‘Act happy, be happy’

Richard Jameson’s life is now full, active and enjoyable, and he has learned that happiness is in the mind

Sometimes in the past, my existence appeared to be empty and vacuous. I even had more life when I was mentally ill. But now I can point to a number of things that prove that I do have a life.

Writers Temporarily Anonymous, a club which I founded years ago, is still going strong. My magic shows are an inspiration both to myself and, I hope, my audiences. Life at the Michael Flanders day centre I attend in west London is full of interest. And my churchgoing on a Sunday is a life-saver.

The various parts of my life depend on other people to keep them alive and I am grateful for their enthusiasm and generosity. My mind is constantly gyrating round these various topics. Retirement is away from work but towards leisure activities: in theory you are having a happy end – in practice you can ignore the weak heart and dicey legs.

I have only got to look at life from a younger person’s point of view and all is well. There is also the cheering thought that I am the baby of the oldies. I am only 68 and there is a 93-year-old I know who is very much in the land of the living. Thank heavens my brain is functioning perfectly. The years when it didn’t are long forgotten.

I return to an active life with gratitude to all those who have made it easier – from my family to the government. Thank God for the telephone and the cheery words that have lifted me up more times than I can remember.

Recently I have learned that happiness does not depend so much on your external circumstances as on your attitude of mind.

There are two sides to the coin – the optimistic side and the pessimistic side. It is the same coin, but viewed in different lights. I have only to flip the coin to get a different picture. Depression and gloom are so unproductive. Despair is ageing. But I am an actor and I can act 30 years old, shave off my beard and dye my hair.

Life is for living and the good side of the coin reveals all my elements are sparkling and new. Sometimes I act cheerfully with a heavy heart but I have discovered that I can act happy and be happy.

This is not an existence: this is a life. I am always bobbing up. I don’t think I have ever known clinical depression. My happiness is not just a superficial pleasure but a deliberate policy.

Happiness does not have to be hysterical. Happiness can be deep and heartfelt: it can even be taken for granted and unnoticed. For some reason I feel terribly guilt every time life turns into existence – empty and vacuous – and this guilt is totally unjustified. To be guilty of some ghastly sin would be quite another thing.

Looked at from a logical point of view, everything in the garden is lovely. I am worrying unnecessarily as millions do. But I find that I do not need a partner to cheer me up. I can live and flourish on my own.

Richard Jameson uses mental health services and is retired

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.