Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Happy Endings


Do I wish that I could freely hop onto a train from 93/4 platform and escape to Hogwarts  or go shopping for a magic wand at Diagon Alley so I  could wave away all things unwanted and bad with a wand? Sometimes I do. But  I like to believe that life could be magical without wizardry for muggles too.

As we work towards economic stability and our idea of a fabulous life, we may become ambitious and self indulgent in our chase for economic prosperity and fulfilling success that we lose sight of the purpose of our pursuits which is to be happy. Gretchen Rubin wrote in her memoir ‘The Happiness Project’ :“ The words of the writer Colette had haunted me for years: “What a wonderful life I ‘ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” I didn’t want to look back, at the end of my life or after some great catastrophe, and think “How happy I used to be then, if only I’d realized it.” Gretchen had an epiphany and  decided to take stock of her good life and devoted one year to explore and study the meaning of happiness and be mindful about the steps she can take to be as happy as she could be. A wonderful memoir that reminds us that happiness is all about our expectations, perceptions and attitudes towards our surroundings and limitations. Gretchen writes that everyone’s happiness project is different and unique. She wrote: “Do good , feel good ,feel good ,do good.” 

On Sunday night, I surfed the television channels and happened to catch the harrowing Indie movie “96 minutes” on Sundance channel. The movie was  based on a true story. It is about four youngsters, two teenage kids and two college girls from different backgrounds. The movie told the story in a  back and forth manner. There were  flash backs to what happened  before the girls were attacked when they walked to the car. The girls were about to graduate. Both of them were upset about something. One was not sure if she wanted to pursue law, something her family wanted her to do and  she was upset that her family was not going to attend her college graduation while the other friend just had a break up so they both were unhappy about their situations. Then suddenly their problems seemed trivial when they were carjacked by Kevin who had an abusive upbringing and wanted to join a local youth gang. Kevin was joined by  Dre, who came from a crime-ridden neighborhood, was smart and ambitious, but he was  too loyal to his friend and wanted to prevent him from  committing crimes. Kevin was emotionally unstable and constantly broke into rages that was beyond Dre’s control thus his acts ended them in grave trouble. There were moments Dre  had a chance to possibly change the chain of events but he did not seize those moments.

Malapascua,Philippines
The story in “96 minutes” depicts how volatile and tragic life can be. 

In Where’d you go Bernadett, a novel by Maria Semple, Bernadett Fox, a talented architect  had disappeared. Her daughter, Bee Branch, a smart and articulate fifteen year old, went searching for her based on a series of letters and emails  that were strung together by her . In the school that Bee attended in Seattle, S stood for “Surpasses Excellence” A for “Achieves Excellence”. A for “Achieves Excellence” so every kid is some kind of excellent. Bee is a straight- S student.

 Bee’s dad told her, Have you heard that the brain is a discounting mechanism?He then explained to the daughter, “ Let’s say you get a present and open it and it’s a fabulous diamond necklace.  Initially, you are delirious with happiness, jumping up and down, you are so excited. The next day, the necklace still makes you happy, but less so. After a year, you see the necklace, and you think, Oh, that old thing. It’s the same for negative emotions. Lets’ say you get a crack in windshield and you are really upset. Oh no, my windshield, it ‘s ruined, I can hardly see out of it, this is a tragedy! But you don’t have enough money to fix it , so you drive with it. In a month, someone asks you what happened to your windshield, and you say, What do you mean? Because you brain has discounted it.” 


The daughter said, “ The first time I walked into Kennedy’s house, ‘ I said, “ it had that horrible Kennedy-house smell because her mother is always frying fish. I asked Kennedy, What ‘s that gross smell? And she was, like, What smell?”

“Exactly” Dad said. “ You know why your brain does that?”

“ Nuh-uh.”

“”It’s for survival. You need to be prepared for novel experiences because often they signal danger. If you live in a jungle full of fragrant flowers, you have to stop being so overwhelmed by the lovely smell because otherwise you couldn’t smell a predator. That’s why your brain is considered a discounting mechanism. It’s literally a matter of survival.’

Where’d you go Bernadett  is about a woman trying to find her place in the modern world and it is a heartwarming story that is hilarious and quirky. It is also a story about motherhood which is emotionally draining, consuming and frustrating but ultimately a wonderful experience.

Burps and Giggles cafe, Ipoh, Malaysia
 Most of us have some level of resilience to cope with the challenges in life. In order to be happy, I  remind myself not to take things too seriously and remember that not everything is about me or to think that I am more deserving than others. I also remind myself that even if I make mistakes, it is not disastrous and more importantly, I must be grateful for the good things that have happened. Last week, I happened to lunch alone in a Thai restaurant where there were only two other customers. I overheard a conversation between  two young mothers. One of them was telling the other that she did not care about the son getting top marks as what really mattered to her was making sure that the son actually learnt the subject or the language. It was very refreshing to  have heard what I overheard  because these days, academic results seemed to be all that matters to many parents.

Brighton, England 
My elder daughter sent me a link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/generation-y-unhappy_b_3930620.html for the article that is entitled “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are unhappy”, an interesting article written with accompanying graphs and drawings. The advice given by the article is summed up as follows:-

“(1) Stay wildly ambitious. (2) Stop thinking that you are special and (3) ignore everyone else.” The writer wrote this :

Other people’s grass seeming greener is no new concept, but in today’s image crafting world, other people’s grass looks like a glorious meadow. The truth is that everyone else is just as indecisive, self-doubting , and frustrated as you are, and if you just do your thing, you’ll never have any reason to envy others.”  Great advice indeed. 
Georgetown, Penang

1 comment:

  1. The pursuit of accomplishments and success (at least as defined by a career or economic paradigm) is like a dog chasing its tale. The end result isn't all that tasty.

    I like the concept of living like a monk in the world-- focused on simplicity, spiritual pursuits and the joy of community. Now-- to live that out more fully!

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