Friday, December 10, 2010

Work hard to try to better yourself, but remember to appreciate what you have.

A Happiness Interview with my Dad

Every once in a while, I'm trying to post interviews with amazing and insightful people who inspire me! Today's focus is my dad, Terry.  My dad inspires me in so many ways, but probably the main things I appreciate about him are that he always expected the best from my sister and me, and that he modeled a strong work ethic for us.  He taught me a lot about setting goals and working hard to reach them.  He and my mom saved up for years and years, bought some land in the woods (we called it "the property" back then), and then when I was in second grade, my dad designed and built us a house on the land.  I remember him working his day job in construction, a side job on the weekend, and building our house in his "spare" time.  He's always been a great provider for the family, and for a gruff burly guy in construction, he's actually very affectionate and kind hearted.  Here are his responses to my happiness interview questions: 

1. How do you cheer yourself up when you're feeling blue?
I try to maintain a good attitude. I also try to look for the positive in situations. I do get mad and I do get sad. Those aren't positive things, so I try not to live there, just visit. Your mother knows me better and may think I visit the mad side too often. When I feel sad or blue, it usually involves memories of someone I lost or pain we went through, which also brings up happy memories we had together.

2. What's something you've discovered that you'd like your kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews to know about happiness?
Happiness is an attitude. It is the way you percieve things. You can make yourself miserable or you can make yourself happy. I sort of think life is meant to be balanced. If you have great happiness, you are bound to have great sorrows, and usually they are closely related. So the goal is to try to remain on the happy side of the scale, but don't push it, and don't expect too much. Work hard to try to better yourself, but remember to appreciate what you have.

3. What's a little thing you do regularly that makes you happy?
I think about my family. I am very proud of my wife, my daughters, and my granddaughters. I think of how lucky I am to have their love.

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?
The toughest struggles in my life have involved my family and friends. Both daughters were born premature--the second more so than the first. The deaths of my father, then my mother. My wife going through heart surgury. My youngest daughter having problems giving birth to her daughter. Deaths of other loved ones. All of these moments were tough and bring back sad memories, but all of them I went through with the help of my family and friends. My daughters are now doing fine, so are my wife and granddaughters. You don't ever get over the death of family or friends. But you try to appreciate the good memories. I don't think I tried to find a way to be happy amidst the struggle. I just appreciated having family and friends to help go through it and tried to be positive about the outcome. The best way to be happy is to keep a positive attitude. I like the saying,  "the best part of your life is just around the corner."


This past year, I've learned a lot about happiness.  And one of the main things I think I'm learning is that sometimes there is just no way to be happy amidst a struggle.  Some struggles are just too heavy.  And in those cases, the people who are willing to sit with you while you're sad or who are there to just be with you in silence when there's nothing to say, are the positive side of the situation.  I think my dad says this beautifully, "I just appreciated having family and friends to help go through it."

And my favorite quote from his interview was this, "Work hard to try to better yourself, but remember to appreciate what you have."  This is the crux of happiness to me, the balance of these very two issues.  I think I do a good job of working to better myself, but I often forget to appreciate what's in front of me.

How has your father (or step father or grandfather or spiritual father) influenced the way you think about your life?  

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