It’s time once again to see if I can claw my way out of grumpy space and into someplace better. Recently I haven’t been successful pursuing happiness for no reason, despite best-selling author Marci Shimoff’s assurances that I should be able to do that. I’m still struggling with grumpy, and even depression and anxiety.
Maybe it’s because our house has been a shambles for 6 months as a result of our renovation project, and my body is starting to tire from all the manual labors and my fingers are bending sideways from arthritis and I’m sick of the filth. I don’t want the PODS unit in my front yard anymore. It feels exactly the same as having a wheel-less car up on blocks out there, and small rodents are making homes under it. Maybe it’s because we sent the dog to the babysitter for a month and my son cries every day for missing her, and I miss her too. Maybe it’s because my daughter is in a tailspin because of her anxiety disorder and flaring OCD. Maybe it’s because the intrusive, obsessive thoughts she can’t get out of her mind right now involve penises and sexuality and cutting her family up with knives, which is extremely disturbing and a terrible affliction for her. Maybe it’s because she got suspended from school for a day after standing up suddenly in a math class and screaming out compulsively that she wants to have sex with all the boys.
Nah. That’s probably not it.
More likely it’s because I don’t work at one of the Fortune 500 companies where Marci the chicken soup lady does seminars and plies her trade, selling happiness for 20 bucks a pop, corporate discount included.
I know it’s my own fault, because I haven’t replaced my cup of morning coffee with a cup of connection. My chakras are obviously out of balance and in need of an adjustment. I’ve been in touch with my grumpy chakras, not my love chakras or my happiness chakras.
The all-knowing Universe has seen my need. The Big U secretly friended me on Facebook and presented me with a link to the website for HAPPIFY. Numerous times. I investigated (aka I mouse-clicked and random-googled), and I quickly learned from Happify that “worrying is a waste of [my] intelligence.”
Good advice. I’ll try not to worry about the fact that “happify” is annoyingly NOT A REAL WORD. It’s a noun that’s been gussied up to masquerade as a verb, along the lines of… liquify. Or stupefy.
Okay, okay, I can accept that. To happify: to make someone happy. To stupefy: to make someone stupid. Totally get it.
I suppose the next question is inevitable. Which will be done to me if I enter the world of Happify?
According to Happify, “It’s an exciting time for those who want to overcome negative thoughts, worries, and everyday stress. Happify has turned a decade’s worth of research into a series of activities and games that train your brain and build skills for lasting happiness. That’s our mission. Discover what our personalized tracks can do for you. They are effective and measurable.”
I mean, look at these numbers.
Hold on a minute. I’m tucking my unmitigated cynicism away for a bit as I go on a hunt for my personalized happify track.
* * * * * * *
I believe the way it works is, you do stuff for free a little bit until you’re hooked, and then you can pay a monthly fee to have access to all new levels of happifying activities.
Isn’t it fascinating how “free” and “fee” are so similar when they roll off the tongue? Just throw in a little growl, and you can make such a big difference.
Here’s the important point: this shit is science-based and measurable. In case that isn’t enough to grab you, it is also important to the Happify people that you know that they’ve been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Today, The New Yorker, AND World 3.0 with Katie Couric. Whoa.
Yes, yes! I’m ready to train for happiness! I’m so ready to elevate my optimism, be fearless, conquer negative thoughts, fix relationship friction and re-pattern stress!
Wow, that’s asking a lot. I gotta do all that to be happy? I definitely need help.
I’m joining Happify.
I have to do a starter questionnaire. The first question sets me off.
“Everyone’s different.” That’s deep. NOT. I do feel that I’m female, and this is consistent with my current body parts. But let me explain the answer I selected. When I read “none of the above,” I look above. Because this shit is science based, so I expect the materials to be precise. But there is nothing there. There is no option above to select. And I am not nothing, nor do I have any of “the above” in my gender that I know of. So this seems like the correct answer. I think it’s a trick question.
Anyway, now that I’m IN, Happify says I can WIN happiness!
Happiness is winnable! I never knew! I didn’t know happiness came from a competition. I thought it was something more… cooperative and peaceable.
