Boy in blanket fort offers lesson on happiness

It's just a sheet spread over his crib, but it makes him so happy. There's so much joy and wonder in this simple thing.

It's an important reminder to me about how little is required to make you happy if you're willing to open your eyes and see something as new and different. 

Happiness isn't what or who or how much. It isn't what others are thinking or offering or seeing. It's simplicity in the moment. It's wanting little and receiving so much in return. 

It's also a reminder about how invaluable and unforgettable a momentary burst of pure joy can be if you allow it to be so. Happiness sometimes comes to us in flickers of light and sound that we must see and hear and hold and remember. So often we are looking at the wrong thing and worried about the wrong stuff that we miss the thing right in front of us.

Like the limitless joy of a little boy in a blanket fort.

Find your blanket fort. Or make one of your own.

A rule for lifelong happiness: Stop begrudging the good fortune of others.

This simple rule - which I live by on a daily basis - has brought me great happiness and peace and allowed me more time to do other, more meaningful things.

I offer it to you:

If someone is experiencing good fortune or unexpected luck, and it comes at no expense to me or anyone for whom I care, I celebrate that person's luck and fortune and feel no resentment toward that person whatsoever. 

This is a rule that few people seem to embrace. I live in a world where people are constantly demanding equity in all things, even when the application of equity would only serve to hurt someone else and not change the life of the person complaining in any way.  

A few examples:

if my friend and I are speeding down the highway in separate cars, driving side by side. A police officer pulls me over for speeding and issues me a ticket while allowing my friend to drive on without any consequences, I am happy for my friend. I may be upset about my ticket, but it has nothing to do with my friend's good fortune, and I will not begrudging him of his good fortune.

If my boss attends my weekly production meeting and nitpicks all of my ideas and my team's progress, but then she misses my colleague's weekly production meeting because she left the office to attend her daughter's dance recital, I am happy for my colleague, who managed to avoid a hassle that I was forced to endure.

I'm not whining about equity. I am celebrating my colleague's lucky break. 

If the boss continues to attend my weekly production meetings for the next two months while repeatedly missing my colleague's meetings for a variety of reasons - illness, car trouble, meteor strike, narcolepsy, disinterest - I remain happy for my colleague his good fortune. I feel no resentment toward my colleague or even my boss for the lack of equity in the situation. I may be annoyed with the boss for her repeated interference in my meetings, but that annoyance has nothing to do with my colleague's good fortune. I am only happy for him and make no effort to demand equity, as it would only ruin my colleague's good fortune.   

If I have 26 fifth grade students, and the second grade teacher across the hall only has 16 students, I am not angry at parent-teacher conference time that my colleague has five fewer hours of conferencing that I do. I may be angry about having 26 students in my class in general, but that has nothing to do with my colleague's good fortune or the lack of balance between our classrooms. I am only happy for her good luck and small class size.

If I then discover that while I am required to provide parents with a 30 minute parent teacher conference, the principal in another elementary school in my district only requires her teachers to conduct 15 minute conferences, I am not angry that those teachers have less work on their plate than me, nor am I clamoring for equity from my own principal. I may wish for shorter conferences (in reality, I don't), but I remain happy for my colleagues in the other school regardless of my position, because demanding that they conference for 30 minutes doesn't change my life in any way. 

If my friend - who happens to already be wealthy thanks to a sizable inheritance - wins the lottery and pockets another $750,000, I am thrilled for my friend. His good luck has no bearing on my life or my own level of happiness. I might expect him to pick up the check more often than me, but I am nothing but pleased with my friend's unexpected windfall. 

Every day, I watch people get angry, annoyed, outraged, and upset by a lack of equity that offers good fortune to others at no expense to themselves. They whine. They complain. They foment discord in boardrooms and living rooms and cubicles and classrooms.

Stop it. It only makes you unhappy, unlikeable, and unbearable.

Seek equity when equity truly matters. Fight for equity when that equity can make a difference in your life or the life of others. 

But when someone experiences good fortune or luck at no one's expense, leave them alone. Move on with your life. Don't attempt to eliminate their good fortune or expect the same good fortune to be bestowed upon you. Stop wasting precious time on nonsense. 

Be a happy person.  

The Patriots lost yesterday. I'm a happy Patriots fan today. You should be, too.

As a Patriots fan who spent yesterday evening in Gillette Stadium, watching his beloved team blunder their way to a second straight loss, you might think that I would be upset today. Depressed. Annoyed. Outraged. Discouraged. Disheartened. Even angry. Enraged. 

You might think that the flood of messages that I received from joyous Giants, Jets, and Philly fans just after the game would have set me on edge. Primed me for sadness or rage.

These would all be reasonable expectations, But you would be wrong.

