June 6th, 2021

Hey Phi,

I’m afraid I can only tell you very little in these letters of mine. For example, I’m not sure I can convey my feelings of euphoria this morning after hearing good news regarding my health. After leaving Adventist Hospital, I celebrated with a 50 minute run up into the surrounding hills & along Sir Cecil’s Ride.

As I ran, I thought of all the wonderful things in my life. The endorphins generated by my feet pounding the trails helped! Every little leaf I passed, dead or alive, appeared as a page in nature’s book. I thought of my wonderful Cc who has shown me so much positive support. I thought of you and how we learned the ABCs side-by-side. You’ll learn the alphabet of nature, too. This book is always open before you, but few of us pay any attention to it, or try to read it.

And yet, so often the simple things in life are the ones that bring us genuine happiness. A beautiful letter from a student or parent of a student (I received two yesterday – happy days!), a friend who checks in on you, the good will of a total stranger, the blackberries, blueberries & kiwi fruit that topped Dad’s mega-mix of muesli, seeds & nuts this morning.

So, Ophelia, how’s your HAPPINESS?

A Gallup poll of 149 countries reveals that Finland (four consecutive years) is the happiest place on Earth. Why is that? As a teacher, I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that they have no private schools? Every single school is a public school, extremely well funded, with each school extraordinarily well resourced. In addition, students & teachers are exceptionally well supported, academically, mentally, and from a wellbeing perspective, too. Any and every student with mental health issues, learning needs, and/or physical needs is provided for. My guess is the support network for students across the country makes each individual feel valued. That intangible feeling of being regarded as special, of being appreciated, of being valued surely assists anyone’s pursuit of happiness. Does our passport, our socioeconomic position, a fair & free education (like Finland’s), and opportunities afforded us also contribute to our potential happiness. My guess is, yes.

So, what makes me happy? Cc, memories of a shared life beside you, my family (your Nandee & Pa, your aunts & uncles, your cousins), Hadyn, Tim, Milton, Ralph, Stan & Cam. Their names are important to me, just like your friends are everything to you. Their friendships are paramount to my own wellbeing. Running the trails of Hong Kong and coaching kids who are enthusiastic about becoming faster, stronger, and fitter bring me feelings of euphoria; and it’s not just the endorphins the exercise provokes. Teaching intrinsically motivated students (students who are keen to learn & grow) brings me joy, too.

This list (you should all try making your own t-chart – all the good things in your life are listed on one side & all the bad things are listed on the other side) of things that makes me happy is long & comforting. But of course, there are things on the flip side of the Happiness t-chart.

Again, how’s your happiness?

Where do I start? Where do I end? Who am I to judge what happiness means to another? Perhaps your secret Pokémon or Pure Cure collection brings a smile to your dial? Maybe you dream of becoming the next Dr Suess? As it may be, you’ve weathered extreme hardship, yet I don’t hear you complain. Feasibly you’re tired of the mess your mother & I have created, but in all the photos I spy on Instagram, you’re still wearing a genuine smile. For all I know Phi, you know happiness, but like us all, you also know what’s on the opposite side of that t-chart.

My guess is that happiness stems from the value you put into nurturing friendships. Those friends share secrets, laugh between classes, goof off when it’s appropriate, and sometimes when it’s not. Those friendships extend virtually, headphones on, you & your cohort’s eyes sparkle in the reflection of the screen before them. Are you big into gaming?

But sometimes even these lasting friendships don’t seem enough. Sometimes a black fog takes over. It’s quite normal. Though we shoot for eternal happiness, it’s always a rollercoaster getting to the pinnacle.

Can any of us always be happy? No. Without black, there’s no white. Without cold, there’s no heat. Without frustration, anger, jealousy, and all those negative emotions, there wouldn’t be happiness. The grief gives happiness meaning.

Phi, “you’ll move mountains.” (Dr Suess) You’ll walk through many storms and you’ll be knocked down countless times. If we were always happy, then happiness wouldn’t be a thing. As Uncle Hayd says, give yourself permission to rest, wilt, and cry. I have. I just wish I had been kinder on myself. We all have rainy seasons. Accept them. It’s how we choose to move through our storms that teaches us something about grief, about loss, about healing, and about how wonderous it is to have a daughter. Pure joy.

Phi, finding ways to make our life more meaningful is the surest way to finding lasting happiness. Start with making your bed & saying “thank you” as often as possible. As cliched as it sounds, happiness stems from doing the simple things in life right. Again, as my beautiful mate Hadyn says, smile at yourself in the morning & you’ll shift yourself forward. When it rains, look for rainbows. When it’s dark, look for stars. Count your blessings, not your problems.

Phi, wouldn’t it be an excellent thing if all the people in the world were happy & content? (Jawaharlal Nehru). Kind is the new cool, remember that!

FINAL THOUGHTS FOR YOU

Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard.

Obesity is hard. Being fit is hard. Choose your hard.

Communication is hard. Not communicating is hard. Choose your hard.

Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. But we can choose our hard. Pick wisely.

*Not my words. I copied them. Pretty profound, right!

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