Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rollerskating in a Buffalo Herd

You might not have thought that Roger Miller (singer/songwriter from the 1960/70s) and Abraham Lincoln would have had much in common.  I certainly would not have; but we would have been wrong.    
Roger Miller

Although it never became the mega-hit that his "King of the Road" block buster was, Miller's "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd" got a good bit of playtime in my early 20s.

It was not great songwriting, more like a limerick really.  But it was the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated comparisons that stuck with the listener. That and the catchy rhythm.

"You can't change film with a kid on your back..."

"You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd ..."

..."but you can be happy if you've a mind to."

Really?  Who knew?

I was not raised to think that way.  Happiness was something you hoped for, worked very hard to achieve, tried to manufacture, and often just simply pretended to be.

But it was not something over which you really had much control.  It was more along the lines of good luck - either it came your way or it didn't.  (And our bunch did not believe in luck, so you can imagine where that left us.) Maybe you hit the happiness jackpot, but just as likely you were destined to slog through a morass of misery.  

No way to predict how things would turn out.  Even within the confines of the strict religious background in which I grew up, happiness was often more elusive than a miracle.  In fact, maybe there was not a lot of difference.

Thus, when Miller's little ditty came along I was flummoxed.  What to make of it?
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It was quite some years later that I read Lincoln's quote:  

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be. - Abraham Lincoln
I had long since dismissed Miller's hapless lyrics as creative fantasy; but Lincoln?  Good grief, this guy had gravitas to spare.  He knew whereof he spoke.  

I began to reassess my thinking on the whole happiness issue.
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Perhaps it was not about controlling the outcomes, or even playing the roulette-wheel-of-life ( you pay your money and you take your chances).  Could it actually be more about attitude - outlook - a choice?

Lincoln seemed to think it was. Whew! What a stunner.  

I decided I needed to "make up my mind" in a more positive direction.  Not just "positive thinking" although that can be helpful, it is not a panacea.  And you will notice Lincoln did not say "all" folks, but rather "most folks".  There are those whose lives are simply too grievous to allow for much happiness.

But still "most" certainly tilts the matter in our favor, does it not?  So here is where I landed.  If I have a choice, I choose to be more happy and less miserable.

Admittedly I have not always been able to pull it off, but as the years have rolled by, it has become more of a habit.  Try to find something worthwhile in the current dilemma.  Look for a break in the storm, be ready to take a walk if the rain lets up.  No I am not, nor ever will be, a true Norman Vincent Peale devotee.

Just not my nature.  Silver linings tend to escape my notice with some regularity.  But when I am aware, thoughtful, then I can choose.  And when I do, I choose to make up my mind to be as happy as I can manage- at least as often as possible.  And thankfully, I have not seen a buffalo herd anywhere in my neighborhood.
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How about you?  Do you think happiness can be a choice?  Just wondering.  Until next time ~ Marsha


  1. I agree with Lincoln and Miller. I try to find something positive and usually realize that even in my troubles, there are lots of others with worse problems. I think the right mindset makes a big difference, and I see it played out with my patients. However, I don't always succeed! :)

    1. Mari - My mother, who was also a nurse, often noticed the same thing; that a patient's outlook often affected their medical outcome. And NONE of us succeeds at this all the time. :)
      blessings to you.

  2. OK, great, Marsha. Now I'm going to be humming King of the Road for the next week!!

    I'm with you, not a *happy camper* by nature. I think people with certain temperaments are more prone to optimism, but yes, I think choice has something to do with it, too. A lot of people have a *word* for the year, and God gave me JOY for this year. I have now spent 6 months arguing with Him that He should have picked something else, for this has (so far) been the toughest year I've maybe ever had. But, having happiness and choosing joy might just be two different things - and I think that's at least part of what God is trying to teach me!!


    1. Ah, Sharon - we must be "sisters from another mother" as they say. :) I am genuinely sorry to hear that you have had such a tough year. And I truly agree with what you say that "having happiness and choosing joy" may be two entirely different things. If fact, my experience tells me that they are. blessings to you.

  3. Oh Marsha you are asking me to think....use my brain.....when I am in relax mode before supper. Anyway, I'll try. At first I didn't think we could choose to be happy, We can choose to be positive and see good outcomes from bad situations, and we can choose not to dwell on the sad things. Negative people are often grumpy and positive people are mostly happy. So I guess choosing to be positive is choosing to be happy. I do believe some people are naturally positive and happy and others tend to be naturally negative and grumpy. I'm not sure they can change that without a lot of determination to self improve and choose to be happy. I am lucky to live with a naturally happy person who sometimes gets grumpy.