Sunday, July 12, 2009

Family: My Happiness Project

♫. . . we are a happy family! ♫

Forty years ago we started an experiment in happiness. A family is the perfect laboratory for testing philosophies on religion, education, health, relationships, finances, . . . actually every philosophy is tested in a family. Living right in the Mother 'hood, I could observe, analyze and evaluate what creates joy.

My first discovery: being married is much more than getting married. There were lots of crazy ideas about love floating around in 1969. "Love means never having to say you're sorry" turned out to be a bad one. I thought love meant being patient with Dee until he realized I was right. That wasn't any good either. My experiment in happiness has taught me about marriage.

I think sex keeps a newly married couple in a state of frenzy long enough for them to start developing some relationship skills (communication, empathy, understanding, and patience) to add to the romance of it all. It takes some humility to realize you need those qualities, and some effort to gain them.

With practice, good relationship skills can mature into dependability, responsibility, trust and commitment; eventually the goal is charity, or pure love. The miracle is not falling in love, it's staying in love. Like Neil Diamond sings, "Love is not about you, it's not about me. Love is all about we."

Psychiatrists, therapists, ministers, teachers—think of all the experts who are trying to figure out marriage. A blessing of my happiness project is that I have studied it in depth and I'm beginning to get it.

Kids were the natural result of the frenzied years. We wanted them, but we weren't sure why. They turned out to be a combination of adorable, frustrating, entertaining, challenging and always there. That was the hardest part of living in the 'hood: the constancy. Love took on a whole new dimension, with no place to hide from anxiety, worry and stress. Crisis management and split-second decisions became daily events. There was no escaping it, so I learned to cope.

Again, think of all the seminars, discussion groups and drills designed to prepare folks to deal with emergencies. I gained those skills on the job. I can think fast, multi-task, create calm from chaos, and take charge. It's a blessing to know I could be a leader in difficult circumstances.

The blessing I cherish most is the relationship with our kids. Besides loving them, I like them. They're funny, smart, kind, caring, helpful, creative . . . they're my best friends. People ask all the time what we did to raise such a great group. I always answer that they came good. But there was some work involved: I read a zillion child-raising books and tried all the trendy theories.

In the end, though, we subscribed to the best child-raising philosophy around. The scriptures
say, "And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness." Nephi 5:27 (Book of Mormon)

So we looked into it. King Benjamin's advice became our standard:
"And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they fight and quarrel one with another . . . But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another."
—Mosiah 4:14-15

Our other motto was:
"And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord."
—Doctrine and Covenants 68:28

One of my favorite blogs is The Happiness Project. Gretchen has been road-testing ideas on living a happier life (she's coming out with a book soon) and the challenge she gives her readers is to have a happiness project of their own. I think the reason I like this idea is that I've had a lifelong Happiness Project. And, I have to say, it's worked.


brooke said...


I'm just discovering your awesome blog. I saw that you said hello on my blog a couple months ago and I finally clicked over. Boy--I have been missing out! I love your happiness project and I loved your post on SLCPD (I agree 100%--don't get me started on Sandy city police and I was a prosecutor there!) I also loved your post on dads. So good to find you in the blogosphere!

Christie said...

Amen, sista friend. You are my hero. Well said.