How to be happy in 2019? Ask Audri

As you might have noticed, the news pretty much sucks these days. Hatred, thievery, corruption, anger, division, and puppy-kicking dominate the airwaves and smartphones of early 2019.

So, what’s a humor writer to do? When my editor recently suggested she’d like me to write more often, I admitted I was having trouble coming up with much humor.

I mean I’m happy to laugh at the sheer absurdity of the antics in Washington and Albany these days but that’s more black humor and cynicism than anything. And then I realized something.

I knew a happy person. We’re talking seriously thrilled here. Just blissfully happy about even the smallest things. And so, I decided to ask her what the secret is.

My little happy person is Audrianna Rae or Audri. She’s 11 months old and our newest granddaughter. Audri likes everything pretty much. When you say hi, her eyes go wide, and she grins and wiggles.

When you set her on the floor, she immediately starts crawling in pretty much every direction, exploring the carpet texture; the toys we set out for her; the cats, who give her a very wide berth; and the little solar critters we have around the house.

Nothing makes Audri happier than the solar hula dancer and flamingo on the kitchen windowsill. She stares, in rapt baby attention, at the wiggling hips and flapping wings as if they are the coolest things she has ever seen. And to her, they are.

They’re colorful and move for no apparent reason and just make quiet little clicking noises, and that’s all they do. And for Audri, that’s good enough. That’s great, in fact.

When I stare at them, I like the movement too and the sheer silliness of a pink flamingo and tiny hula dancer just wiggling away. They’re kitschy and silly and have no real purpose except to entertain small humans and anxious writers. And it works.

Have you noticed that the world is filled with textures? Audri has.

She loves to rub and grip and grab at carpets, couches, my beard, blankets, cane chairs, and pretty much everything else. Her tiny fingers explore and feel, and she stares intently, trying to figure out what it is she’s touching. Try that sometime.

Food is huge these days. Audri loves to eat. But she most definitely has her own tastes.

When she sees a full bottle, she is ready to rock. She reaches for it, squeals happily, and sucks at that puppy like it’s the center of the universe. Of course, I see similar reactions from adults when confronted with a cold beer, a glass of wine, or those amber-colored rust inhibitors (hard liquors) people like to rave about too. So even some grownups kind of get this.

After a bottle, the real fun begins. Audri likes crunchy puffs, applesauce, and various multi-colored baby-food concoctions. She no sooner gets a spoonful in her mouth than she’s looking for the next one. This kid eats with purpose and dedication, grinning all the way through and making happy noises.

She’s like a baby foody in a gourmet eatery as the waiter brings out each exquisite course. When was the last time you enjoyed a meal that much? You could. You just have to slow it down and savor. Just focus.

Ignore calories. Just be there, and savor and munch and slurp and become one with the meal. Get all Zen on it! The marketers would crow about mindfulness at this point. Audri doesn’t do marketing, she just lives it.

And there, I think, is the real secret. Audri doesn’t multi-task. She doesn’t anticipate or worry and hold grudges or analyze.

She is right there in the moment at all times, laser focused on whatever it is that’s in front of her. Well, at least for 15 seconds or so. I mean, when was the last time you were in the moment like that? Totally focused. Doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just actually try and be there.

At the moment, I’m typing. I feel the keys under my fingers, hear the sound of the keyboard, and see the words appear as black shapes on a white field. I’m trying to get something from my brain onto the screen and eventually into print.

I’m just writing. I’m here. Where are you? What are you doing? Are you actually there?

So, do you want to be happy in 2019? Take a tip from a baby. See the world through new eyes. Laugh at it; it’s pretty damn silly. Savor it all. Stay present.

And the news? The hell with it. It’s all fleeting anyway. Are you furious over some moron move in Washington? Some horror overseas? The economy? Expanded rights for some group or other?

Sure, many of these stories and issues are important. But, can you fix them by being angry? Maybe spend a little more time trying to understand what’s getting you riled and maybe see about doing something concrete.

And then, go enjoy your favorite snack. Really get into it. Take a walk and look at the color of the sky. That is some serious blue some days.

Sit and read a really good book or story and lose yourself in the words and images. And if you can, read to a baby or a child or someone else and share the moment. You only get a certain number.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he is doing his best to take his own advice. Mostly. Audri says he needs work.