. I was out of balance — koyaanisqatsi.

Now that I’ve found my happiness code, where do I install it? Everywhere? Every day?

A few weeks ago I tried to talk myself into auditioning for a play I do not like, produced by a playhouse I do not respect, for minimal pay. I thought it would be “good” for me, good practice. The day of the audition I woke up crying.

I finally let myself cancel the appointment. A week or so later, in conversation with an actor who worked with this particular playhouse, I learned that rehearsals are grueling and the director mean and moody. I had been spared.

I’ve spent way too much time making myself do things I don’t want to. I defer fun until the house is clean and the dishes are done and I have a good-paying job.

But joy is a vitamin – you need a little every day. “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats,” wrote Iris Murdoch.

Continuous small treats.
And they don’t have to cost much. I can treat myself by making spaghetti al pesce for dinner, blowing bubbles, rollerskating, dancing, jumping in the water, picking flowers. Playing.

Recently I made French toast for breakfast. I had the right bread and my favorite syrup and plenty of butter. As I was cooking, I felt an upwelling of pleasure and happiness. “You gave me what I want!” The kid in me danced around and laughed. “Thank you!”

My French toast happiness fed me for days. Everything was easier — work, communicating, even running errands.

Joy is so much cheaper than misery.
Try it.

Essay #6: the happiness code

In Love on April 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I’ve been editing a website for a non-profit.
Uploading text has been simple enough, but suddenly I was unable to change photos.

I followed directions, to the letter. The new photo appeared in the draft, but when I updated and uploaded the page — no photo.

I tried again and again. Maybe I didn’t click all the buttons, check all the boxes.
The photo wouldn’t change.
It should’ve changed (I did everything right!), but it didn’t.

Eventually, frustrated, I stopped and sat and thought.

Computers do exactly what they’re told. They follow programming, to the letter.
Since it wouldn’t do what I asked, it must be doing what someone else asked.
Something I didn’t know about.

Sure enough, I dug around and found other programming in effect, overriding my commands to change the picture. Unbeknownst to me, someone had added header code. I neutralized the code by de-selecting it. Now I can add and change photos 15 times a day.

I didn’t create the underlying code, but it affected me, nonetheless.

Which lead me to think about my ‘happiness code.’

Over the years various people tried to convince me that I deserve to be happy. I rarely believed them. Despite different therapies and methods — affirmation, visualization, cognitive this, meditative that — the picture wouldn’t change.

Perhaps my ‘happiness code’ got deleted, or changed into ‘unhappiness code.’

One day, after her name popped up in too many places to ignore, I checked out Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is. She advocates investigation. Her method in brief: write down the thought or belief, then question it — is it true? Let the answer arise.

Turns out I’ve been believing lies:
You shouldn’t be happy – your brother is dead.
You shouldn’t be happy – your mother may die.
You shouldn’t be happy – your father left.
You shouldn’t be happy – you are bad.

Installed and coded in five-year-old flesh.
Along with millions of other conflicting beliefs.

I don’t deserve to be happy – is that even true? What’s the reality?
Deserving has nothing to do with happiness. I can think of many people (warmongers, anyone?) who do not deserve to be happy. Yet there they are, blithely blissful, regardless of what I believe.

And if the tables were turned, and I was dead and Johnny alive, I wouldn’t want him to believe some stupid ass concept like You don’t deserve to be happy. That’s crazy! I’d want him to be as happy and healthy as possible, every single day of his life.


If it’s not true for him, it’s probably not true for me.

I didn’t create the code, but I am learning to change the picture.