Monday, September 23, 2019

On Joy

 Annamaria on Monday

Warning: These thoughts are stream of consciousness. None are lies. Some are absolutely true.  Some might be.  Some might contain only a kernel of truth. Some might be a bunch of baloney, but if there is baloney here, it is not intentional on my part.

I’ll start with some facts:

This post is inspired by Michael’s thought-provoking essay last Thursday on Authentic Happiness. If you have not read it, you can find it here. It began by naming me and Stan Trollip as folks who ought to be discussing such a subject. 

I wondered why Michael said that.  Perhaps he will tell us.  My guess, when it comes to me: it’s because I am generally a cheerful person.  As far as I have seen, Stan is too.

My default mood, I can assure you, is happy.  Thanks to reading Michael's blog, I now have evidence to support that statement. Here are my results from the Happiness Questionnaire described in Michael's post:

Yup!  My rating is right up there. Why so?  Well, in an effort to understand what makes some people happier than others, I’ve been ruminating about possible causes of my own elation.

One theory that I’ve long held is that my cheery personality comes from my natural body chemistry.  Here is me at fourteen months old: 

I can feel that joyful kid still inside me.  Perhaps the people who find my pretty much unrelenting enthusiasm annoying ought to forgive me.  After all, if I am hard-wired to be blissful, what choice do I have?

Lately, I have read about how the mix of flora in one's gut has a great deal of influence on the mood of any individual human being.  There's quite a bit of  research into this.  Here is a list of articles if you are interested.

If it's my intestinal critters that make me elated, I think I understand why.  They have had a steady diet of Italian food.  This in fact, might be the explanation for the high energy and positivity among Italians in general.  I know that by and large, the cultural norm among Italians is to joke in times of adversity.  Go little pasta, parmigiana, and coffee-ized microbes!

Be Italian!  

I do get sad, of course, like anyone else.  And angry.  And disappointed.  And doubtful sometimes.  But negative feelings never stick with me for very long.

And, by the way, I had a very difficult childhood.  To protect family members who badly mistreated me, I won't go into detail about this.  I will say that the result of those traumas was that I have gone through a lot of my life trying to deserve affection.  Whatever all that has to do with this question, I think my usual treatment of others has brought me a lot of wonderful friends who give me myriad reasons to be joyful.

Those dark days long ago  also convinced me that the world does not owe me bliss.  I have always known that if I was going find happiness, I would have to go out and earn it.  And my upbringing also makes me feel incredibly lucky when lovely things happen to me.  And they regularly do, much to my delight.  Jaded people, I think, examine the small joys that come to them and find them negligible.  They may mock a cock-eyed optimist like me who embraces life's little gifts and says "Whooopie."

I'd rather be me.

Here is where these ruminations are going to turn jejune.  Tough if you don't believe this part.  I do.

My childhood was not sophisticated.  Hence, my poetry as a child was the words from the Great American Songbook.  What those lyricists wrote has given me my sense of what makes people happy.  LOVE.

I think all those glum university students described in Michale's blog, who report such sorrow and ennui, are victims of the times they live in.  They focus so much on themselves that they can't let go and fall in love.  Not with another person.  Not even with an idea.  From everything I have read about twenty-first century social mores and customs, people don't make love anymore.  They have sex.  How liberated!  How sophisticated!  How modern!  How very sad.  Do they giggle?  Or do they just grunt?  Do they reach ecstasy or just orgasm?  I know.  This is a bit graphic for a family blog.  But really.  When I say love, I mean in all its forms.

And getting love is not answer.  Giving it is the key.  "Make someone happy... and you will be happy too."  How trite.  How true.  This can refer to one special person, whose very presence, whose voice on the phone fills your brain with endorphins. 

Or it can be a whole group of people.  Seeing smiles that you have put on other people's faces will make you do the happy dance.  It will lift your spirits so high, you won't come down for days.  Believe me.  I know!

Want to be happy?  Make someone happy.  Make as many people happy (or better off or less lonely) as you can.


  1. Great post, Annamaria! And lots of good thoughts. I feel happier already!

    For the record, I mentioned you and Stan because you both have expertise in, and have worked professionally with, human behavioral and psychological issues. I'm very much an amateur in that area.

  2. Thank you, Michael, for your kind words and for your inspiration. Your friendship adds appreciably to my happy state!

  3. You are one of life's radiators, Annamaria. I don't mean that you're made of cast iron and make strange gurgling noises in the night but that people can't help wanting to get closer to you because of the warmth you exude!

  4. Thank you for these sweet words, Zoe. I may very well make gurgling noises in the night, though. Not a theory I have the means to test at the moment. :))

  5. I'm very unhappy, sis, because I could swear I posted a witty comment to this post virtually the moment it went up...on my mobile--which may be the culprit. I don't remember specifically what i wrote then in the state of unique euphoria you'd transported me to with your boundless, effervescent, bouncing, contagious (other modifiers provided upon request) enthusiasm, but it sure was great for me. :)