Articles of Happiness. Part #1. Where do you discover Happiness and Why?

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On February 13th, I started that day just like many of the others for the past year or so. I have been on a soul-searching journey. Contemplating what I really wanted to do with my life. As I was sitting at the beach getting ready for my morning meditation (mock me if you like…the shit really works) and just before I put my phone into airplane mode,  I received this incredible gift from my wife, Barbara. “I love you you are my everything”. Facebook is good for at least a couple of things… My response back was typical. Herbie is my dog and yes I have two wives…and yes it is legal in MA to have a dog as a wife…

I played this video 4 times and sat there looking out over the ocean just thanking God and the Universe and my wife for giving me this most welcomed and unexpected gift of happiness. So why am I sharing this with you. Because in that moment I figured out what I needed to do. I wanted to help other’s discover  this warm, calming and indescribable feeling that I experienced this morning….And no my wife is not going to be sending you love text messages with awesome music videos from the 70’s. These are only for me. Go find your own king or queen…

Well what led me to this point is what happened to me a couple of days prior

I had been freaking stuck for almost a year. Sure, I used every excuse in the book to keep myself safe in a place where I didn’t have to really commit to anything or anyone. I am taking a trip, I have to do this and that. Why…Because I was afraid…Afraid of what you may ask. I guess, life in general.

Honestly, I think I was afraid because I didn’t want to make the wrong decision. But in not making a decision, I was making a decision and my decision was to try a bunch of little things but not really commit. Not do things that would make me uncomfortable and stretch myself beyond what I believed I was capable of. But the biggest problem I had was that I was doing things that didn’t bring me what I really wanted, which was happiness.

We all have these fears in life that keep us stuck in the manure of life. The manure can be anything from doing a job we don’t enjoy to spending time with people we really don’t like. We have all been there and if you say you haven’t you lie about other things as well. If you want to share your vulnerability with me, please comment below on what you currently do out of habit, being on auto-pilot or just the feeling of being trapped that makes you unhappy. While we are going from one thing to another we seem to fill our lives with things, tasks and just stuff that not only complicates our lives but don’t give us the feeling of happiness. Which in the end leaves us feeling as though we have been swept up in a shit storm of chaos that we call life.  

My family on Angel’s Bay Beach in Hawaii. Barbara and I Celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary with our boys Richie and Matthew. My last days of happiness for a long time.

Which leads me to mine. We lost our son Richie 3 ½ years ago. He was 27 years old. When this happened to our family I could never even imagine smiling or laughing and experiencing happiness again. It would elude me for the rest my life and would be banished from my valuable vault of emotions. During the worst times on my journey in grief I tried to find happiness with alcohol and anti-depressants. I knew happiness was not at the bottom of a bottle. However, at the bottom of the bottle and those pills provided me with seclusion from the world and reality. I found myself running as fast as I could away from my reality because the expectation of facing it was more than my mind could handle and I was in survival mode.

My sense of reality was the fear of never finding happiness again. Which was my biggest problem. There are so many emotions that accompany grief but what I found was that the thought of never being happy again was the most difficult one for me to comprehend. Therefore, burying my emotions, numbing my world and curling up in the fetal position of depression provided me with the relief I needed to survive.

Struggling with grief is a battle of keeping your head above water by all means until you come across something or someone that is going to throw you a life preserve from the deck of the USS Hope. Once hope is lost there is not much else to live for. The question that always surfaces is “for what”. Why should I get out of bed? Why should I go to the doctor? Why should I exercise? Why should I bother trying to be happy? FOR WHAT? I am going to die anyway? I am not going to achieve happiness or fulfill my dreams? That is what it all comes down to is surviving long enough that you can find that small glimmer of hope and a pursuit to answer your question, For what? A tiny light in all the darkness that you can move towards in order to get through the grief and other challenges in life and get yourself on the other end of the what seems like an endless battle of living a life of hopelessness. Find that one, for what, because in that answer is the glimmer of hope that is required to get you to the place that you know and need to be.

Because to confront the thought of living out the rest of my life being tortured without happiness was more than I had signed up for. How can one even envision a life without happiness. It is so hard to comprehend but in all honestly according to the world health organization depression is going to be one of the top diseases in the world in the next couple of years. But needless to say, when we flip on the auto-pilot to steer us through life we miss out on all those small little glimmers of happiness that are around us 24 hours a day that can be used to combat depression, grief, sadness, and hopelessness in order to see the world around us in a different light.

