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October 7, 2013
Life on Planet Kathy
The Happiest Person on the Planet
by Kathryn H. Kidd

When I was sitting in Relief Society recently, the teacher gave us each a placard and told us to write something on it that described ourselves. Describing myself was easy for me. I wrote, “The Happiest Person on the Planet.”

This was not just some Pollyanna gobbledygook for me. I became the happiest person on the planet by assignment. It happened when I was in my second hospital last year, when I realized that it was my job to be the happiest person in the hospital.

This wasn’t hard for me to do. After all, there weren’t many people vying for the job. Most people in a hospital are lying there thinking about being in pain, or thinking about what’s for dinner, or thinking about escaping from the hospital, or thinking about something.

I wasn’t thinking about being in pain because I couldn’t feel much of the painful parts, being paralyzed and all. I wasn’t thinking about what was for dinner because I wasn’t eating any of the hospital food. Period. And then I wasn’t thinking about anything much at all, because I didn’t have many rational thoughts, being pretty much crazy at the time.

Yes, if anyone in the hospital was in line to be the happiest person on the premises, I was right there to take the assignment.

The assignment didn’t come to me out of the blue. I didn’t hear any voices from above or see any visions telling me what I needed to do. Frankly, any voices or visions would have been suspect at this particular time.

Although I didn’t know it until I learned about it months later, I was suffering from a major case of a legitimate phenomenon called ICU psychosis. I was having hallucinations for breakfast. If I had experienced voices or visions in the hospital, I would have written them up later as being part of the hospital craziness. I confided to one visitor that all of the doctors and nurses were part of a plot to do me in. I also thought for some unknown reason that the hospital where I was staying was in Alaska.

No, it was just as well that God stayed away from me, at least as far as the bells and whistles were concerned, while my mental processes were suspect.

Even so, the longer I stayed there, the more I knew, deeper inside, that being cheerful was not just an idea of my own; it was my mission at this particular time of my life, and in this situation. And because I didn’t have anything else to do, I was going to fulfill my mission to the absolute best of my ability.

It was an easy assignment to fulfill. Happy people everywhere know that the happier you are, the more people want to be around you. The best nurses and technicians seemed to be assigned to me more often, and on several occasions there were physical therapists who actually came in on their days off to visit and to give me therapy treatments.

First I had Fluffy visiting me from afar every day, and ward members were doing the same. Add the hospital staff, and the feelings I had from unseen sources, and I felt as though happiness covered me like a blanket. By the time I reached the third hospital, I felt as though I was in a sacred place.

One of my nurses told Fluffy that if we could bottle and sell my attitude, we would get rich and the other patients would heal faster.  I was almost sorry to go home, because of the happiness I was experiencing in that third hospital. How could I be that happy at home?

As it turned out, happiness followed me. When I got out of the hospital, the assignment to be happy was mine to keep. After all, there wasn’t much else I could do. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t put myself in my wheelchair. I couldn’t even roll over in bed. Everything that was done on Planet Kathy had to be done by other people for me, so the last thing I needed was to be unpleasant and alienate those people who were helping me (namely, Fluffy). I knew I had darn well better be pleasant, so I kept it up. Why not?

The thing is, when you act happy, it isn’t just acting. Happiness (or unhappiness) may start out as a choice, but it eventually becomes a habit. Eventually, happiness (or unhappiness) is just who you are.

But just because you’re the happiest person on the planet, doesn’t mean you don’t have to work on it every day. There are telemarketers, for example, who do not think I am a happy person at all. (I even called one company last week to repent of my evil behavior, but the American Lung Association doesn’t accept incoming calls; it just allows their volunteers to call out. Go figure.)

The dark cloud of the past year has had several silver linings. Trying to fulfill my assignment to be the happiest person on the planet brought me great blessings, and hopefully helped strangers and even friends along the way.

Even though that assignment may be over, I’m still determined be the best cheerleader I can be. With all the bad things in life, you can never have too much laughter, joy and goodwill in the world.

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