How to be happy
How to be happy? Live in the moment. Play and laugh like a child. Give and receive love. Sound too good to be true?
It happened to me last week.
I was in San Francisco on Sunday to visit my mom and celebrate her 85th birthday.
I was very worried about her; she is slowly losing her memory. I didn’t know what to expect. I speak to her on the phone every day, but it is still hard to fully understand what state she is in.
Sadly, it soon became apparent that my mom has lost her short-term memory and often doesn’t recall what happened five minutes ago, or even the day before.
Yet, she still remembers how she lived decades ago in Siberia; she speaks fondly of my father who passed away there.
She recalls many other events in her past with clarity. She continues to play her favourite composer, Tchaikovsky, on her piano.
And, I soon recognised something quite significant and totally unexpected about her: I found my mother to now be a very happy person, the happiest I have ever seen her!
Even though she knows that she is losing her memory, she admits it without bitterness or anger. Mom does not complain or get grouchy.
She accepts it with dignity and is learning how to adjust her life to her new condition.
The morning after I arrived, we went on our favourite outing to Yerba Buena Gardens, a lovely oasis with green grass and fountains in the heart of San Francisco.
I strolled in the morning sunshine, keeping pace with mom, who used a walker. She was smiling and alert, laughing at the families with children chasing each other on the grass.
Suddenly, I felt like I was not with an old person, but with a kid who enjoys life and people to the fullest.
She is not waiting for the future or thinking sadly about the past; my mom was living in the present moment and, on that blue sky morning, so did I!
We passed a group of Latino people celebrating. They had brought food, and a boombox loudly playing a lively Mexican tune.
One man in his thirties was dancing alone on the sidewalk. Mom left her walker and went straight to this happy fellow, and started dancing next to him. He took her hands and they faced each other.
They continued seamlessly in perfect time with the music, my mom light on her feet and her new partner leading expertly.
His friends began clapping to the beat, occasionally adding a loud and heartfelt “yahoo!” in appreciation. They danced for almost ten minutes, both of them having so much fun!
People passing by began stopping, smiling and nodding.
“Eighty-five! She is almost 85!“ I yelled. This prompted more enthusiastic “yahoos!” and they danced even harder.
It was so adorable, I couldn't stop laughing.
Later, as we continued our stroll, my mom, still smiling, turned to me conspiratorially and said, “Nina, I don’t know why, but I always want to dance! It makes me joyful. Sometimes I walk and dance on the go. What do people think about me?”
“Do you really care?” I asked.
“No, I don’t,” she answered with a twinkle in her eye.
“Let this day be a happy day!” I pronounced.
I ran and bought a glazed chocolate ice cream cone for her. We arrived at a vintage carousel, a colourful merry-go-round with painted ponies.
I saw my mom looking wistfully as it turned. She told me she had never been on one.
When it paused, I took her hand and led her to one of the small wagons on the carousel platform. We were surrounded by excited children grasping the poles on their bobbing horses.
The organ music began and round and round we went, as if on an enchanted time machine spinning us both back to the bubbling joy of childhood.
Simple pleasures: the warm sun; my dearest, closest person next to me. I am wrapped in this fleeting and precious moment of pure, unconditional love. Mom still remembers me! I cannot be happier!
The carousel stopped and we both stepped off laughing, smiling knowingly into each other’s eyes.
Nina London is a certified wellness coach, Qigong teacher and laughter leader. Her mission is to support and help cancer patients and survivors and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with Nina at www.ninalondon.com and follow her on Instagram @coachninalondon