by: Lee Pitts

I've read that many writers have a hard time letting themselves be happy. I don't know if it's the actual writing that causes depression, or if depressed people are just drawn to the job. Perhaps I'm being cocky but I like to think of myself as a writer too, and I get depressed once in awhile. Don't we all? Usually when I'm blue it's because I'm depending on special occasions, the accumulation of stuff, or the misery of others to put me in a better mood. And then one day I discovered the mathematical formula for a good life: happiness doesn't always have to be derived by the addition of something, it can also be attained through subtraction.

I can be depressed if there is no berry cobbler or homemade ice cream for dessert, or I can be overjoyed that I'm not eating liver and lima beans with the in-laws. I can either be miserable about what I don't have, or happy with what I do have. It's a different way of looking at the world. Happiness is a fly NOT buzzing around your head when you're trying to go to sleep at night. It's a dog that doesn't bite and a big rainbow trout that does.

Happiness is a parent that doesn't have Alzheimers, a child without Down's Syndrome and a teenager who is not on drugs.

Happiness is not having to ride the one horse in your string today that bucks. Instead of being forlorn about having to get up at two a.m. to check the heifers, why not be excited about the possibility of seeing a brand new calf or a glorious sunrise?

I can wake up and be a grump, or I can say to myself, "Yippie! It's going to be a great day because I don't have to go to the dentist today." And then on those two days a year I do have to go, I walk with a bounce in my step knowing that it will be another six months before the dentist gets another shot at me.

Ladies, I know that we menfolk have more than our share of faults, but rather than get mad or sad about our bad habits, why not be glad about those faults we don't have? If your husband didn't walk through the house today with crud on his boots you have reason to celebrate. If he doesn't frequent bars, squander your money on gambling, or cheat on you, congratulations, you have won the marital trifecta. Likewise for men. Maybe your wife can't cook or keep house like your mother, but just be happy she doesn't nag at you to sit up straight, eat your peas, clean your room and make your bed.

Thoreau said, "That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest." If that's true then I'm the richest guy in the world. Rather than piling up consumables to cheer me up, I make myself happy by not spending money. Hey, it works for me. If you are made miserable by the fact that there are people richer than you, better looking, live in a bigger house or drive a more expensive car, you'll never be happy. Life is not a race or a contest. Count your blessings, not your money.

Last Christmas I was once again reminded that it's the little things in life that bring us the most joy. We were at a wealthy friend's beautiful ranch home in the presence of her grandchildren and as you'd expect, the kids got every toy imaginable. Within two hours of Santa's arrival the kids were playing, not with their fancy new toys and computers, but with a big box of blocks their Great-Grandpa made decades ago. This crudely made box of blocks is the reason they like to go to Grandma's house in the first place. And you should have seen the castle they built with those sawed off two by fours! I think that's a good metaphor for life: build your own castle with what you have to work with.

You can be depressed if you want to but being happy is a lot more fun, and a lot less work. I've learned in life that happiness is found in the strangest places and you'll never know where you might find it unless you look.

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