Vera is one of my dearest patients. As an immigrant, she has worked hard her whole life, committing herself to both husband and son. In the face of his incredible health challenges, she and her husband stood by their son and raised him to be a wonderful young man.
She enjoys the simple pleasures in life – a movie with friends, a hot cup of tea and beautiful art, and she takes pleasure in thinking of others. I’ve lost track of the many sweet things she has given my daughter.
Some of my most generous, gracious and genuinely happy patients do not have a lot of money but like Vera and her family, they live a life rich in value. They give more than they take. They are thankful for what they have, and they appreciate what others do for them.
If there was a formula for happiness, it would be this. Happiness is 30% reality and 70% perception. We don’t always get what we choose, but we can choose to make the most of what we have.
Some of my most unhappy patients are the wealthy. Their materialism has no upper limit. For them, having so much makes them want even more and raises their expectations. They demand special treatment and a place at the front of the queue.
Every day, I see the full spectrum of health, life and relationships, and it is tragic to see how little we appreciate what we have when we have it. I see some fathers missing out on time with their young children not realizing how quickly they will grow. I see teens resenting their parents and itching to break free, not realizing how much they are loved and how much they can hurt. I see husbands and wives, parents and children complaining and taking one another for granted, not realizing how they will grieve when life ends unexpectedly.
Life is a tragic comedy. We long for what we think will make us happy, don’t appreciate it when we have it, and grieve when we lose it.
Much unhappiness comes from the unrealistic expectations that I call the myth of life – that life will be perfect and we will be happy when we get everything that we want. The reality is that life is neither fair nor perfect. People get sick and encounter misfortune even if they don’t have bad habits or do bad things. Even when you get what you want – good looks, a dream job, a new car, a beautiful home and a great partner, you can’t keep them. All things change, and we all will die some day.
Though life is not perfect, it can give you enough to be happy. Though we are not perfect, there is enough in each of us to love and be loved.
Since February 1st, I’ve been sharing the insights I’ve learned from my patients, friends and family. Each day, I’m posting one new insight on facebook.com/davidicus.wong, twitter.com/DrDavidicusWong and my blog, davidicuswong.wordpress.com.