From The Publisher

Dearest EXPLORE Reader,

I read a lot.

In my previous life, I was a voracious reader of fiction, and had read every Stephen King book multiple times over. As I’ve gotten older, I have found that I read a lot of stuff about self-improvement. Some of it is in the printed form, and some of it is online, but of the few sites that I frequent each day, several of them are of the “self-improvement” category.  I still read some fiction, but I suppose I found that the time spent “getting lost” in a book could more effectively be spent “getting lost” in myself.

I’ve learned a lot via this reading. I am by no means improved to the point that I no longer need to do self-improvement reading, but I have certainly learned enough about how I operate that I have made a lot of changes in my life for the better. For that, I am proud.

One of the things that I have read over and over, via multiple authors, is this most profound statement: BE HAPPY.

This has frustrated me to no end as I find it so overly simplistic as actually impossible to follow. As if we can all just wake up each day and go “Wow – I’m just going to be HAPPY today!” and we snap our fingers and are instantly transported to utopia.  Some of the authors unpack the pursuit of happiness, and some of them outright just say “Be happy every day. No matter what. You can do it. It’s your choice.”

What about while someone in your family is dying? What about when you are in serious financial trouble? What about when one of your kids was just arrested? You expect me to believe that we can simply make a choice to be happy, and that it’s as easy as that? Bologna.

I have become so frustrated at this sentiment that I’m deciding to re-write this chapter titled “BE HAPPY” to something more realistic. Just call me Dr. Schooley.

I lost my only brother in 2013 after about a year long bout with a particularly wicked form of cancer. He was 34. Was this a happy time? Absolutely, positively not. It was grueling and heart-wrenching, and frankly, it continues to this day.

I have a friend that is broke. As in, he is so ridiculously broke financially that he literally has to worry about what he’s going to feed his kids tonight for dinner, and he’ll probably have to run by the Food Pantry for assistance. He’s behind on his rent, his car is going to be repossessed soon, and bill collectors call him day and night.

My neighbor has been dragged through divorce hell for the past few years. He has been divorced a while now, but his ex is so unbelievably hell-bent on destroying him that she is getting dangerously close to succeeding. He rarely gets to see his son, and even when he does, it comes at a tremendous emotional and financial toll, and as soon as he is able to be with his son, his ex flares up with a new accusation and he is dragged back into the blender. It’s heart-wrenching to watch a healthy loving father being emotionally ruined simply out of spite.

Of my 3 examples above, do you think that these people can wake up and throw open the curtains to the morning sun and say “What a glorious day! I think today I shall choose to be happy!” Well, yes and no I suppose.

With each of these people, there are (and were) times of happiness. And laughter. And hugs and joy and light-heartedness. Yes, my brother was dying but there were still afternoons of happiness as we spent time together. My friend that is broke still went to RANDOM with me the other day and laughed until his stomach hurt. My sad father still had a beer with me on my tailgate a few nights ago and we laughed and encouraged one another and enjoyed our time. I suppose, we were HAPPY even when we had no business being happy.

I’m not very happy right now, and I suppose that I haven’t been for the last 5 years. I’m tired and broke down and sick of the struggle that life has been. I’m not looking for pity, I’m just being honest. But while I’ve been unhappy, have I also had times of happiness? The answer is YES. I have taken the road trip and had the great meal and enjoyed great company and experienced happiness. I would hazard a guess that my other 2 friends would probably say the same.

So if we’re capable of being happy in the midst of unhappiness…could we actually make the choice to simply be happy?

Somebody told me one time that “it’s impossible to splash a little happiness around and not get some of it on yourself.” I have thought about that statement countless times over the years and I think that it contains far more truth than something as simple as “BE HAPPY.” The reality is that, as humans, there are times that we are unhappy. It could be one day, one week, or a complete decade. However, in the midst of all this unhappiness, I think that we DO have the power and strength to choose to allow happiness to find us. We all know people that just seem to miserable. 24/7/365 they just hate everything and everyone. Even when a cute kid runs by laughing, they grumble and remain miserable. This is not the person I’m talking about because I think that person simply wants to miserable and works hard to remain there. I’m talking about you and I that really, truly WANT to be HAPPY.

I know I’m probably not making any sense and I need to wrap things up anyway. I guess my point is that while I sit in my crappy little office, listening to the rain splash against the window, and with light classical music playing, I am just trying to say that life really, really sucks sometimes. But as much as it might suck, there’s far more beauty and happiness out there that we don’t enjoy because we’re so focused on the sucky part. I’m as guilty as the next person.

I’m no better at any of this as I was yesterday, but I’m at least trying to see it for what it is. I would hope that on my deathbed I won’t remember the stupid stressors and heartache I experienced, but rather, would remember my happiness and how I hopefully enjoyed a good life. My “good life” may not be as good as some, but this one is mine, and much of the work to realize the happiness falls on my shoulders.

My self-improvement continues.

Welcome to May. School is almost out, the temps are rising, and I hope that you venture out, EXPLORE, and not stop until you find all the happiness that this world has to offer.



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