During my journey of grief I really disliked happy people. If you smiled, laughed or was enjoying yourself, you were on my shit list. Prior to my son’s passing I loved to laugh, smile, do foolish things and tell outrageous stories to make people happy. However, after the loss of Richie I did everything in my powers to fulfill some secret code of ethics that stated. “I should eliminate happiness from my life”. Eradicate the word from my memory. There were times that I felt like smiling and laughing but I didn’t. Why, because I was afraid I was going to dishonor my son in some crazy way and others would judge me and say that I didn’t love him.  In the end I was dishonoring my own self and Richie’s memory by not being Richie. Oh I really don’t enjoy talking about myself in the third person, but it makes me happy to joke about it.

I felt as though I was dishonoring my family, friends and loved ones because these people looked to me because I was always able to put a smile on their face…Especially asking Barbara if she wanted to see my abs when she was feeling down. The punch line is that the last person that saw my abs was the doctor that pulled me out of my mom’s womb back in the fall of 67… I am have to say I am happy to be 51 and abless. Shit…that isn’t even a word.. I mean how much work is it to have abs anyway?  

Can someone comment and let me know. I guess if doing seven thousand crunches or eating 1,000 pounds of kale each day will get you abs and it makes you happy then go for it. Who am I too judge. I spent a lot of money and time when I was in my 20’s trying to find my abs. 20 minute abs. 10 minute beers were better. I had more fun with the beer in my 20’s and God made shirts to cover up our little imperfections of life. So beer made me happier than abs would ever. Therefore, I chose Beer. I didn’t really want to go on a rant about abs but felt as though I needed to get the point across. Sorry all you ab lovers out there. I am getting to the point..

Remember, the experience of happiness is in the journey not the end result. Honestly, how long do you think you are going to keep those abs anyway? And who wants to see an 85 year old guy with a six pack. That is just plain creepy…I guess unless you are married to him! The only old dude that I would let in my house with a six pack is if he is carrying one in his hands of the alcoholic beverage variety and has his shirt on. Sorry, my happiness is having fun with the things most people take so seriously in life. Article of Happiness, Article #2, lighten up. Taking life seriously will create more unhappiness. Are you wrapped so tight that any type of little interruption of your day creates turmoil in your life? Please comment below. I lived in that world for many years. You cannot control that much in life and if you think you can you are setting yourself up for big bouts of unhappiness. You can make all the plans you want. However, life always seems to be working from a different playbook. Take it from me, I had it all planned out and then LIFE HAPPENED. SO…Let your hair down and LIVE. If you are bald, grow it out and do an awesome comb over or get a wild hair piece. Not sure if I gave you Article #1. But there is enough here that should be starting to formulate some type of opinion on this. If not, you probably stopped reading six hours ago or at least after I put the picture above in this article.

Ok, I hate to leave you hanging, but curiosity is healthy. So that is it for part #1. Stay tuned for part number #2 where I will share a lot more of the Articles of happiness and my new purpose in life and details on how you can help not only yourself discover more happiness, but help others and me make happiness contagious. If not, that is ok as well. You must have a sufficient supply of happiness in your life and that makes me even happier.
If you would like to comment please comment below and let me know where you discover happiness in life.

If you are offended by the abs guy, I may redeem myself in part 2. Probably not. But some people find happiness in complaining about everything and that makes you happy then that is the goal. However, you are going to have major issues with happiness challenge #1. More on that in the next article and I would love to discuss yelp reviewers here but that would impede on my happiness in this moment. I hope I see you in the next article.

All my Love and Support and just smile.
Richie

P.S. The picture of the dog drinking the beer was my dog Toby. He was amazing and he brought me so much happiness as does this picture.

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Dedicated to the memory of a dad and his son and trying to understand the why.

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Kristoff and Julian St John

I had written another article to start my new blog, but felt a hungering urge that I had to address another celebrity tragedy that really hit home with me.

Well here I am at 4:20 am in the morning wide awake staring at the ceiling after my dog Herbie bit my toe. My wife and I have 3 dogs and Herbie and I share a king bed because he is my second wife and he has some type of foot fetish. Therefore, post bite. I am laying here and can’t fall back asleep because I cannot stop thinking about the recent passing of the young and the restless star Kristoff St. John at the young age of 52. Sources are stating that it could be suicide. Kristoff’s sons Julian passed away couple of years ago.

