Monday, December 13, 2010

No Regrets: A Happiness Interview

Happiness Interview with Susan

Every once in a while, I'm trying to post interviews with amazing and insightful people who inspire me! Today's focus is Susan.

Susan is a fellow red-head, so when I first met her, I knew we would hit it off. She is an outgoing, intelligent mom of 3 and wife of a military man. I was Susan's oldest son's SLP for a while when he was just a tiny kiddo, and one of my fondest memories of their family is the princess birthday party they threw for their daughter, in which Susan convinced all of her husband's Navy friends to attend the party dressed in full "prince" garb. What a magical day for a 5 year old girl! This type of creativity and thoughtfulness is just everyday living for Susan (which is probably one of the reasons she was so great at helping her kids learn--what a great family to work with!), and I was thrilled to hear her insights about happiness. 

Here are her answers to my happiness questions:

1. How do you cheer yourself up when you're feeling blue?

I had to take a few days to think about this. It’s not always an active or conscious action. I’m a firm believer in personal accountability and personal choice. I *choose* to be happy! I had to learn to say “what’s the worst that could happen?” (Thanks Dad!) and recognize that I can’t change other people or outside influences; but I CAN change my reaction to them. We have a long line of alcoholics in our family, so my folks started teaching us NOT to find happiness and comfort in things, e.g. alcohol, food, etc. I feel a warm breeze, see a cardinal in the snow, or the smell of fresh rain… it makes me happy. Even my kids arguing… at least I’m alive to hear them fighting! 

2. What's something you've discovered that you'd like your kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews to know about happiness?

My husband wakes me up most mornings with the saying “It’s a beautiful day and it’s great to be alive!” Interesting that he learned this from his swim coach in high school. We never dreamed how prevalent it would be in our lives down the road. Also, you can't buy happiness. It is something you have to find within yourself. Life is full of bumpy roads, and there are no guarantees. Make the most of every situation and never have any regrets! Regrets are like guilt, they are a waste of time and energy!

3. What's a little thing you do regularly that makes you happy?

Well, lately it has been running again. I used to scrapbook and am planning on getting back into that. But something I do every day? I have to get out of bed, no matter how early my husband leaves, to see him to the door, give him a hug and kiss and then wave as he leaves. I feel like it grounds me for the day. Again, no regrets. Not that I think anything is going to happen to him, but it gives us that bond to start our day. We’re a unified front and no matter what either of us encounters during the day, we feel connected and strong to handle it! It really sucks when he’s deployed and I can’t do it!

4. What are some of the toughest struggles you've had to go through so far in your life, and how did you find a way to be happy amidst the struggle?

Wow, this is such a loaded question. My answer will come out sounding like a really bad after-school special or a sappy Lifetime channel movie. :o) Okay, I’ll just throw it all out. Life since getting married in 1997 has been full of speed bumps. We’ve had 3 miscarriages, one at 3 months-our first pregnancy, which they found out during the ultrasound, another at 6 weeks and the last when my water broke at 4 months on the dance floor of the Submarine Ball. In 2003, life got really complicated. I was diagnosed with cancer, our first son was diagnosed with Autism and my husband left for the military. Our 2nd son was then diagnosed 3 weeks after my husband left for the 2nd deployment. We’ve now been through 4 deployments in 7 years. The last 2 years have been the hardest. My husband left for Iraq March of 2009. Our cat died 3 weeks later, but most devastating, I lost my Mom in May. In October, my Uncle died. I spent Thanksgiving in the hospital due to an emergency hysterectomy because I lost 2 units of blood in 6 days and they couldn’t stop it. And of course, because life wants to always show you who’s boss, on New Year’s Eve, my dog and I were attacked by 2 pit bulls. In April of this year, my husband finally came home! A week later, my Aunt passed away and my Dad had to have triple bypass! Mike reported to his new ship and was promptly deployed again for 3 more months. We had a quiet few months and then this past Sunday we lost my Great-Uncle, the closest thing to a Grandpa I ever had. So…. All that said, how do I stay happy and optimistic? No, not alcohol. :o) It could always be worse! Seriously! Everyone has devastating issues in their lives. It may not seem that way to us, it’s all about perspective. I always try and usually do find a silver lining. It may not be a big one, but it helps. With my Mom’s death, it freed my Dad to come up here and help me this past year with everything I went through. He wasn’t able to do that when he was caring for my Mom. I believe my Mom is responsible for getting my Dad into the doctor’s. I think she was gently squeezing his arm letting him know to get things checked BEFORE he had a heart attack or stroke! Lastly, there are 2 poems that are my personal anthems. One my Dad introduced me to in H.S. and the other is my husband’s favorite.


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. 

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons they are vexations to the spirit. 

If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. 

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. 

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. 

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. 

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. 

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. 

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. 

-- Max Ehrmann

By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
But make allowance for their doubting too; 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies, 
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating, 
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; 

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim; 
If you can meet with triumph and disaster 
And treat those two imposters just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken 
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, 
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
And never breath a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone, 
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch; 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; 
If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run - 
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, 
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!


Isn't Susan neat?  I really like the reminder to be a "unified front" with my hubby, and to start each day with "no regrets."  Thanks so much, Susan, for inspiring me!

Do you have any "personal anthems" that you return to often?  I'd love to hear what they are if so!

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