My kids love the show Phineas and Ferb (Disney Channel). The basic premise, if you've never had the pleasure of watching, is two boys making fantastic inventions to pass the time on their summer break. Their pet platypus (yes, platypus) is really a secret agent working to defeat the evil Dr. Doofenschmirtz. Dr. D is always creating evil machines to destroy things that annoy him. One of my favorite quotes: "Blinking traffic signals, ear hair, pelicans, musical instruments that start with the letter b, you get the idea. It's a long list. I've been working on it for a while." His antics are hilarious, of course, but he's a very bitter and angry man.
This character is completely over-the-top (it IS a cartoon, after all), but I think his attitude is not so far from real life. A lot of people are angry these days. You may have seen them posting on the internet, arguing on political talk shows, screaming at other drivers in traffic, and yelling at my office staff. We face a multitude of situations every day that may be irritating. Here's my short list: missing the green light because someone in front of me is on their phone; the guy before me at Starbucks gets the last pumpkin scone; the weather is lousy; the cat barfs in the closet and I don't find it until bedtime. Oooh, I'm getting so angry!! Ok, not really, but I could be. The next step toward the dark side is blaming other people or situations for my bad mood. In reality, we create our own suffering by choosing to be miserable when things don't turn out the way we want. I can think of quite a few days when one little annoyance led me straight to a pity party. The end result was a lousy day spent cataloguing the things keeping me down. Just like good old Dr. Doofenschmirtz! I could have plotted my revenge, created situations to perpetuate my anger, and drawn more and more people into my black mood...
Instead, I've been reading a lot about happiness. In a strange confluence of events, I started reading a book called Happiness Now. Then I received an email from the Daily Om about happiness, and a blogger I follow posted on the same subject. All of these had a similar message. We can choose to be happy. In every moment, I have the ability to observe, and decide how to react. I can become angry about bad traffic, or I can use it as more time to chat with Zee on the way to school. I can become angry when someone says hurtful things, or I can recognize that they are reacting from their own anger and despair, and that it's not about me. That can be really really hard. I am trying not to be a hater. I am working to choose happiness in this moment, because that's all we really have.
Book reference: Happiness Now! Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good Fast by Robert Holden, Ph.D.
Website (one of my favorites, btw): http://www.dailyom.com