Monday, April 19, 2010

On the benefits of being good-tempered

Socks is the most even-tempered, enthusiastic, and generally positive creature ever. She has three moods: sleeping, bored, and excited, and she spends most of her time in the last one. Almost everything is wonderfully fun and happy-making. Absolutely the only bad thing is idleness in excess of that required for dozing.

Today was a great example of how this works out well for her. Yesterday, we had company over, and that was the best thing ever! Today, we had a long drive to the airport, which was the best thing ever! Afterwards, we had a walk around the parking lot near Moe's and Petsmart, which is full of smells, and which is therefore the best thing ever! Then she got a side order of "extra meat" from Moe's to eat, which was the best thing ever! Afterwards, a long ride home with some chances to stick her head out the car window, which is the best thing ever! Then we got back to her familiar, comfortable home with a soft sofa to lie in and her own dedicated spot thereupon, which was the best thing ever!

I wonder if she realizes that whatever happens next will probably also be the best thing ever, and thus appreciates that life is always getting better. Probably not. Everything seems to be wonderful entirely on its own, whether it's a surprise or the fulfillment of well-worn routine.

She has a good life in many ways. (A lot of dogs don't get a bowl full of greasy burrito-meat in the middle of a long car drive.) Of course, she also has a lot of time home alone with no one to play with, and in the winter she doesn't get as much exercise as would be ideal. But in all, she has a very good life. But her general sense of being happy almost all the time seems almost independent of that. She's not happy because of the sum total of all the good things in her life: she's happy about each thing, taken on its own, in the moment.

The life lesson there is kind of obvious and not necessarily helpful if taken too literally, as it would be on a bumpersticker or in a Cathy comic strip; but if not taken too far, it's certainly illustrative. There are a lot of good quotes about this, but this one is my favorite:
"Happiness is always a by-product. It is probably a matter of temperament, and for anything I know it may be glandular. But it is not something that can be demanded from life, and if you are not happy you had better stop worrying about it and see what treasures you can pluck from your own brand of unhappiness." - Robertson Davies
Roberston's probably taking it a little too far too if you take him literally, but the quote is nevertheless telling, and insightful.

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