1 You Want to Be Happy? | Traveling Light Blog by Travel Writer Colleen Friesen

You Want to Be Happy?


“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” – Maya Angelou


PhotonQ-Beauty on the Horizon of Complexity

PhotonQ-Beauty on the Horizon of Complexity (Photo credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE)


“We can only see a small part of our Universe – the part that light has had the time to travel across to reach us during the 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang. Anything further away can’t be seen, simply because the light from these distant places hasn’t reached us yet…contains around 350 billion large galaxies, each containing anything up to a trillion suns. This part, which is known as the observable Universe, is just over 90 billion light years across…” – excerpt from Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am?

In case you missed it, you just read, “...350 billion large galaxies, each containing up to a trillion suns.

To put it another way, let me quote the character of Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca,

This screenshot shows Humphrey Bogart holding ...


“I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

Doesn’t matter if you go from the galaxy point of view or Bogart’s, it’s all about perspective. The trick is to look at the big picture.

Which is why I’m writing this post…

I have sometimes been described as an irrepressible optimist. Less charitable descriptions suggest I’m mostly in denial with my Pollyanna view of the world.

I’m quite sure that my endless need to look on the bright side can be irritating. It is, in fact, my default setting and I will find myself being uber-optimistic to counter any negative views, often to the point of ridiculous.

Trust me, even I can find me annoying.

But I have a confession.

Like so many of my posts, I am writing this for myself, both as a public declaration and a way of reinforcing a view that I often need reminding of.

Because, the truth is, my seemingly boundless optimism has some very dark and clearly delineated boundaries. These boundaries show up in the dark of the night, or more frequently, when I first wake up and I find I’ve slipped over that happy line into a dark place where there is no optimism. There is only the dim twilight of sad.

There is no obvious reason for this. I am a grateful person. I know that I have a fabulous life.

And yet, there it is…the murky zone of melancholy. I could blame Christmas with its associative dread of some of what has gone before…the Christmas my mother was dying, the seasonal reminder of my broken relationship with my sister, but the truth is, this state doesn’t just hit in the winter.

Instead, it is something I regularly push against.

It is not always easy to be happy. Besides which, I don’t think a permanent state of happiness should be the goal. That just sounds a little freaky. I do not want to wake up each day with nothing better in mind than ways to amuse myself (please don’t get me wrong, I also strongly believe that creative play is part of a well-balanced life).

Instead, my goal is to be at peace, to be of value, to contribute, to create, to somehow make my corner of the world a slightly better place, and perhaps, within my little orbit, to find some contentment in a life well-lived.

This morning I woke up feeling a darker shade of indigo, but I zipped up my boots and showed up for my volunteer position with the grade seven class to work on our writing assignment. Only a few minutes later, I realized I was having a blast. And when it was time to go, I congratulated them on working hard and digging deep.

“You are all stars,” I said.

I meant it.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, is an image of a ...

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small region of space in the constellation Fornax composited from Hubble Space Telescope data.


I left the school with a heart that felt larger, a heart that suddenly contained six new sparkling celestial bodies. I had just helped six kids articulate their thoughts by writing about what they wanted to contribute to their world.

And once again I discovered that by serving them, I’d saved myself.

This post is my reminder to you and to me.

Life is good and our problems don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world…especially when we get out of our heads and into our hearts.

It’s all very simple.

No one said it would be easy.



“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” 

- Mahatma Gandhi

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6 Responses
  1. Sand In My Suitcase says:

    So true… Helping others helps us more :-).

  2. Colleen Friesen says:

    It’s funny how it works. It seems counter-intuitive but it’s the truth.

  3. Ursula Maxwell-Lewis says:

    Good post, Colleen.
    I had to smile at the Pollyanna reference. Reminded me of an ‘out of the blue’ card I once received referring similarly ( to my surprise) to me.
    I was also reminded of hours friends and I put in as Canadian Blood Services volunteers. There are so many ways to make a difference in our communities. The kids will always remember your good influence.
    Rotary’s motto is ‘Service Above Self’, but the one I like best (especially related to this post) is the old Active 20-30 motto: ‘A Man Never Stand so Tall as When He Kneels to Help a Child’. We’ll change the gender, of course,… or simply insert ‘people’ in the appropriate places. ~ U

  4. Colleen Friesen says:

    I love that quote Ursula, and you’re right, it reads well as, “A woman never stands so tall as when she kneels to help a child.”
    And you’re right, there are so many ways to make a difference, in our communities or simply at home.
    I’ve been trying to repeat it to myself as an overarching theme. It reminds me to see other ways to do small acts that are kind and helpful, as simple as letting someone ahead of me in a line-up or bringing Kevin a cup of tea.
    I’m happy to meet another member of the Pollyanna Club :)

  5. Catherine says:

    So true… Colleen. It is in helping others that we help ourselves.

    This is a time for giving and at Christmas I send a bonus to the charities that I support. I know that I can’t support all of them but for the family or the animal that I have helped, it has made a difference.
    Couldn’t we be all like Mother Teresa!

  6. Colleen Friesen says:

    Your Christmas bonus for charities is a great idea Catherine.
    And amen to people like Mother Teresa:) Most of us will never reach her level but can take comfort in her words, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”

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