Ask Martha Washington she#039;ll tell you

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 4, 2002

How are you feeling today? Are you enjoying life? When we ask those questions of others, we most often get negative responses. Many of us seem to share a common reluctance to admit our happiness.

Maybe our Puritan forefathers still influence our ability to enjoy life. Perhaps we feel guilty even today when we approach life with excitement and happy expectation. How dare we to feel joy and contentment! Life is a struggle. It's not meant for enjoyment. We must surely be terrible wrongdoers if we find joy in all this!

If one does not fall within that Puritan group, there's always the bunch that can't get enough attention by being well and happy. You know some of them. They're the ones who always have an ailment they want to talk about. And they have errant friends or relatives they need to complain about. They are afraid that if they don't approach life from a negative viewpoint, they won't be heard. They don't trust positives in life to carry them through.

These people always expect the worst and therefore, usually get it. I call these the "fish" people because all they do is carp about their self-imposed misfortunes.

We certainly can't leave out that group of timid souls who fear life. They are afraid to feel joy and exuberance. If they allow themselves to chance happiness, then they most surely will also experience sadness and disappointment. Others might see them with their guard down. They might be vulnerable. What if others laughed at them? They go through life expecting nothing so that they will not be disappointed. These are life's shrinking violets.

There is another group that lives life by majority rule. If it works for the masses, it should work for me. If it is popular, it must be good. After all, majority rule is one the basics of our civilization. Uniqueness is not an admirable quality. Blending in is a good thing. It is safe. If voices are not raised, no one will be singled out. Members of this group don't know the big secret. Uniqueness should be embraced. Time is far too short to be living someone else's life. These are the sheep following any shepherd.

Where do you fall in all this? Do you live fully or do you shy away? Life is out there for us all. It's neither slave nor master to any of us.

We have choices every day that define our lives. We make some of them wisely. Some of them we don't. It's how we approach those choices and the process of choosing that we should consider. If we approach in trepidation and timidity, we can't choose boldly. If we approach with a positive attitude and humor, we can choose boldly. That does not mean that we will always choose correctly.

Boldness and correctness are two entirely different things. In truth, we can be bold far more often than we can be correct. But we can boldly jump into the fray and aim toward correctness.

Martha Washington said, "The greater part of our happiness depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances." We see that proved every day. All of us know people who seem to have far fewer possessions, far less money, less good health, and fewer of the breaks in life than we do. Yet they brim over with joy. How do they do it? These are the people who have overcome unfortunate childhoods, family tragedies, ill health, financial disaster, and on and on and are still cheerful and optimistic. How can they be so "up" all the time? It's because they choose to be. They are the lucky people, because at the end of their lives they will not be sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair wishing they had lived instead of merely existing. They know the truthjoy is where you find it. It's not always wrapped in wealth, fame and material success. Sometimes, it's in the simplest of things. Look for it.

And if you still can't see how you can have joy in life, ask Martha Washington.

She'll explain it one more time.