A friend recently wrote something like, "Life is hard with occasional happy times. It was meant to be that way, because it is a test."
I disagree with her. I think life is meant to be happy with occasional down days. That doesn't mean that hard things don't happen, and some hard things last a while.
For example, right now my grandpa is on hospice care. The main caregiver is my grandma, who is often not even recognized by her nearly-lifelong sweetheart. There is very little Grandpa can do, so Grandma does it all. It is a heavy load to bear for her. She does better when she can at least get a good night's rest, but that is often interrupted by his trying to leave the house to "go to work" or his taking a fall. It's really hard on her. But my grandma has been an absolute CHAMPION through all of this. Each time we speak she talks of the blessings she is receiving. She laughs a lot. She is incredibly patient and oh, so kind!
My grandma is doing something really hard. She is more than 85 years old, and she deserves a rest. But she is so grateful and glad to be capable of helping her sweetheart during this season. And she knows that another season is coming. In fact, the only way this difficult season will end is for Grandma to enter a season WITHOUT Grandpa. Certainly that is a daunting thought. But she smiles, "cowboys up," and does what needs to be done with happiness and gratitude.
Another friend taught me this week that life might be described as a 1-10 scale, with 1 being terribly miserable and 10 being as happy as can possible be. Most people ride a roller coaster between 2 and 10, thinking that their happiness is at the mercy of life's circumstances. My friend said she would much rather ride most days at a 6 or 7. According to Elder Packer it's OK to have a "good bad day" every once in a while. And certainly we should enjoy every moment of joy that is given to us. But we also have a responsibility for our own happiness. Like my grandma, we can smile, even when life doesn't seem easy or fair. And by "smile" I don't just mean turning up the corners of our mouths (although that's a wonderful start). I mean that we find true happiness in all that we do.
The other thing I really believe is that people who are happy attract happiness to themselves. Choosing happiness is a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who are happy will want to be with you (the "birds of a feather" philosophy). And even though hard things will happen, if you are already happy, surrounded by happy people, making other people and circumstances as happy as possible, those hard things will just be another bridge to cross in a happy life.
It is true that most days we turn off the alarm clock, get ready for a day of work, take care of the mundane, and start again the next day. Sometimes I think it would be fine with me if I were independently wealthy, travelled the world, ate all the finest foods, was never in another traffic jam, never had someone say harsh words to me or my loved ones, changed a stinky diaper, washed a dirty dish, tackled the never-ending laundry (again), got sick, or any of the other unpleasant things that might come to us in our lives.
But what if we had never played a game of Lifesavers-in-Flour because it only cost us $.50? We if we had never planned a fun stay-cation or party day so that we could be with our family? What if we hadn't shared the love, acceptance, hugs, kleenexes, and hysterical laughter that come with heartbreak? What if we had missed parenthood? What if we were physically unable to do things (and even then...)? What if we lived somewhere where "dirty" was the norm?
There's just too much to be grateful for, to laugh at, to love, to do, to see, to think, to feel, to hear, to EXPERIENCE and to LIVE to be unhappy, even when things are hard. And the world would be a better place if we all took the responsibility to be happy ourselves and then pay it forward.