Creating Our Own Happiness

Wayne Coyne

Wayne Coyne is singer and guitarist for the Grammy Award-winning rock band The Flaming Lips. He wrote and directed Christmas on Mars, a science-fiction film featuring the group. Coyne and his wife, Michelle, a photographer, live in Oklahoma City. Michelle Martin-Coyne hide caption

itoggle caption Michelle Martin-Coyne

I believe we have the power to create our own happiness. I believe the real magic in the world is done by humans. I believe normal life is extraordinary.

I was sitting in my car at a stoplight intersection listening to the radio. I was, I guess, lost in the moment, thinking how happy I was to be inside my nice warm car. It was cold and windy outside, and I thought, "Life is good."

Now, this was a long light. As I waited, I noticed two people huddled together at the bus stop. To my eyes, they looked uncomfortable; they looked cold and they looked poor. Their coats looked like they came from a thrift store. They weren't wearing stuff from The Gap. I knew it because I'd been there.

The couple seemed to be doing their best to keep warm. They were huddled together, and I thought to myself, "Oh, those poor people in that punishing wind."

But then I saw their faces. Yes, they were huddling, but they were also laughing. They looked to be sharing a good joke, and suddenly, instead of pitying them, I envied them. I thought, "Huh, what's so funny?" They didn't notice the wind. They weren't worried about their clothes. They weren't looking at my car thinking, "I wish I had that."

You know when a single moment feels like an hour? Well, in that moment, I realized I had assumed this couple needed my pity, but they didn't. I assumed things were all bad for them, but they weren't. And I understood we all have the power to make moments of happiness happen.

Now, maybe that's easy for me to say. I feel lucky to have fans around the world, a house with a roof and a wife who puts up with me. But I felt this way even when I was working at Long John Silver's. I worked there for 11 years as a fry cook. When you work at a place that long, you see teenagers coming in on their first dates; then they're married; then they're bringing in their kids. You witness whole sections of people's lives.

In the beginning, it seemed like a dead end job. But at least I had a job. And frankly, it was easy. After two weeks, I knew all I needed to know, and it freed my mind. The job allowed me to dream about what my life could become.

The first year I worked there, we got robbed. I lay on the floor. I thought I was going to die. I didn't think I stood a chance. But everything turned out all right. A lot of people look at life as a series of miserable tasks, but after that, I didn't.

I believe this is something all of us can do: Try to be happy within the context of the life we are actually living. Happiness is not a situation to be longed for or a convergence of lucky happenstance. Through the power of our own minds, we can help ourselves. This I believe.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.