“Say Cheese.” That’s what us photographers do when we want someone to paint a smile on his or her face. A smile, it seems, is the easiest way to convey happiness. But what really makes us smile? What are the ingredients that are needed to produce a genuine smile? My parents were particularly fond of succinct proverbs and homilies. I suspect they parroted the same ones they heard when they were growing up. Although the modest maxims may seem simplistic and even trite, put together, they are some of the main ingredients of happiness.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” (Without health, happiness is next to impossible.) “ A place for everything and everything in its place.” (Keep your life clean and in order). “A penny saved is a penny earned.” (Financial security is a good thing.) “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” (Be grateful for what you have.) Waste not, want not.” (Conservation is ultimately service to others.) “Better to wear out than to rust out.” (Keep learning; keep exploring.) “The best things in life are free.” (Love is a choice.) “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” (Don’t make one thing the source of all your happiness.)
I think we are all like Swiss cheese; full of holes. Happiness comes when those holes are filled. As we go on life’s journey the shape and size of those individual holes changes. Life is an organic thing. The loss of love, financial woes or a medical emergency opens up enormous holes in all of us. It can take quite a while for those holes to fill up again. Sometimes we overfill holes, putting too much importance on a couple things. Some of us find one thing that seems to fill up all our holes. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and money fill up those holes quicker and easier than anything else. Those things, of course, have limited effectiveness. Lucky people wind up finding a twelve-step program.
It seems like a lot of work filling holes and finding and maintaining happiness. Sort of like a road crew fixing potholes. My holes always start draining during the holidays. It’s not just the holidays (I’m one of those people who hates being told I MUST do something). It’s the weather. It’s the lack of sunshine. I think I may even have a weather-specific hole. However, I’m lucky that when it’s sunny and warm the fill-level of my holes is at least on a tolerable level. All I have to do is absorb the sun and let it happen. As I write, the clouds over Chico are breaking and I can see a bands of blue sky. There are streaks of sunlight painting the distant hills and the steaks are moving my way. I can already feel my holes filling up. Think I’ll go for a walk.“Say cheese!”