Shiny happy people

sohp-logoI joined a secret society a couple of years ago. It’s taken me a while to write about it because, well, shush …it’s a secret society. Don’t tell anyone.

Plus I’m a little bit embarrassed or maybe just ambivalent about the whole thing. This is hard for me to confess, but I think I’m one of those shiny, happy people you sometimes hear about.

It all started when I ran across a news story about a group that was petitioning governors to establish a “National Admit You’re Happy Day.” At first I thought it was a joke. The group called itself “The Secret Society of Happy People.”

My initial snicker quickly snowballed into howls of laughter as I imagined Minnie Mouse and the munchkins gathered at secret society meetings. Did woodland creatures dress them all up in their Sunday best? Did animated birds make them cupcakes and chirpily clean up after the meetings were over?

Surely my co-workers thought I was certifiable, as I was laughing too hard to explain to them why I was laughing.

Still, my gut instinct told me that these people were on to something. After all, I was laughing at the mere mention of their name, so that had already made me happier. Not only that, my colleagues were laughing at me laughing–without even knowing what I was laughing about. This whole happiness thing was infectious.

I considered signing up for the society right then and there, but felt sort of embarrassed. Somewhere between Mr. Smith going to Washington and Mr. Stewart joking daily about Washington, just talking about being happy became kind of uncool. With the exceptions of wedding, funerals, graduations and Hallmark commercials, it’s become hipper to complain than to admit that you’re happy.

I have a twisted, ambivalent reaction to most overly cheerful, seemingly happy, people. I just don’t trust them. As William Feather put it, “One of the indictments of civilizations is that happiness and intelligence are so rarely found in the same person.”

It’s hard not to be cynical about happiness. Just look at pop culture’s obsession with brooding rock stars and drug addicted model-actress-whatevers, or comedy, which is so often laughter generated at the expense of others. Then there’s the post-9/11 reality we live in, where being happy sometimes seems, well, downright inappropriate.

But still, that ray of happiness keeps poking through.

Though I may mock the people who speak with more exclamation points than vowels (one more example of laughter generated at the expense of others), for the most part I am, I admit, generally happy.

I just I’m just one of the people who choose to see the glass as half full–and fill it to the brim whenever possible, provided there’s any wine left.

Maybe it was because the notion of “The Secret Society of Happy People” gave me the giggles, or maybe I just wanted to get a column out of it, but starting on that fateful day, I took the “Happy Challenge” to write down something that made me happy each day.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard. Sure, the words “chocolate,” “Margarita,” and “bedtime,” came up pretty frequently, but not as frequently as my husband’s and son’s names–which was kind of a relief. Also making the happy list was girls night out, living near the beach, free parking, great friends who don’t care how late–or how often–I call, nonfat lattes, editors that pay $1 a word (not this one, unfortunately), having my parents and sister live nearby (and not just for the free and frequent babysitting), book club, remembering to back up my computer, voicemail, hummingbirds, and whole host of other things that add up to a general feeling of contentment.

Contentment. Not ecstasy, or rapture, or bliss, but happiness, just the same. So even if our Governor hasn’t signed off on “National Admit You’re Happy Day“–yet–they can add my endorsement to the list.

Are there any other secretly happy people out there? Write to email . For more columns visit
Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on June 6, 2008.

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