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Sunday Lifestyle

A little niche for happiness

SECOND WIND - Barbara C. Gonzalez - The Philippine Star
A little niche for happiness
My own little niche of happiness

I would be really happy if the people around us were more honest, straightforward and well-mannered. We should be more like the people in Batanes, who can have a store without a storekeeper.

Happiness! What is it anyway? A lifting of the heart? Does the heart really lift?  Does it fly? Does it flap its wings and take off or is it like an airplane? Does it take an elevator or a lift to lift it? Of course not, silly. When it lifts you just don’t really feel it’s there.  It isn’t ache-y or break-y. It isn’t cold or warm. It just cruises along on temperate.  It does not thump or rush on staccato toes. It just beats rhythmically, painlessly, lightly, you hardly notice it. It doesn’t send blood rushing to your face and giving you what is called road rage when you’re driving. It doesn’t make you stick your hand out with your middle finger pointing upward when you finally overtake someone who just overtook you.

 Happiness is the ease you feel when the traffic flows nice and swift from Quezon City to Makati, from point A to point B, when you have a flow of moving cars doing the right thing. When you have a lane for motorcycles and scooters, buses, cars and everyone is observing their rightful place on the road. When people are crossing on pedestrian lanes and cars are respecting them. When traffic doesn’t give off this overwhelming I-can’t-breathe-in-this-mess feeling. When you can make appointments precisely. I will be there at 10 a.m. and you are there then. Not like today when we say I am leaving my house at 9 a.m. but I don’t know what time I will get there.

 Yes, an ease in traffic would make this country very happy indeed.

 You’re walking through a mall and you notice the number of people wearing masks made of gauze or some other material. Something in you looks askance and wonders — is that a new look? Then you realize that no, it’s not, it’s nothing fashionable. It’s because their doctors gave them a lecture on air pollution and they’re protecting themselves.  Then you remember that in the 1990s when you were head of a foundation you learned at a meeting that the Philippines had received air pollution machines to determine the level of pollution in the country and they almost always broke down in three days. The pollution was that bad 20 or so years ago. What about now?

 What happened to our wonderful fresh air? The sound of birds chirping all day that we would hear from our windows? I used to love the freshness of the air after a rain.  Now we only have warnings of leptosoriasis or something like that.

 “Do you drink vitamin D?” my doctor asked me.

“No.” I said.  “Never heard of drinking Vitamin D. You got it from the sun, didn’t you?”  I replied.

“Before all this pollution,” she said.  Then we both sighed heavily.

 I wonder if I should tell the government — please give us back our fresh air and our sunshine full of pure vitamin D.  Will they listen to me?  Of course not. They will ignore me.  So I just include it in my prayers.  I ask God to give us back our once beautiful environment. He tells me to go look for it myself. Maybe I can find it in the mountains beyond Banawe. But I can’t go there much less move there. So I have made a tiny porch for myself and fixed it up to pretend the air is fresh and the sun shines well up here. Sometimes it feels like it does. Sometimes when I turn my imagination on full blast, I can hear my little clay birds chirping. This is where I say my morning prayers.

Finally I would be really happy if the people around us were more honest, straightforward and well-mannered. We should be more like the people in Batanes, who can have a store without a storekeeper. They trust their customers to take what they want, add up what they owe and leave the payment in a basket. They know no one will take the payment from them. They know everyone will pay properly. There is so much mutual honesty in their culture. What do we have to do to spread that out over our 7,100 islands at high tide divided by seas? I genuinely don’t know.

 If they don’t know the answer, to just admit they don’t know the answer. If we don’t answer because we hope they will recognize that we don’t want to, that they don’t force us into a corner? This refers to text messages from total strangers who suddenly want to be intimate friends with you. You already told them I will reply if I am not busy but the busy days come and you see texts from them asking you aren’t answering.

 I could go on for a long while about what would make us happy, knowing most of it will not happen. So I suppose the key is to find our own little niche of happiness, to create it for ourselves like I have, and to go there and sit quietly when the rest of the world drives us mad.

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HAPPINESS

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