Sunday, January 7, 2018

Don't Worry, Be Happy!

In 1988, Bobby McFerrin sang to the world, "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" Suddenly, my mom (Mami) had a theme song. She has always been the quintessential optimist and this song was a perfect match for her attitude. I was 15 years old and all the happy-ness was a little too much. Mami would sing the song whenever one of us kids would get whiny or would encounter difficulty or drama (teenagers are quite familiar with it).

Even though I am fairly laid back, I can get very stressed out about some things. Example; I was about to start working and I hadn't secured a babysitter. My reaction was to go into panic mode and then, here comes Mami with her mantra, "don't worry, be happy!" What she means is that things will work out- while I was busy freaking out, she had been making phone calls and just as she predicted, everything was OK. This type of situation has repeated itself many times during my life and Mami's advice is always to trust and not worry. She is consistently right. My reaction will determine my experience (though not always the outcome).

Mami, circa 1998
"Cause when you worry your face will frown and that will bring everybody down..." the song goes on. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile, so Bobby was on to something there! Smiles are contagious and, as I would always say to my students, it's impossible to be 'mad' when you're smiling. There are things we cannot control and so, what do we gain from worrying? We do the best that we can and move on. My mother in law likes to say (about people we cannot help) "bless 'em and send 'em on their way!

Wise words, but what to do when worrying still manages to sneak into your life- like it does so often in mine? Mami will say to stop it... and to 'be happy'! It can be frustrating to hear these words when all I want to do is be negative and even mad at the world for things not going my way, but to be real, what do I gain from that? Absolutely nothing! Years of having to figure things out and move on, have taught me that we need to focus on what we can control and let go of the rest. I share that with my kids all the time now (though I spare them the song- sometimes!).

Last weekend, the weather in Upstate New York was dreadful, to say the least. On New Year's Eve I still hadn't heard from my husband, so I took control, braved the elements and made a visit. I could worry no longer about his well being, so I went to see him. The trip was an adventure, and throughout it I kept singing to my self "Don't Worry, Be Happy"! I got to see him and found out that he'd gotten another bogus ticket and got locked up for 45 days, but he was OK and happy to see me. I felt happy, too. Driving home was scary, the roads were terrible! Luckily, I was without kids and was able to take my time, making it home safely and in time to bring in the new year in my pajamas (best way after the day I had!).

I am grateful for my ever optimistic Mami because... "in your life expect some trouble- when you worry you make it double... so don't worry, be happy!"

*If you are feeling depressed, please reach out. Worrying and Depression are not the same thing.

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