“I just want you to be happy … I’m going to make you happy.” People often meddle in each other’s lives with the excuse that they are concerned about their happiness. I think that a person’s happiness is not anybody else’s business but their own. Happiness means different things to different people. It is a personal, idealist concept that cannot be defined in definite terms. So how can you guarantee someone else’s happiness when maybe you don’t know what being happy is for that person. Therefore, I think that everyone is responsible for their own happiness and needn‘t be anybody else‘s concern.
Happiness for me is self-contentment, which I can honestly say that I have. I am happy when I am providing pleasure for another person, either through my art or by way of personal interaction. Whereas I feel happy to be single and living alone, some people hate to be alone and think that happiness is synonymous with marriage or mere cohabitation. Many women declare that their wedding day or the birth of their first child was the happiest day of their life, for instance. If that is what I have to look forward to, to achieve true happiness, then I guess I’m doomed, since I don’t expect ever to experience either of those events.
I can’t determine my life’s happiest day until my life is over, then I can reflect. I don’t think that my happiest day has occurred yet. I have had many good times throughout my life, but I can’t discern which has been the absolute happiest. I am always expecting one good experience in my life to be topped by another. If one has already experienced the happiest day of their life, then everything else must be downhill from there. That doesn’t leave much to look forward to, does it? I don’t think that one’s overall happiness can be determined by single, isolated events anyway. It is an ongoing state of being.
Someone on TV once posed the question, “What was your best decade so far?” I thought about that and decided that I have two that qualify. The ’70s for me were great years, all things considered. I served in the Army, which certainly was life-changing and fulfilling in many respects. Then I came to New York and started a new life for myself. I got to travel and see the country while performing, here as well as abroad, I got into the opera chorus scene, I obtained and maintained two apartments on my own, and I had the most and best sex that I’ve ever had.
The other candidate is the ’90s. I worked with The Flirtations for five of those years, which boosted my career considerably, it was the most financially profitable, enabling me to acquire a substantial savings and produce my solo album, which I entirely paid for myself, and I also wrote a symphony, which was one of the greatest joys of my life. Of course, I lost a lot of good friends during that period, including my father, but people close to you are always dying. That’s unavoidable.
In life shit happens all the time. It’s full of alternating highs and lows, and you are either a generally-happy person by nature or circumstance, or you live your life in a constant state of depression and misery. You can’t make someone happy, if they don’t want to be. Therefore, happiness is a choice, just like everything else in the world. We can either choose to dwell on all the adversities of the world and be miserable most of the time, or we can choose to rise above it all and not let it get us down.
I am always cheerful, fun-loving, witty, and have been blessed with a wonderful sense of humor. I am the type of person who has the same demeanor anytime you see me. You never have to speculate, as with some people, “Oh, Lord, I wonder what kind of mood Cliff is in today?” because you will always find me amiable and in good spirits. I am never deliriously happy one day and then totally miserable the next. I do get annoyed about some things upon occasion, but I never lose my temper. I am seldom depressed and I have never contemplated suicide. Life is too short as it is, and I’ll be dead soon enough without rushing things along.
Of course, there are certain things I don’t have that I would like to, but no one has everything they want. I am one who is grateful for the things I do have, rather than pine for and kvetch about the things I don’t have. Keep in mind that there is always somebody somewhere who is much worse off than you think you are. I try to find the positive aspect in all situations, however grim. Call me Pollyanna.
Here is one minor example. My favorite grocery store used to be down the block and around the corner from where I live. But they closed eventually, and I started going to the one a couple of blocks away from there. Then they, too, moved a couple more blocks further away, but instead of complaining that my store is now five blocks away from my house, it allows me to get more walking exercise than before, which I need.
(# …All’s for the best in this best of all possible worlds… #)
So sings Candide‘s Dr. Pangloss, whose agathistic philosophy I also follow, although as I get older, I find myself being somewhat cynical about little things in life. But my cynicism is based on personal experiences, observations and predictable reoccurrences. I keep my expectations low, therefore I am seldom disappointed. My cynicism notwithstanding, I try to maintain a positive, optimistic attitude about all aspects of life, because I have found that in the long run, everything seems to work out for the better.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. When one door closes, another one opens. I never worry about unimportant things, especially things I can’t do anything about. I am able to deal well with occasional stress. I have great patience and I am quite easy to please. I certainly don’t want to be any older than I am, but I really don’t want to be any younger either. I’m not interested in reliving the past. Been there, done that. So I have accepted growing older with the passage of time and choose just to be content with my present age. Age is something that none of us can do anything about. If we stay here long enough, we will get old. It’s unavoidable. Just accept it and deal with it.
All things considered, I am a quite contented, well-adjusted individual with positive self-esteem. I’ve known so many people who have these humdrum jobs which they hate, but they keep on doing them because “it pays well,” never mind that they dread their work and are miserable because of it. That’s what causes undue stress and ulcers. I don’t need any of that. My idea of success and having a happy course in life is being fortunate enough to make a living doing exactly what I love to do. That is my best advice to everyone—decide what it is that you love to do, and get somebody to pay you for it!