This is a whole new paradigm for me. No wonder I haven’t been finding happiness. Other people are winning it instead of me.
* * * * * *
I’ve finished my deeply insightful, 6-question, multiple-choice questionnaire, and so Happify has offered me a track.
Happify nailed it. I’m starting my free track.
* * * * * *
Happify takes me to a menu of sorts and instructs me to “start depositing positive emotions in [my] bank.” I have just 10 days to earn gold. Damn. Performance pressure right up front.
This money analogy is just as confusing to me as the winning thing. Happiness is about wealth? I should connect happiness in my life to images of money? I’ve been so off-base on this happiness thing, no wonder I’m grumpy all the time. Normally I would be skeptical and cynical about this, but since Happify is based on solid science, I’m going along with it. I sooo need to find some happy.
I start with the first option offered. “Uplift.” What might this be? I feel a sense of anticipation as I prepare to conquer my negative thoughts.
I read the instructions. Aha. It’s a game. Pick out and focus on the positive words. Happy air balloons. Got it. I click start.
The game consists of air balloons floating about on the screen with ephemeral words appearing and disappearing on them. I have to click on the balloon before the positive word disappears, and then the balloon “launches” away and I get points. If I click on a balloon bearing a negative word, I get dinged and lose points. I rub my hands together in anticipation and work on peppy thoughts. Sorry, happy thoughts, happify, not peppify. Happiness coming right at me. Soon. Getting rid of my negativity, right here right now. With the air balloons.
I start clicking away. “Cozy.” “Comfort.” “Love.” Gosh, those words don’t last for very long on the balloons before they disappear. GAH! I almost caught “success” but right when I was clicking it, the word disappeared and was replaced by “honk.” Minus 20 points for “Honk”? WTF?? F&*ing game, who comes up with this shit. I start noticing the negative words. “Hoax, clutter, mold.” I see “muddy” and click on it. Minus 20 points.
Wait just a honking minute! “Muddy” is a negative word? What the hell is wrong with mud? Mud is good! Mud, dirt, nature, gardening, lots of positive associations. Good, right??
Nooooo, science-based happy gaming says it’s bad, BAD. And there are balloons everywhere now! They’ve filled the screen in a giant balloon mess. I have to concentrate, but I can’t stop thinking about “muddy” and how off base that is, so I just click on every goddam balloon I can reach and “-20” keeps showing up all over the screen so I can’t read any of the F*$&ing words anyway.
I suck, and now I’m all stressed out.
But Happify isn’t done with me yet. It gives me power ups to improve my performance.
But you know what, that doesn’t make me any happier. Why do I need to UNLOCK power ups? Why couldn’t I chill out and have a best case beacon up front?
I take a deep breath and try again. It goes pretty much the same.
This game sucks. It has decidedly not reduced my negative thinking.
* * * * * *
I decide to try the next game. Maybe this is like exercise. The balloon game was a first round, and I feel shitty the way your body gets sore after you start a new exercise regime. But the next game will make me happier.
This one is called “negative knockout.” Awesome, because images of boxing, one of the most violent sports on earth, is super uplifting and happifying. I start with “the battle at stormy meadows.” More excellent, positive imagery: war. What better way to solve problems? I have to select 5 negative words from a sort of screen mess of negative words. Then when I start the game, the words are on signs being held by little monster-ish creatures. I lob happy things at them to knock them (and the negative words) out.
I apparently choose guilt, fear, unease, insult, and bitterness. After a round or two, I realize this game is a shameless knock-off of Angry Birds, only there’s less of a parabolic feel to the flight path. It’s frustrating.
When I win a round (I knock over all the negative ninnies), I get this happy shiny message.
I knocked out my worries! Yay! I’m no longer filled with guilt, fear, unease, insult, and bitterness! But then I get to harder levels. Each time I fail to knock out the bad’ns, a moody grayness creeps westward over the screen.
GAH! I have to knock those fuckers out — SHIT SHIT SHIT I LOST THE ROUND!! I’m trapped in a dead, barren wasteland without meaning or color.
This is still not making me feel happier.
* * * * * *
I decide to give Happify’s opening track one last try. I click on a third option.
