Spencer Richard

Two Things That Make You Miserable

Let me start by telling you that I’m an expert.

Not that I’m one of those science types who study happiness like they’re dissecting baby toads, which really does happen. No, I’m the sort of expert who has spent a great amount of life unhappy, wondering why that is, and ultimately stumbling on a couple solutions to the age old dilemma. It starts with identifying two big things you’ve been telling yourself. Because I’m an expert, I can tell you that you’ve experienced at least both of these sentiments over the course of your life. Let’s start with the most obvious one:

I’m too poor.

Yes, you’re so poor, you poor bastard. You don’t have two pennies to rub together, do you? Not to trivialize your pain but none of us in Canada even have pennies to rub anywhere anymore. We’re totally sick of pennies. Anyway, you’re poor and you have this thought in your head that only if you had another X amount of dollars you’d be able to buy the things that make life simple enough to enjoy. If you could afford that new television or that new vibrator you’d be able to kick back, relax, and let your problems massage themselves away.

The hook is (and there’s always at least one), you aren’t unhappy because you’re poor, you’re unhappy because you’ve created the association in your brain that poorness = unhappiness. Here you are telling yourself that maybe next week will be good because then you’ll have your paycheck and you can finally get that next season of Glee to watch on DVD and all will be good. But then, on the big day, you make a Walmart run and spend the rest of the weekend watching Glee, utterly depressed because you spent your entire weekend watching Glee.

Lather, rinse, repeat, right?

Call me crazy but this happens to be exactly what money does to people when they’re not careful. We condition ourselves into thinking that every time we spend money on something we want, we gain it’s attributes. Want to be sporty? Buy a sports jersey. Want to be creative? Buy a box of crayons. Sassy? Clearly that new pair of boots will accentuate the right curves.

Hollywood makes money look like it solves everything, but the truth is it doesn’t. You know this, your mother told you this before.

So why don’t you act like it?

Mother Teresa established an order of Missionaries  whose sole purpose on this earth is to serve God by administering to the sick and the poorest of the poor. It should be noted that they themselves are very poor. Here’s the thing though, I once had the immense pleasure of meeting several of the Nuns who belong to the order at an airport and I noticed something.

They are all ridiculously happy.

Like, ridiculously.

There are plenty of testimonies out there to confirm this (just Google that shiz-nit), but to summarize them for your convenience: their pores secrete joy like Nathan Fillion secretes funny things to say.  Want to know why they’re so happy? Probably because they never say:

I’m the most important thing in the world.

This might sound a little counter intuitive, but worrying  about whether or not you are happy all the time kind of, sort of, may indicate that you are a narcissistic prig. “But Spencer,” I hear a few of you saying, “depression is a serious thing and you shouldn’t downplay it. Depressed people have a hard enough time as it is without being called narcissists.”

… Let me explain.

I know this isn’t your common wisdom, even professional sites like Helpguide think you should “List what you like about yourself,” but I’m here to humbly tell you to pull your head out of your ass. Depressed people can’t list things they like about themselves because they don’t even like themselves.

Yes, depressed people are narcissistic, but before I get too preachy I should remind you that we pretty much all are. That aside, I can happily tell you that happiness is a side effect. See happiness, true sits-in-your-bones happiness, is not achieved so much as it is bestowed. It’s a gift for living unselfishly. It’s the sort of thing that happens with lasting result when we pull our heads out of our asses.

The Missionaries of Charity are so full of joy despite their undersized wallets because they are part of something bigger than themselves and they know it. There is a mystery in the riddle of understanding our place in the world, but it isn’t revealed through self-analysis. It’s something that comes only in relation to others, only through the mirror of human connection. One of the best helps for depression is the act of volunteering or helping someone who doesn’t have the power to help themselves, regardless of whether or not you think you have the guts/strength/time or whatever to do it.


Because it gets you out of your own self-obsessed pattern of thinking. It puts your mind to a bigger picture where you are a cog in an elegant machine, where you depend on your neighbor and they depend on you. Even Helpguide agrees with me on this one, though not in so many thought out words.

You should probably keep in mind that feeling better takes time. Like I said, happiness is a gift, and gifts cannot be rushed because they turns into a service. Put in a different way: happiness comes to those whose first desire is not to acquire it as one acquires a bottle of Prozac.

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Spencer Richard

was once a small town columnist for THE HINTON PARKLANDER (2008-2009). Before then he performed to an unsuspecting audience of over 8,000 people during the ALBERTA WINTER GAMES in 2006. Later he had one of his own songs, ON THE WAY, produced by Black Road Records (2013) and showcased it in with an original music video. He is currently working on a couple of novels and a rap album. During the day he manages a book store in Edmonton, Alberta.

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • A good piece of advice so easily forgotten in our present society. No amount of money will ever equal happiness. Just ask the stars in Hollywood.

  • Spencer, I love your insight on this… As an individual who has also spent a good chunk of life being miserable and unhappy, I too “pulled my head out of my ass as it were” and decided to change my thinking and I can tell you honestly that that’s what it takes… Not money, not things… YOU as an individual must learn to refocus on what it really means to live a happy productive life and then live it.

    • Absolutely, Annette. It’s easy to forget, and I think especially so in this society we live in, where it demands self-proficiency, self-determination, self-maintaining, and all these things that taken to the extreme, cloud our judgment and make us too egocentric to function. There is something to be said for the Individual, but I think more is revealed through their contribution to others. When we are small, the world becomes big and beautiful.

  • Well Spencer, your 1st Blog and now my 1st comments to a Blogger. I going to say this – The happest people are those who self forget as oppose to being self aware. The most depressed people you’ll ever find are those that can’t seem to forget themselves and thus, can’t reach out to others until, at least, they “find themself”. Thomas Merton in his book (No Man is a Island) said it best. “We become ourselves by dying to ourselves. We gain only what we give up. We cannot find ourselves within ourselves, but only in others…… We must forget ourselves in order to become truly conscious of who we are”. So the best way to love and serve ourselves is to love and serve others. Further, why are the Nuns so happy? Because God is Love. And the love, that is God, can best be discribed as “Willing the good of the other for sake of the other and then doing something about it”. ( Father Barron – wordonfire.com) Which they do!

    • I love your article, it is so true. Whenever I do something for others I feel great. I have been meaning to do something like volunteering, and your article reminded me to get on it. Thanks so much for your inspiration, you are an excellent writer as well!!! Looking forward to more…
      (Lorie Rogers) Also, I do love Mother Teresa – she was an amazing woman and role model for all of us.

      • Lorie, thank you very, very much, I’m glad you enjoyed it– It’s so great to hear this kind of feedback, you know. The kind that makes me feel special is always welcome (I like feeling special). … Also (since Bad Boy Billy is in this particular comment feed) I’m going to say I enjoyed the idea of self-forgetting vs. being self-aware that he describes. Nice way to add to the conversation. Keep on reading, and feel free to keep on commenting, everybody! [I’m starting to really enjoy this ‘feedback’ thing.]

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