My wife first told me about this tragedy yesterday afternoon and we chatted for some time about how we could relate so much to Kristoff’s agonizing pain because of his son’s passing.  As bereaved parents we walk on that tightrope of life where a memory can sway our emotions from happiness to sadness in a blink of an eye. You can never prepare for that moment when a song that your child loved plays on the radio, eating a meal he or she enjoyed, reliving a memory of a magical moment you shared with them and knowing that there will be no more new memories. The emotions that come with these experiences range from sadness to pure happiness. It is something that can’t be controlled now matter how much control you think you have. That is one of the biggest illusions of life…Thinking that we can control so much. That is BS. The reality is that we can only control a few things and coming to grips with this reality is the first step in discovering happiness.

If Kristoff’s passing is determined to be suicide, he will be severely judged by society. Not for being an amazing actor, father, son, husband, friend and co-worker, but for being weak because he took the easy way out. That he should have fought harder, he should have seen a therapist, he should have talked to someone. There is something he could have done instead of taking his own life and create more pain for his family. Those are what I called the shouldhaves (I just invented this word so it is not in the dictionary yet) and they should try to see things from another person’s perspective. During my journey of grief, I came across a lot of these know it all’s that had all this advice but had not experience. I discuss this in length in my book, the chapter called whose got your six. More about that later.

I am here to tell all those shouldhaves that they should have taken a course in compassion. I am Kristoff, along with almost every other bereaved parent out there that is a member of this community that we didn’t want to be a part of. The loss of a child is the most traumatizing experience that a parent can have. It is not natural, it is beyond comprehendible and the biggest question we have is WHY.  We as bereaved parents fully understand what stories were playing in Kristoff’s mind and what he thought about every single second of every single day since his son’s passing. It is almost impossible to think of anything else. It consumes every thought from the moment you open your eyes until the moment you try to close them at night. Then you have the shouldhaves that said you should have gotten over it.

What is life going to be like now? How could I have let this happen? My only job was to protect him or her and I couldn’t even do that. I am a failure as a parent. Why wasn’t it me?  Why did God/universe do this to me? How can I keep going on? Questions like this haunt our minds because we believe that there is such a finality of death. Our minds will tell us that there is no escaping this loop of grief that is constantly beating us down and pushing us deeper into the darkest hole of depression. We lose hope and when hope is lost the alternatives are very few. Hence the word hopelessness.

After the loss of my son Richie, I spent a year and a half keeping myself numb. I didn’t want to face the reality of his passing.  I called this my mask of society. The consequences of living with the reality was something that I couldn’t comprehend and couldn’t even begin to understand. The constant stabbing into my heart that felt like I was having a heart attack 24 hours a day. The empty feeling knowing that I would never give my son a hug, hear him laugh or see his beautiful smile again tortured my already weakened body and mind. The pain was constant and horrific and the only way I could avoid it was to keep it at a bay by any means possible. Which usually meant alcohol and a lot of anti-depressants. You will also have the people that will judge us for this as well. I say that I was being resourceful and did whatever I needed to do in order to survive in that moment. Because that is how one survives an unexpected tragedy that drops a ton of freaking bricks on your head when you though life was amazing. Moment by moment, step by step, that is what it takes to keep going and to find the happiness you once enjoyed.

While I was living in my world of numbness there were moments of contemplation where ending it would have been a viable option to stop the constant stabbing in my heart, alleviate the emptiness, eliminate the loneliness and to once and for all power off my mind.  This conversation with myself would continue at length about the pros and cons of this decision. I am wondering if Kristoff had these same conversations going on in his head. If I had to guess I would say yes. Because on my journey of grief that was the consensus for most parents that lost children. It is hard to find a way out, when the only thing we want is to have something that we can never have again in this physical world. This is one thing that we can’t fix, no matter how popular you are, how much money you have and not matter who you know. The finality of this loss cannot be undone. However, to move forward through grief there must be a glimmer of hope. For hells sake it is not easy. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It is my hope that if you lost a child loved one or are feeling sad you will find some of that hope here in this article.

I am sure there are people reading this that will say that thinking about taking yourself out to end the pain is the weak person’s way out. Are those shouldhaves still reading this. They probably should not be reading this.  I say to them, in those moments of irrational thoughts we become selfish and can only think about our own pain. Not the aftermath and debris field of life that will lie in the wake of another tragedy. We only are thinking of 2 things. One, ending the pain and two, laying with our child. I can guarantee that Kristoff was thinking about these two things for the past several months since his tragic loss.