Let me just say — though I know it’s not a happifying thought — that I think a fancy web page that’s trying to sell crap to me should be able to spell the word “Thanks” out correctly, with all the correct letters. What, their web creators were working on a smart phone and couldn’t be bothered to type the whole word?
But I digress. I need to focus on today’s victories. I try my best. Honest.
And then I click “happify it!” I wait for something amazing to happen. Nothing happens. This is just a log entry. A chance for Happify to collect data about me. Well now they’ve done it. They’ve collected data about the shit going on in my life.
* * * * * *
It’s good to know that someone’s out there, putting together a bunch of happiness games to help people feel better. We need more of that sort of altruism in this world. I’m obviously not the right market — my brain must not be wired up right for these games to be working in their intended way — but there must be really awesome people behind this quest to happify the world.
I decide to read about them.
The CEO and co-founder is a guy named Tomer Ben-Kiki. Seriously, with a name like that how can you not be a happy fellow? He likes to scuba-dive. He’s a start-up guy.
The president is Ofer Leidner.
Who named these people?
Ofer would like to help people “dance their faces off.”
That is kind of creepy.
The chief scientist is actually named “Acacia Parks.” Doesn’t that sound fake too?
After perusing the peeps running Happify, one thing becomes abundantly clear. These folks like to start tech companies and make money. They’ve done it in a variety of subject areas. They are in it for money. Happify may be selling happiness to you, but its motivation is profit. You figure the odds that it offers a true path to happiness.
* * * * * *
Is being grumpy the same as being negative and not happy? I have to think about this.
(20 seconds later)
No, grumpy isn’t the same as negative and unhappy, in my grumpy opinion. It’s rare that I get in a mood like this, but let me get on the grumpy soap box for a second and do some preaching, because I’ve been pretty depressed lately, and I know a lot of loving people are really worried about (and rooting for) me and mine.
I do think it’s possible to be in a depressive episode, or trapped in a terrible situation, and “happy” at the same time. Not singing-in-the-rain happy, but deeply contented at the core of things. Settled and satisfied — the sort of feeling that leads a person to say things like, “I’m pretty blessed.” That sort of happy can anchor you through the bad times and keep you from disappearing.
There’s my real conceit. Despite all my whining and bitching and moaning, despite my self-loathing and guilt, I actually feel really blessed. I am incredibly happy at the root of things. I was born into a loving (albeit insane) family. I lucked into love with an amazing man I can’t possibly deserve. My children are… well, they’re children. What can I say.
Okay, okay, I can say that they’re spectacular human beings. All our flaws together amount to nothing, next to the love we have for each other.
It really worries me that there are so many disembodied solutions being offered for personal happiness and emotional wellness. People who mass-market happiness don’t care about any particular individual buying their products; they don’t know any of us little people. They have their own best interests at heart — the almighty buckaroos they’re searching for or the massive infantile ego they need to feed — and they’re selling little more than a superficial, pretty package.
I say, if you want to find a happier you, look local. Find a friend, a therapist, a family member — someone who looks at you, sees you, hears your story — and have that person help you find a way forward. Or find something to do locally to enrich your life — charitable work, gardening, volunteer tutoring, exercise, anything that’s about you and your relationship with what’s nearby. Don’t waste your time on useless mantras written by people who’ve never met you, don’t know you, and don’t give a rat’s ass about you (with my apologies to the much-maligned-yet-highly-loving-and-intelligent rat).
And don’t believe it when they tell you you’re going to find happiness at the end of some journey. If you’re waiting to find your way there, you’re fucked. You’ll never arrive. There’s no terminus. If we have to use this stupid travel metaphor, then let’s get it right at least. Happiness is the road, and it’s covered in potholes, bad drivers, and roadkill. Stay the course. Make fun of the things that piss you off, including yourself. Laugh and yell at the losers, including yourself. Cry if you have to. I know I have been a lot lately. And let yourself suck sometimes. Go on then. Just suck at everything. And when you’re done, pick up the pieces, wipe the bile off the front of your shirt, and get a move on. There are probably people depending on you, so get out there and take care of them instead of playing ridiculous games on sites like Happify.