Perhaps it's because of the way the Patriots lost the game yesterday. They were not dominated on offense or defense. They were not pushed around and overmatched. They may not even have been the worst team on the field yesterday. 

Three plays caused The Patriots to lose yesterday. 

  • A blocked punt returned for a touchdown. 
  • A punt return for a touchdown. 
  • A 100 yard interception return for a touchdown. 

Take away one of these plays - unusual plays which you almost never see and truly never see in one game - and the Patriots win easily. Two of the plays resulted in 10 and 14 point swings respectively, and the third play put seven points on the board for the Eagles. 

When your team makes dumb mistakes and loses, it's perhaps easier to feel okay about the loss. It's not a sign that my favorite team is physically inferior or less talented. It's not a signal of things to come. It's simple stupidity. The inability to execute. 

In short, dumb mistakes. 

And perhaps it's easier to accept the loss when your team's record is still 10-2. Had the loss ruined my team's chances to make the playoffs (like the Giant's loss did yesterday), perhaps I would not be feeling as good as I do today.

And perhaps the fact that the Patriots' best receiver, the other best receiver (and one of the best players in all of football), the best running back, the best offensive lineman, and the best linebacker are injured (with three of the five expected back by the playoffs) helps to dampen the pain of the loss. While it's universally acknowledged that all football teams suffer injuries by December, it's also been universally acknowledged that the Patriots rash of injuries this year has been extreme. 

We've lost without some of our best players on the field. Of course we struggled. Just wait until they are back.

All of these reasons may help me to feel better this morning, but here is what I think is the real reason:

I enjoyed the game yesterday. I did not enjoy the final play or the final score, but the game was exciting. The final score was not 35-7 or even 35-14. It was 35-28, and with a minute to go, my team had roared back and was threatening to tie and maybe win. 

It was a thrilling fourth quarter. 

The Patriots scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes.
They recovered an onside kick. 
They forced a fumble with under a minute to play to get the ball back.

They also ran a double reverse which led to stone-footed Tom Brady catching a 36 yard pass. 

This was not a team that laid down and died. They fought. They fought like hell.  

When the Patriots scored on a Tom Brady one yard run with 3:00 minutes to go, the faithful who had not already fled the stadium erupted in cheers. The concrete and steel beneath my feet began to shake. I was jumping in the air, pumping my fist, offering high-fives to anyone I could find. Still down by a touchdown with three minutes to play and only two timeouts, the chances of tying or winning were still slim. The Patriots needed the ball back.

A recovered onside kick. 
A defensive stop.
A turnover.

They got the turnover, but they could not manage to drive the field.

We lost.

But those final five minutes... the joy, the hope, the possibility. It was amazing. It was a feeling that can only be experienced if you have been in the depths of despair. It was like watching a phoenix rising from the ashes. It was hope where there was once none.

These are not everyday feelings. These are momentous emotions.  

When the Patriots scored with three minutes to go, I turned to my friend - a man who once told me that I live in the moment more than anyone he has ever known - and said, "Listen. We probably aren't going to win this game. But please, don't forget this moment. This moment of joy and possibility. Don't let the depression of a loss steal this moment of happiness from you."

I was actually screaming these words to him over the roar of the crowd and the music, and I was holding onto him. Squeezing his shoulders and chest. Trying to force my words into his body.

My friend - who was also attending his first professional football game ever - did not heed my advice. He was not able to hold that moment of joy and hope in his heart. He grumbled on the way home. Told me that it's the end result that matters. That moments of possibility are meaningless when they don't result in a win.

I suspect that many Patriots fans will be feeling similarly today. They will be angry or annoyed or depressed today and perhaps tomorrow and maybe all week. 

I understand that, too. Had the Patriots lost 35-7 in a game that offered nothing by way of excitement and joy, I would be feeling the same way. 

But that's not what I watched yesterday. I felt joy in that stadium yesterday. Hope filled my heart. I witnessed an almost remarkable comeback by a team of determined football players.

For a short time, I was as happy as a person can be. 

And I got to see a crazy double reserve pass to the quarterback, too.  

Too often we forget the small moments of happiness and hope when the end result is less than we expected or desired.

Perhaps my friend is right. Maybe I am able to live in the moment more than most, but even more important than living in the moment is remembering those moments long after they have passed. It's honoring them. Recognizing them as important and blessed events in our lives. Acknowledging the great fortune to be able to exist in that moment, experiencing the kind of hope and joy that can be so elusive for so many.

I'm okay today. I didn't like the final score, and I wish that the Patriots comeback would have been complete, but the moments along the way were magical. Unforgettable. I'll keep them close to my heart and leave the final score for someone else to wallow over.