The Great Art of Happying — an easy step to a better life
You’re probably aware, I don’t know nearly as much English as I write – I just have this amazing computer program that translates my doggy thoughts into words you can read. But I do have a pretty good ability to understand a few words – “Sit,” “Stay,” “Heel,” “GetAwayFromThatPlateKnuckleheadThat’sNotYourCheeseSandwich!” – and so on. But sometimes I can do something kind of wonderful too: I can realize what someone’s saying and that they’re saying it incorrectly. You know, like when a little child says “My dog’s a gooder dog than Shirelle” (which I don’t particularly like) or “Shirelle is the Bestest Dog in the World!” (which I love!)
Maybe grammar teachers don’t like hearing that sort of creative word usage, but I do. There’s something magic in it – like where someone means something so strongly, they need to make up new words to get it across.
So Handsome and I were talking with our friend Suraj. He was excitedly talking about his upcoming marriage. He comes from a culture where couples aren’t allowed to have any romantic contact before their wedding, so he’s not only thrilled about spending the rest of his life with this wonderful woman – he’s going nuts anticipating their first kiss!
(I really have to bow down to their noble self-restraint in this. I can’t wait more than a few seconds after meeting someone to put a big lick across their face, or at least on their hands if they’re scared of me, and that’s if they’re strangers! The idea of not covering one of my best friends in smooches is pure impossibility!)
And then he said something that really caught my ear. “The way I see it, people are really mistaken about marriage,” he explained. “They think you have to be of the same class, or the same race, or even the same religion. But you don’t. What matters is that you know how to Happy each other. And if you can Happy the other person, and the other person can Happy you, and you both like Happying each other, then it’s going to work forever. It just has to.”
I glanced up at Handsome to see if he was going to correct Suraj’s wording, but instantly knew he wasn’t – the enchanted smile on his face was the same I’d have made if my lips worked that way. Yes, Suraj was right – righter than he would have been with the right words. And not just about marriage.
We dogs have fewer opportunities for pleasure than you humans do. We don’t enjoy books, movies, fashions, spectator sports, driving, arguing politics, video games, or even color. We get our joys from smells, eating, playing, barking at strangers, hunting, and eating. Oh, and did I mention eating?
And of course both us species get great joy from being with those we love, and being held, scratched, petted, kissed, and all that, by them.
But we also both get pleasures, and perhaps our greatest pleasures, by Happying others. Especially those we love. What’s better, getting hugged by Handsome when he gets home, or jumping all over him and sniffing and licking and nibbling on him? (If you don’t know the answer, then you don’t know the frustration of trying to hold on to an excited dog – even if it’s a little mini-Maltese, you’re going to lose the battle!) And what’s better, hearing a funny joke from your grandmother, or telling her a joke and seeing her break up in laughter?
Handsome wrote about this in his book about me, talking about a time when he was very depressed and took me to a beach, where I started chasing birds I couldn’t hope to catch: “There comes that point, where the connection between individuals becomes so intense that one literally has a physical reaction to what the other experiences. So while half the time I was ruminating about my lost life, the other half I was feeling the same release Shirelle was. Or maybe better than hers. That’s the best kind of love, where the adored is as happy as possible, but I’m happier at her happiness than she is, which is also far deeper than my happiness for myself can ever be.”
Yeah, blah blah blah, I know he gets wordy, but you get the idea – your joy at someone else’s joy is bigger than their joy. In fact, it’s so big, it’s biggerer than even that!
So here’s my suggestion, for all of us. Think of your plans for tomorrow. Hopefully you have some plans for things you just simply like – playing a favorite game, eating something good, meeting up with someone whose face you like. And probably you plan some things you should do but don’t necessarily enjoy – homework, brushing your teeth, going to school or your job, paying bills. And I hope you get to sleep (one of the biggest pleasures I forgot to list before)!
But what about the rest of the hours you have? Is there a way to Happy someone? Wouldn’t it feel great to send someone an email to say you appreciate them? To smile at a stranger who’s not as lucky as you? To go visit that laughing grandmother and give her a hug? To invite a lonely friend over for dinner? Or, my favorite, to save just a little bit of your lunch and give it to a favorite pooch?
I’m not saying to skip out on your own pleasure. But I promise you, Handsome gets more pleasure by giving me that little bit of pizza than he’d get from eating it (Though you can always remind him of this! Please! Anytime! Because sometimes he’s dopey and forgets!).
You’ve loved Happying others since the first time you realized that the smile you made when you burped made your parents and caregivers gush with joy. All I’m suggesting is that you make it a bit more conscious.
When you go to pick up your girlfriend to take her to that boring chickflick she’s insisting on, bring her a flower you found in a park. When you write your boyfriend to see how his studying is going for that big exam, add “You’re so cute I can’t stand it!” to your text. And when someone you love is going through a tough time and needs space to figure their life out, respect it, but send them a kiss goodnight, with a wish they’re finding what they need.