Every year around this time, I get asked if I celebrate Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or Eid, or Diwali, or… and I always have the same answer: I. Am. A. Dog. I love watching you guys get excited about holidays, and I love any special food that celebrations might bring my way. But I don’t have a religion, or a cultural heritage, that focuses me on any particular days. That’s for you folks, and I support your choice to do or not do them fully. Whatever makes you happy.
But this makes me think of something I heard someone say recently. She was talking about how she tended to feel depressed a lot, and added, “I think I’m afraid to be happy.” I thought that was a really profound and vulnerable thing to say, so I jumped up and licked her face till she turned red from giggling. Which I guess made her at least a little happy, I hope.
But that line has stayed in my head ever since. What a sad concept. And I wonder how common it is.
It’s totally normal for people to learn to protect themselves emotionally. “Don’t get your hopes up” is a term I hear frequently. And I can understand – if you let yourself get too optimistic about something that might not come true, the disappointment if it fails can hurt like blazes.
But is that a reason to not let yourself get happy?
Some people have a sort of supernatural belief, that says that if they’re too happy, some god or demon will get offended and make bad things happen to them. I guess if you believe that, then, sure, happiness would be scary.
But do you?
And some people think it’s insulting to let yourself be happy when so many others in the world are suffering.
But do those suffering people really care about how you’re feeling right now? Don’t they have other things to worry about?
Life isn’t perfect, and nobody’s happy all the time. But when things are really good, I actually think it’s a sign of ingratitude, maybe even a sort of blasphemy, to not let yourself feel them all the way. In fact, while I’m not in favor of repressing any emotion, wouldn’t it make more sense to hold yourself back from feeling sadness or anger or jealousy, instead of happiness, since those are a bit less convenient to the others around you?
But this leads to my real point: Yes, I think you should let yourself be fully happy when things are great. But why not also let yourself be mostly happy when things just aren’t bad?
I was in the back seat of our car once, when Handsome stopped to talk with a parking lot attendant, who asked why he was so cheerful. Handsome explained that that was because he was happy to see him.”
“But you’re always so cheerful. Every time I see you.”
“Yeah, you always seem happy. How do you do that? Life stinks! It’s so stressful!”
And Handsome and I talked about that for the whole drive home. That guy hit the nail on the head! It’s not that life is always bad – it’s just always stressful. And stress is just worrying about what might happen.
So if you let yourself be happy when nothing bad is happening, then you’re likely to be happy about 99% of the time. And yes, that 1% will still be bad. Maybe horribly bad – wars and wildfires and floods and… yeah, pandemics!
But the rest of the time, if nothing bad is happening, look out your window. Birds are flying. Trees are waving in the breeze. Children are playing. Dogs are joyously chasing animals with no hope of catching them. A radio is playing fun music. A couple is walking close together and one of them is nervously taking the other’s hand. An airplane is flying passengers to somewhere they’ve never been, that they’ve wanted to see all their lives. Worms are eating their way through the soil. The sun is shining, even if you can’t see it.
And if you’re feeling low, so crummy that these lovely facts don’t help, then think about what’s funny out there. A bird peed onto a lady’s hat. A kid just told a joke that makes no sense to anyone. A driver turned to look at someone sexy walking by and bumped into a tree. And yes, a very serious gentleman is walking down a sidewalk, not seeing that a dog walked there before and took a stop to…
Or if even that doesn’t work, just think about someone you love. Someone or something you’re just crazy about. On my worst day, in all my misery, I can think about Handsome, and the fact that he exists, and I’m instantly a bit happier. And I know that he does the same with me. Lost his job? Dumped by a girlfriend? Stepped on a nail? Yes, but Shirelle still exists, so there’s reason for joy!
But even that is more work than we dogs have to put in. We don’t try at all.
And so you see, this is why dogs don’t have holidays. Because we’re smarter than you in this one regard! You need to have a day when you focus on family or gratitude or romance or remembrance. But we celebrate every day. Our smaller brains let us explode in awe at the sight of a sunrise, or the smell of morning dew, or the deep feel of the vibrations of the earth.
And then we see you. The people we love. And we go even more crazed with joy.
So… scared to be happy? I can’t even conceive of it – and that fact makes me even happier!
But for you guys, with your giant brains, I say: Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Beautiful Solstice, and all the others.
And most especially, with great optimism for these exciting vaccines… HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you! Oh I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Oh thank you Shirelle for writing this. I enjoy reading Pawprints because I can always relate to them.