It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to

It is best to give peo­ple some space to be them­selves.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - Check out Mary on Face­book at www.face­book.com/mary.sch­nei­der.writer star2@ thes­tar. com. my

I FELL down an es­ca­la­tor in a shop­ping mall the other day. I only have my­self to blame. At the time, I was run­ning with heels on, and try­ing my hard­est to avoid touch­ing the handrail. From a safety point of view, I might as well have been run­ning with ra­zor­blades in my shoes.

I dis­like es­ca­la­tor handrails. I sus­pect they are teem­ing with bac­te­ria and viruses. Most of them feel sticky to the touch, so I wouldn’t be sur­prised to dis­cover the be­gin­nings of the next Great Plague mul­ti­ply­ing on the very sur­face I’m sup­posed to hold onto for my own safety.

Any­way, in my haste to get down the germ- in­fested es­ca­la­tor, I stum­bled about four steps from the bot­tom. I tried to grab the handrail as I fell, but missed. What hap­pened next was a bit of a blur, but I was aware of an in­vol­un­tary som­er­sault, and my hands and knees mak­ing con­tact with the metal steps. The next thing I knew, I was ly­ing at the bot­tom of the es­ca­la­tor.

In my dazed state, while I was won­der­ing if any­one could see my knick­ers, two mid­dleaged men, who must have been com­ing down the es­ca­la­tor be­hind me, be­gan pulling me onto my feet by my arms.

My first thought: “My arms are go­ing to pop out of their sock­ets.”

As soon as I was stand­ing, I looked down at the ground – at my two arms, which had been torn off by my res­cuers.

Per­haps I imag­ined that last bit.

With­out any warn­ing, I be­gan to shake, so one of the men led me to a nearby bench, op­po­site a row of shops.

It was only when I sat down that I saw the state of my arms and legs. It looked as if a large, an­gry bear had been us­ing me as a scratch­ing post. In­deed, I could eas­ily have passed for Leonardo DiCaprio’s stunt dou­ble in the movie The Revenant.

The next day, de­spite the painkillers from my doc­tor, I felt as if I’d spent the night be­ing tram­pled on by the en­tire cast of River­dance, heavy shoes and all. I was due to par­tic­i­pate in a work­shop, and since I didn’t want to pull out, I walked into the fa­cil­i­ta­tor’s func­tion room with all the style and grace of a zom­bie, mi­nus the out­stretched arms.

The room was al­most full, so I took one of the last re­main­ing seats next to a man who, ac­cord­ing to his nametag, was called Larry. For some rea­son, Larry had tagged two smi­ley faces onto the end of his name.

I was feel­ing a bit down that day – brought on, no doubt, by my in­juries and a rest­less night with lit­tle sleep. As I sat down, Larry turned to me, smiled and then said, “Cheer up! It might never hap­pen.”

His ac­cent told me he was a fel­low Brit, but I was in no mood for cheer­ful banter, com­pa­triot or no com­pa­triot.

As we waited for the fa­cil­i­ta­tor to make an en­trance, Larry told me about his won­der­ful job, and his won­der­ful fam­ily, and his won­der­ful car, and his won­der­ful house ...

As I lis­tened to him, I prayed for a won­der­ful out- of- body ex­pe­ri­ence to carry me away from the won­der­ful Larry and his smi­ley faces.

“Did you know a smile uses less mus­cles than a frown?” he said, in an ob­vi­ous at­tempt to get me to be more cheer­ful.

“Like, who gives a rat’s ass about the phys­i­ol­ogy be­hind fa­cial ex­pres­sions?” I wanted to say, but didn’t.

In­stead, I pre­tended to be pre­oc­cu­pied with the work­shop sched­ule.

Af­ter a few min­utes sit­ting in si­lence, Larry must have felt de­prived, be­cause he sim­ply be­gan talk­ing again, like a ra­dio that had been switched on ac­ci­den­tally.

“I at­tended a mo­ti­va­tional work­shop last week, where I learnt that hap­pi­ness is a choice,” he an­nounced. “I think a lot of peo­ple would ben­e­fit from it. I now wake up ev­ery morn­ing and choose to be happy for the day. It re­ally works.”

At that mo­ment, I fought the urge to share a few choice words with Larry – words that prob­a­bly wouldn’t have made him feel happy, un­less he were to choose oth­er­wise, of course.

Why do some peo­ple think they can in­stantly make some­one happy, just by say­ing “Cheer up!”? If it were that easy, surely there would be no un­happy peo­ple around.

Can you imag­ine los­ing a loved one, only to have some happy soul tell you, on the day of the fu­neral, that it’s your choice to be happy?

It might make some peo­ple so an­gry that it would re­sult in two fu­ner­als.

Sim­i­larly, what if I’ve just been di­ag­nosed with a fa­tal dis­ease that leaves me with only two weeks left to live? Surely, I’m en­ti­tled to feel less than happy about it.

I think Larry showed a lack of re­spect for my feel­ings that day. He was ba­si­cally telling me that my be­hav­iour was un­ac­cept­able and I needed to do some­thing about it.

I’m a lot bet­ter now, but I still refuse to smile on cue. Oddly enough, that makes me feel happy.

Is hap­pi­ness a mat­ter of choice? — Filepic

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