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"Still Finding Happiness In An Uncertain World"
by Jeff Rivers, The Hartford Courant

Last fall, I got a note from Lois Levy. It accompanied her new paperback book, "Undress Your Stress," which promises "30 Curiously Fun Ways to Take Off Tension."

I was pleased to hear from her.

Lois is an old acquaintance. I met her seven years ago when I wrote two columns about a woman I’d seen in passing in Hartford. She sported a sweatshirt that said "Happiness Is A Choice." The philosophy behind the words and the woman who wore them intrigued me.

In the columns, I called the sweatshirt a sweater. I was pleased to get a phone call from a cheerful voice that said she was the woman in the sweater.

After a telephone conversation we had lunch.

It was a good time. I wrote a third column about that meeting. The notion that "happiness is choice," she explained, is a liberating way of looking at the world that she learned through committing to the teachings of Barry Neil Kaufman and his Option Institute and Fellowship in Massachusetts.

During the lunch, we talked about safety and happiness in a world where news events and how they are covered can make us fearful and sad.

At the time, Colin Ferguson had just opened fire on a commuter train in suburban New York, causing many to ask, "Is anybody safe anywhere anymore?"

As we talked seven years ago, Lois explained she felt safer when she avoided the newspapers and the carnage that sometimes commands their front pages.

In her autumn note, she said she was happy and still not reading the newspapers.

Nevertheless, she was unable to avoid Tuesday’s news that a gunshot had claimed the life of a 6- year-old girl at a Michigan elementary school. The alleged "gunman" is a 6-year-old classmate of the dead girl.

On Wednesday, Levy said she got the news on the Internet, "unfortunately."

Now living and working in Florida, the self-employed management consultant said she saw the headline, said, "Oh, my God," and moved on. She didn’t read the story.

She didn’t have to read the story. Bad news has a way of reaching us like plague borne on the airwaves, the Internet and in newsprint. Those stories become a part of us, a cancer of doubt and fear that attack our sense of security and justice.

In recent years events in our public schools, which are statistically safe places for our children, have caused people to cry out, "Is anybody safe anyplace anymore?"

Tuesday’s shooting in Michigan made the voices ring out anew.

In the aftermath of the latest shooting, the press will produce the usual stories - like the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz" pointing one way and then the other - about possible causes of the tragedy. Parents. Social service agencies. Popular culture. Guns and their availability Always guns.

We will ask: Can it happen here? And because nobody can say never to anything anymore, we will find reason for disquiet in the answers.

Even though it is statistically remote that our children will be killed at their schools, we must consider the possibility just the same. Considering it will make us shudder.

On Wednesday, Lois Levy said she moved from Connecticut to Florida because she wanted to be in a place where her feet were warm all the time.

She continues to believe that she has found sanctuary from the coldness of the world by avoiding newspapers and broadcast news. The world she lives in, like the world most of us call home, is a much happier place than the one found on TV magazine shows or radio talk shows, where the flapping gums of the outrageous hosts are reason to take flight.

Still, no matter how Lois Levy frames it, she believes her happiness is in part tied to keeping her head thrust firmly in the sand.

It’s easy to criticize the Lois Levys of the world. It’s so easy to explain that the press is much more than a carrier of misery. It’s easy to say that one can have his head out of the sand and still find happiness and security in our complex and marvelous world.

Then a child shoots another child, so cold and cruel. And you wonder, if only for a moment, if all the places to put your head in the sand are taken.

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