The Song that Shuts Down Idiots Every Time

So in the last 24 hours, we’ve learned that actress Renee Zellweger doesn’t look the way she did back when Bridget Jones’ Diary or Jerry Maguire came out. Many people have been making it their mission to say exactly what they think about the plastic surgery she’s “obviously” had on her face. In some photos, she doesn’t look radically different, at least not to me. In other photos, especially ones taken from the side or with her head angled slightly, she doesn’t quite look like the Renee of years gone by.

All the fuss and snark lead Renee Zellweger to respond to reporters, and her response focused on how she has changed her life and its impact on her appearance.

“My friends say that I look peaceful. I am healthy,” she says. “For a long time I wasn’t doing such a good job with that. I took on a schedule that is not realistically sustainable and didn’t allow for taking care of myself. Rather than stopping to recalibrate, I kept running until I was depleted and made bad choices about how to conceal the exhaustion. I was aware of the chaos and finally chose different things.”

I don’t doubt the truth of this. Being an actor – an Oscar winner at that – has got to be exhausting. While getting big awards must be very cool, there’s a lot of work that goes into getting nominated for one, not to mention actually winning.

But that’s neither here nor there. The reality is she is a grown-ass woman and she can do whatever she wants. She can shun Hollywood and go live in a hut on a tiny island in southeast Asia. She can dress like a lumberjack and walk around pretending to be Paul Bunyan. She can adopt a couple kids and raise them as ninja warriors. Whatever she wants to do, it’s her life, and if she decides that driving a 18 wheeler, moving to Latvia, or – brace yourself – getting plastic surgery is going to make her happy, then more power to her.

So this song is for Renee & anyone else out there who’s living their life on their terms. If there’s a point in your life when you’re contemplating a major change, but you’re nervous about what others may think or say, listen to the song. If you feel so inclined, sing it to your critics and detractors at the top of your lungs, and include several hip thrusts to emphasize the most applicable lyrics.

Are You Happy Now?

I have a confession to make to all the people I know who recently got engaged, married, fell in love, moved in with someone, lost weight, got a new job, got a promotion, bought a house, car, or a major appliance.

I’m not happy for you. Any of you.

And the truth is, I haven’t been happy about anything good that’s happened for you for a long time.

I have tried to dredge up some happiness, though. Believe me, I have tried. The sad truth is that time and experience and my current state of mind has jaded me to the point that when I attempt to conjure up true joy for someone else’s bliss, all I hear are platitudes and shallow well-wishes coming from my lips. My brain is so full of snark and sarcasm that when I see social media posts from people about the awesomeness of their loved one, or how things are going so well in their relationship, or how much they love their new job or body or couch, I avoid saying anything in response because I know all that vitriol will ooze out of my cerebellum and into my fingers as I’m typing.

I hate that this is true. I hate that I am taking more joy in the stories when someone is miserable than when someone is actually happy and achieving their goals and dreams. Because I have not always been like this.

I can accept the fact that I have major narcissistic tendencies. I’m fully aware of my weaknesses. I’m very good at self-flagellation for any and all times when I’ve said the wrong thing, didn’t say the right thing, did or didn’t do something that would ease someone else’s suffering. I’ve worked hard at being kind and compassionate, because that doesn’t always come easily to me.

But this inability to exalt others is tough. It eats away at me. And it increases those feelings of wrongness.

I have been trying to get to the heart of why I feel this way. A line from “Desiderata” gave me some insight:

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve compared myself to others, whether it’s in terms of possessions, physical appearance, wealth, relationship status, or education. The compare/contrast tactic is ultimately a weapon of self-destruction. I’m working on being aware of when I’m doing this, and refocusing my attention on finding my happy place: a place that isn’t contingent on what I look like or how much money I make; a place where I want the best of everything for those I love. But the path to my happy place isn’t always easy to find, and even when I do find the path and actually get there, sometimes I wake up and discover I’m back in the not-so-happy place.

So if you don’t see me clicking Like on your Facebook post, or sending you congratulations, it’s because I’m still working on getting – and staying – in my happy place. And once I get there, I promise to send you a postcard.

 

Defining Happiness

A few weeks ago, I sent this postcard to a dear friend of mine who I knew would appreciate the sentiment stated on the card. Then I considered how happiness is so many, many things, and not just consuming chocolate. So I whipped out my extra-fine-point Sharpie and got to work adding more to the card. Below you’ll find my extended definition of happiness.

  • having a glass of really good wine
  • reading a wonderful novel in front of a roaring fire on a cold day
  • a hearty belly laugh with a friend
  • a cat sleeping in your lap
  • listening to a rainstorm from a covered porch
  • singing really loudly with the car radio with all the windows down while sitting in traffic
  • getting a great pedicure and a massage
  • the smell of suntan lotion on your skin
  • unexpected money in the mail
  • fresh ripe berries that you picked yourself
  • a perfectly blended Arnold Palmer with just the right amount of ice
  • seeing someone you love fall in love for the first time
  • hearing a new mother sing to her baby
  • the crack of a metal bat against a baseball at a Little League game
  • being greeted by a tail-wagging dog when you come home from a long day
  • sneaking out at midnight to skinny dip
  • catching fireflies with a 7-year-old
  • seeing your favorite painting in person for the first time
  • the smell of a barbecue
  • the anticipation of fireworks on Independence Day
  • being kissed under a starry sky
  • having someone tell you the positive influence you had on their life
  • a Popsicle dripping on your hand when it’s 99 degrees
  • getting fun cards in your mailbox

What makes you happy?