I’ve spent the past several days in San Diego, helping my friend, Keli, set up her very first third grade classroom. I’ve been staying at her mom’s house, and it has been amazing to wake up in the morning, pour a cup of coffee and to sit on her patio in her lush backyard, with palm trees within view from every direction I look. There is just something about a palm tree that will make anyone who did not grow up with them think about vacation. I am on vacation, but it’s been a working vacation. In between the cutting, laminating, designing, gluing, arranging and hanging, there’ve been runs on the beach, walks down palm tree-lined streets, some great conversation, food and of course, wine. Nothing has made me feel more like it was a vacation though, than sitting outside on the patio. If I lived here, it would be my favorite place. I don’t live here and it’s my favorite place. It’s just peaceful. Yesterday, there were hummingbirds everywhere in the morning. AND there’s a lemon tree. Fancy. It just makes me happy and I’ve been thinking about how to get my backyard to be my favorite place in my house. Watch out, Honey, I’ve been thinking again!
While I’ve been happily sitting on Julie’s patio, the world was stunned by the death of Robin Williams.
It is always shocking when someone famous dies. I remember I was putting stuff into a box in my living room when my friend Erica called and told me about Princess Diana. I was driving in my car on Highway 8 when I heard about Michael Jackson. And I was sticking name tag sleeves on desks in San Diego when I heard about Robin Williams.
I am not going to pretend that I was the world’s biggest Robin Williams fan, because I really wasn’t. Don’t send me hate mail. It’s not that I disliked him, I just don’t tend to love most of the comedy-types. Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Bill Murray, Adam Sandler. Actually, I just Googled top 100 Comedian Actors, and I don’t love many of them. I guess I don’t like laughing. Or maybe I don’t like it when people are funnier than me. Whichever.
I did however grow up with Robin Williams being a household name, so it was shocking to see a Tweet from Ellen saying she was shocked. Yes, Ellen Degeneres. We’re friends. Well, friends on Twitter. She is funny too. And I ADORE her. Maybe it’s a gender issue?
More shocking was the fact that suicide is suspected as the cause of death. Don’t all of us normal people just assume that all of these rich celebrities are sitting in their big fancy homes or on vacation in a fancy estate on a tropical island, happy as a clam in the ocean? Not a care in the world because they’ve got a lot of zeros before the decimal point in their bank accounts, instead of just a lot of zeros period. It’s easy to get caught up in the, “I’ll be happy when” thing. When I get those new shoes, when I get a new car, when I get a bigger house, when I make more money. Study after study has shown that while there may be a momentary spike in my happiness level when I get a new pair of jeans, those jeans are not, in fact going to make me more than temporarily happy.
I found this article about happiness really interesting because it cites a study that says that we really only have control over about 12% of our happiness level. Nearly half of our happiness level is genetic. Some people are just wired to be happier and some are wired to be more unhappy. Just another thing to blame the parents for. About 40% of our happiness level can be traced to events, good and bad, but remember, this impacts us temporarily. So we are left with just 12% that we really have much control over. Control being the important word here for any control freak.
Faith, family, community and work. This is the 12% part of my happiness that I have control over. I can’t help how my genes are programmed and although I can plan fun events that make me happy, I can’t plan every event that’s going to happen in my life. There are going to be some that suck. But I can make intentional decisions on my faith, family, community and work that will impact my happiness. Isn’t this good information to have?
Like many other comedians who have spent most of their lives making other people laugh, it is now clear to the public at large that Robin Williams was dealing with some deep unhappiness. What a sad reminder that money and fame really cannot bring happiness and that we should be intentionally focusing on the things that can.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, don’t wait for them to ‘snap out of it’. Depression is in the 48% of things that we have little control over and can be debilitating. Getting help dealing with it from a doctor or mental health professional.