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Happiness is like an unending boxing match with everybody weighing in on the subject, taking shots, then rolling with the punches while trying to get a knockout.  The world is our ring, and society is the coach and referee, guiding, gauging, ruling and regulating the fight. The opening bell  rang when you were conceived. The first punch was when your parents realized that you were making your debut into their lives, and guess what they thought: "Are we happy about this?" Next punch, you were born and they wondered: "Is the baby happy?" And of course your cute little smile and twinkling eyes landed a straight jab to their chins. End of round one.

Round two: You're all grown up now. One year old. It's your birthday, and mom and dad are busy organizing your first party, buying presents, inviting guests, and decorating the halls with your favorite animated character. You didn't see the hook coming. You're a bit dazed but soon things clear up and you throw a combo of smiles, giggles, and handclaps which puts them on the ropes. The referee ( guests and well-wishers) steps in for the 'eight count'  (comments on the happy birthday girl/boy  and the nice party) which helps your parents quickly recover to finish the round. Each of you retire to your 'perspective corner' feeling good about the 'happiness' bout.

Round three: You're really grown up now. Eighteen years old. It's graduation day. Mom and dad are ahead on the happiness scorecard due to all the support, money, and gifts you've received over the years. Your rehashed version of smiles, giggles, hugs, and handclaps have weakened to pitty-pat punches compared to what they've delivered, so today you give them a power upper cut. You think: "Are my parents happy?" The referee and coach are there in the form of family, friends, teachers, and community leaders. All give their reassurance that this occasion is happy, will spawn happy consequences, and leads to a happy life.

 From this day forth, the subsequent rounds for happiness turn into a hit and miss crap shoot for the majority of people. The polished tried and true methods which previously allowed us to swiftly stick and move become hackneyed, predictable sludge, typically producing lusterless results. Some of us become sluggers, bruised and worn down after years of struggling to gain happiness by means and techniques taught by our societal coaches, stubbornly pursuing the happy goal. We pull punches and reserve our energy so that we may go the distance, often, arriving at the disillusionment of the happiness philosophy. The promoters for happiness include happiness projects, books, courses, movies, music, colors, affirmations, jewelry, crystals, drugs, happiness sampler kits (I guess you can sample happy), happiness candles, feng shui happiness pouches, happy meals, and, the now commonplace, happy face. How many ways can you package happy?

The entire happy 'program' can be overwhelming in life. You are expected to be happy, pursue happiness, and live happily. Unfortunately, most of us don't really know what it is. We talk about happiness and 'true happiness' as if they are two different things, as if one is false and the other real. Not so long ago, we would chitchat about strolling down 'happy lane', but developers have grown it into an entire district, so it's not so easy to cover anymore. What was once a simple portion of life is now a full blown doctrine with theories, formulas, and principles.

I was just about ready to throw in the towel on happiness when I found myself kissing the canvas, bare knuckled, and talking a walk on Queer Street after a 54 year battle. Seriously ill, out of work, financially strapped, and with one remaining invalid parent, I arrived at a point, stunned out of my mind. I realized that happiness would never be attained while I was in my mind. The mind is just like a babbling brook, constantly provoking thoughts, ideas, and conflicts, filling up the essential space needed to experience happiness. When I experienced a quiet mind and was devoid of all the expectations, conditions, presumptions, beliefs, values, and ethics placed upon me by the outside world, I felt a freedom I call happiness.

When we stop the fight, the search, the anticipation for happiness, it appears. As clear as a bell, the sound of silence will ring through you bringing peace to your whole being. You will feel relaxed, breathe easier, and a light mood will engulf you. A smile forms, you may chuckle, and the twinkle in your eyes return. As you continue this 'opening' of yourself, you will see that happiness is actually peace disguised, contained, and disallowed by an unyielding box. Step out of the box, step out of the ring. Embrace peace and get happiness.