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Warmest regards: What makes you happy?

By Pattie Mihalik

When my friend Jeanne joined me for an afternoon swim in my pool she was sadly singing her own version of “the sky is falling, the sky is falling.”

The sky, in this case, is the life we once knew and treasured.

Swamped by coronavirus here in Florida, there’s a lot for us to cope with now, but Jeanne is borrowing even more trouble from the future she expects.

Because her grandson lives with her and will soon be going back to high school, she worries that he will bring the coronavirus home to her.

“I’m going to die,” she lamented. “With my asthma and breathing problems there is no way I could survive if I got the virus.”

I told her we have enough to worry about with what is. We can’t afford to worry about what might be.

After we talked it out, she was calmer but still mired in misery, saying she can’t remember the last time she was happy.

“When was the last time you were tranquil and happy?” she challenged.

“This morning,” I truthfully answered.

She wasn’t expecting that answer.

Actually, the last time I was happy was just moments before she asked that question.

Swimming in my pool with a favorite friend is happiness for me.

It’s been more than a decade since I moved to Paradise, but I’m still as happy as a little kid when I can swim in my backyard.

I’m also happy when blazing hot days lead to rain or thunderstorms.

Our community doesn’t get much rain. When it does rain, we all smile and say, “Rain, baby, rain.”

I will say this. Before the pandemic, I was happy just about every day. I had a full calendar of favorite activities, and from the time I got up in the morning I was feeling blessed.

Back then, my happiness was a natural part of life, like a spring that constantly bubbled up on its own.

After coronavirus laid claim to our lives, my happiness no longer flowed that easily. It’s still easy to feel immense gratitude, but I sometimes have to work for happiness.

I do that by trying not to focus on all the things I love that are no longer part of my life.

Instead, I concentrate on the joys I can still enjoy.

It takes frequent mental adjustments to do this, and sometimes it’s harder than usual.

I have learned I can do the simple things that cheer me.

Playing my favorite music is one easy way to elevate my mood.

One day when I needed a pick-me-up I put on the Jim Beer CD “Dust of Our Forefathers Bones.” As soon as I heard the mesmerizing drumming I was smiling.

Music soothes the soul and has the power to sweep us back in time as it prompts happy memories.

Some music is just so happy that you can’t help but feel good listening to it.

Often, old songs from the ’50s or ’60s have me dancing along with it.

When I played a CD from one cruise I was smiling at the memory of how I danced with total abandonment because I thought no one could see me as I learned a funny new dance.

What I didn’t know while I danced away was that overhead cameras were streaming live video to all the cabins.

My husband told me he didn’t laugh that much in ages as he did when he watched my crazy dancing.

Would I have done it if I knew he was watching? Absolutely not. Back then I was far too inhibited to let loose on the dance floor.

It took living long enough to reach my second childhood before l could free myself from inhibition. Now, dancing is one of my favorite pleasures.

There are other simple things that make me happy.

The infectious joy of children is definitely one. I’m thankful I live in a neighborhood with children.

When I open my door in the morning, if the 5-year-old next door is outside, I’ll hear his excited welcoming yell: Pattieeeeeeeeeeeee!

What could be happier than a child like Blake, who spreads his joy to all those around him?

Good-hearted people like my next door neighbors also make me feel good. At an age when their friends are retiring, they are raising two little ones they adopted to save the kids from being part of the child welfare system.

They also cook dinner each night for an elderly widow struggling to get by.

It is a wonderful life in spite of the pandemic. There is still so much to enjoy, if we look for it.

Sometimes, we just have to adapt to changing circumstances.

My husband and I thought we would be spending his July birthday at my daughter’s place in Maine. We looked forward to it for months.

With the coronavirus raging out of control in Florida, we were forced to postpone our trip.

Instead, we celebrated David’s birthday by finding joy in simple things.

Happiness was a birthday candle on our pizza and sharing an ice cream cone while walking around the beautiful waterfront.

Most of all, happiness was enjoying being together and knowing just how blessed we are.

Strangely, David said it was his best birthday.

Maybe when you lose a lot, what remains is more meaningful.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.