What are you smiling about?


“I saw a picture of you. Those were the happiest days of my life.”

Chrissie Hynde, lead singer of the Pretenders, wrote “Back on the Chain Gang” as a memorial to lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, who died of a drug overdose.

(Back to the song later.)

What were the happiest days of your life?

It seems unlikely, but maybe your answer is “right now.” People are still falling in love, getting married, having babies, learning how to sing, dance, play a guitar, write and paint.

Mine? Ages 9-12.

Little League baseball, Pop Warner football, a Schwinn, a baseball glove, a Toshiba transistor radio, and the discovery that girls were often far more fascinating than boys.

At 13 the fog of my childhood lifted. I began to hear about the Cold War, addiction and homelessness. Names came up: Joseph McCarthy, Emmett Till, George Wallace.

A Washington Post headline reads, “Americans are getting more miserable, and there’s data to prove it.”

I think you could prove it just by looking around.

Not everyone, of course, is down in the dumps or letting a little pandemic ruin their fun.

Defying Dr. Fauci and others, many insist their happiness depends on the freedom not to comply.

It’s kind of a corny question to ask the meaning of happiness, but why not? Give it to me.

A two-car garage? No student loans? U.S. citizenship? All of your teeth? A warm puppy? A warm gun?

An economist might equate happiness with prosperous material determinants.

A parent with becoming a grandparent.

I was happiest when I was uninformed. My next question is this: Is it possible to be informed and happy at the same time?

Finally, what’s a reasonable period of time to think you are happy? It can’t be a full year, can it? Or a month? How about a morning or afternoon?

The quest for happiness, contentment and enlightenment is often thought to be obtainable in chapels, pagodas, synagogues and mosques.

Some will go to any length and to places such as Jonestown, Waco, or Rajneeshpuram to give a listen.

Yoolim Kim has a challenging job. She’s neither a florist nor a chocolatier, professions that are categorically aligned with happiness.

No, she is a periodontist who performs oral surgery. Who looks forward to that? Yet somehow she almost magically suspends patient apprehension. I know firsthand.

I asked her about it. She told me she took the Myers-Briggs and DISC personality tests, “to get to know myself better,” and help her communicate with her patients.

She also read a book titled “Positive Intelligence” by Shirzad Chamine. In it, Chamine discusses what he calls the “invisible agents of self-sabotage.”

My invisible agents share the guest room and do their own laundry. One of my therapists wanted me to kick them out, but I told her I needed them for my sense of humor.

Without a sense of humor I’d be babbling to pigeons under a viaduct.

In the early 1980s, Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders were achieving international success. Then in succession, the band fired bassist Pete Farndon because of a drug problem and two days later Honeyman-Scott died.

“Really suddenly,” Hynde said, “it went from everything to nothing.”

The song, however, always makes me think of someone I miss every day, and for 3:46 I’m happy.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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