Home Away from Home with Abi Adeboyejo
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @abihafh
Imagine a world full of sad faces, hungry faces and people who are not happy with their lives. Imagine how they would feel if something happened to make them smile, just a slight lift of the lips at the corners: a crinkling of the eyes as they squeeze together to express some mirth. While some people have no say in whether they are happy or sad, most of us control this powerful tool but we are too busy to use it.
Is there a time to be happy? It would seem that modern society recognises the requirement to show some joy in certain situations. We Africans are perhaps a bit fussier in enforcing an exhibition of jollity. If you were to attend a baby’s naming ceremony, you had to smile and shower the new parents with prayers (and gifts). Any sign of boredom or disinterest in this infant was an obvious indication of your evil intent to maim or kill the child or his parents or even everyone at the event!
We are programmed to look happy at weddings, birthday parties and other public functions because these are events that are regarded as ‘happy events’. The fact that the bride at the wedding wept throughout the ceremony is not regarded as an indication of her reluctance to marry the groom. Our culture tends to interpret a bride’s tears as a show of love for her parents and family.
We are expected to be sad at the passing of loved ones. Thankfully, this is not an emotion anyone needs to fake. It seems we have been designed to love other human beings and parting from each other is a bitter experience that we all have to endure at one time or the other in our lives. Grieving comes naturally in times of loss, but why not happiness in times of joy?
Children spend half of the day laughing, smiling and giggling. They are free from the every day cares of life that may remove laughter from our faces. We have chosen to let events dictate how we feel and when we feel. But isn’t one of the greatest gifts we have all been given, after life and love, is the gift of happiness?
It is so easy to give time-scales for when we will be happy. Some people have turned happiness into the brief intervals between unhappiness. For some people, they believe that they will only be happy when they have a husband (or wife). If only they’d heard the joke that says ‘a man doesn’t know what happiness is until he’s married. By then it’s too late!’ I remember a distant relative who married a new wife after being widowed. He thought he needed a new wife to comfort him after his loss and make him happy, but then his new wife turned out to be such a harridan that he told anyone who would listen that the happiest time of his life was when he didn’t have a wife to nag him!
For some people, happiness will only come from material things – the dream job, the dream house, that dream car. Everyone knows that money does not buy happiness but it gets you discounts. When Nigerians were voted the happiest people on earth some years ago, I guess the researchers could not understand how we could still have parties, wear lavish clothes and sing and dance in spite of the poverty in peoples’ lives. It is because majority of us understand that no condition is permanent and now is the time to be happy.
These days there is no denying that times can be very hard. When we get bills upon bills and there is no money in our bank accounts, it is almost impossible to smile and be happy. When we are ill or a loved one is ill we will find it hard to wake up in the morning with a smile on our faces.
Also, we tend to overestimate the impact of almost every life event. We must be a bit braver and try to avoid worrying about things because the effect will probably not matter as much as we think they will. A friend suffered years of drunken abuse from her husband. She wanted to leave him but was scared of the consequences of becoming a single parent: from the stigma of being ‘husbandless’ to coping with finances and bringing the kids up on her own. She finally took courage and left the man three years ago and now she has got her life back on track. Perhaps not such a good example, because I am not saying leaving a spouse is the way to happiness but in this case it was either she left the house with her boxes or she be taken out in a box. The options were not many.
We can all have a good life. Not necessarily one with all the trappings of wealth and affluence, but one filled with many happy days and fewer sad ones. The good life is a happy life. Many of us will work hard to make a living, work hard at education and work hard at being successful in everything we do. But the one thing that we don’t have to work hard at is being happy. We can be content with what we have. We can strive for more if we can, but still be happy while we strive. We can live everyday as if it is our last and thank God for what we have and who we have. We can love and be loved and waste no time on people who bring a dark cloud with them wherever they go. We can smile and share and love some more.
Let’s try to be happy today and always, because now is the time to be happy. Not yesterday, not tomorrow. Now!