“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”
-Henry Ward Beecher
I agree with the above quote. That said, I would exchange the word “power” with “willingness.” So, my statement would read, “The art of being happy lies in the willingness to extract happiness from common things.”
The silver linings
There is a huge difference between having the power and having the willingness. I can have all the power in the world, but if I do not have the willingness to apply that power, I gain nothing. Perhaps the greatest lesson in life is not in seeing the silver lining but in experiencing it and enjoying it.
Looking beyond cancer
When I focus on my cancer survival, I question everything. Every ache and every pain. I worry and fret every breath. But when I exercise a willingness to extract happiness from the common things, I can look beyond cancer and see beauty.
More than just a cancer survivor
Last week I found myself rolling down a two-lane strip of asphalt, the sun was bright in the mid-day sky, not a cloud in sight. The window was down and my arm rested, lazily, on the door frame. I set the cruise control, near the legal limit, and just took in the beauty of the midwestern day. I was not a cancer survivor. I did not have a scope schedule to think of. No recurrence rates or side effects. I was just a man doing what he truly loves doing, running down the road in a big truck.
I had a willingness to extract simple happiness from a common thing. I have to choose happiness. I have to be willing to look beyond the limits of reality and grasp happiness. I understand the upheaval of cancer. I feel the fear and know the pain of uncertainty. But I am working daily to choose a willingness to find happiness in the common.
Morning coffee. The sunrise or sunset. Even the steady pounding of rain on the windshield. Any of these things can bring joy. I just have to stay open to the happiness in the common. Cancer has taken some things from me, but what is really important is beyond the reach of this disease.
I still wake every morning to a wonderful wife, who loves me in spite of my flaws. I still hear from my kids, daily or nearly every day. I still snuggle the meanest cat in the world. (I love that cat, crazy as he is.)
Searching for happiness despite depression and anxiety
I have dark days. I have days when I am overwhelmed and nearly incapacitated with anxiety. I battle depression and see professionals for help and guidance. I take medication that helps me function. All of these are a reflection of my willingness to extract happiness. I search for it and work for it and seek it as if it were treasure. Happiness is my holy grail. Not some superficial mask of happiness but a true abiding sense of joy.
When I was a child, adults would query, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My response was borne out of a child’s innocence, “I want to be happy.”
Today, after all of the hurdles and challenges, I would amend my answer. “I want to be willing to extract happiness from the common.”
How long did you wait before telling others about your diagnosis?