I understand what Kristoff was going through because as bereaved parents we have all been there and have had those moments of irrationality. I am here to tell let the world, all bereaved parents and anyone else that is struggling that there is a way through the grief and struggles of life.  The key I found was being able to master the one thing that was at the root of my depression and hopelessness. Yes, the thing between our two ears…our mind.  By giving your tragedy a different meaning. To redirect your mind to focus on what you have instead of what you have lost. I know it is a huge step, but this not only goes for bereaved parents but for anyone out there that is depressed and struggling to find the light. In the end, all we really want is some relief, someone to understand us and some hope that there is a life and happiness on the other side of the horror story we are currently living in. The world doesn’t need any more labels and judgement from the shouldhaves. We clearly have plenty of that now. Now is the time for compassion, understanding, connection and love. That is what we are here to do and to provide to each other as human beings.

When my son passed the meaning I gave his passing was, why did this happen to me. This meaning kept me in the darkness when all I wanted was to see the light. I finally found hope and the light when I began to give his passing a different meaning. I began to ask myself questions. How can I create something meaningful out of this? What can I do to take this tragedy and reframe it into something that will not only help me but serve others? I found that when I took the focus off myself and put it on others, like my wife, my other son, my family and the world; that is when my eyes began to open, and a small glimmer of light started showing through the darkness. That is when I began to see things in a different perspective, that is when I discovered the true gifts that I have been given in this world. That is when I realized that my wife and I had an angel in our presence for 27 years and he provided us the gifts that we are sharing with you in this moment and will continue to do for the rest of our lives.

I know this a sh*t ton to swallow right now. Small steps. That is what I found was so helpful. Not thinking about tomorrow, just thinking about the next couple of seconds. As time goes on the small steps will help you find the path through the grief and on the other side of what I call rediscovered pure unfiltered happiness. I am a better person, husband, father, son and friend as a result of the journey that I have been on. This is possible for everyone out there and getting in the right frame of mind is the key to discovering the light and happiness. For now, the biggest thing you need to understand in this moment is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

There are resources and incredible people in the amazing world that can help you get through that grief, emptiness and loneliness and find the light. You just need to be resourceful and think about what your child would have wanted for your life. Would they want you to be unhappy? Would they want you to be angry? Would they want you to live the rest of your life carrying around the burden of their loss? What do you think?

If you don’t make a change, things won’t change. Therefore, what can you do today to make things a little lighter in your life? What can you do right now to help yourself?  Who can you talk to? What book can you read? How can you find a resource that will help you on your journey to rediscover happiness that you once experienced? How can you discover more happiness in life? It’s out there and you just need to have the determination and grit of a warrior to seek it out and grab it.

I find Dr Google an amazing resource for finding people, support and books to help people on their journey. You can also pick up a copy of my book that benefits my son’s foundation, The Richie Pryor Foundation. The warriors of life, “Conquering grief and battling your way back to happiness” .  This book is filled with the resources and experiences that helped me rediscover happiness. If you cannot afford a book, please send me an email at whatsup@richiepryor.com and I will email you an electronic copy of my book.

I also found when bad things happen to good people a great resource in my darkest of times. Because I wanted to know why.

Here are a couple of amazing resources to help you on your journey

The compassionate friends
Bereaved parents of the USA link.

I also conduct online grief workshops a couple of times a month. Check here for workshop dates and times.

I am also doing research for my next book about happiness. I call it the happiness experiment. It consists of a happiness quiz to measure your own happiness as well as 3-week challenge to discover more happiness in your life.

If you are interested in participating and helping with my research for my book. Please click on the link below to participate in my happiness experiment and make happiness contagious. Like any experiment it is a work in progress. If you run into any challenges, please hit me up at Whatsup@richiepryor.com

The Happiness Experiment

Please stay tuned for my Discovering Happiness workshop…. I know but I am only a mortal and as such only have 24 hours in a day.

Please remember to take some action now. Remember small steps and at all costs be resourceful and think with your heart instead of your mind.

Click here to subscribe to my articles of happiness blog. This is it. I promise I don’t spam anyone. That doesn’t make anyone happy.

All my love and support.

Just Smile

Richie