Confessions of a Happy Man

By Lloyd Graff

George Baily from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

I am celebrating today for no good reason – except the best reason, I’m alive to celebrate 2140 days after my crucial heart artery, the left anterior descending (LAD), was completely obstructed. That should have ended my life, but it didn’t because a Muslim doctor in a Catholic hospital inserted a stent into a 63-year-old Jewish guy who’s Greek Orthodox physician personally wheeled him into the Emergency room. Only in America.

Every day since then I give thanks for the gift of living another day. I wish I could say I was joyful every day, but I’m not. I let trivial crap annoy me. I worry about the business and making money. I get irritated by the aches and pains of 70 years and not seeing and hearing like I did 30 years ago.

My grateful happy self kicks my negative grouchy self in the butt as my dual psyche wobbles on the balance beam of life.

I am thrilled to be alive each day and yet, still pissed off that every day is emotionally turbulent.

I feel incredibly blessed just to wake up and kiss my wonderful life partner, Risa. And then, a few minutes later, I’m struggling in bed with business problems and girding myself for a painful post knee replacement workout. And then I remind myself, “you’re alive, Lloyd, you’re loved and you love, get real, and I pull myself out of bed. I’m a happy guy. But I wonder why I’m not happier. Is this the blessing and curse of surviving till you have to start cashing in your IRA?

As a younger man I didn’t worry all that much. My parents were both big worriers and I used to think I was absolved from worrying because they were too good at it. When they died at 70 and 77 I think I unconsciously believed it was my duty to become a worrier. It was almost an unconscious worry transfer that I couldn’t wash or wish away.

I am not debilitated by my wrestling match of gratitude and fear, but it does make for a tiring day. I live with constant double vision because of seven retina surgeries. My two eyes don’t work together. It’s another part of my daily internal battle – good sight and near blindness. Sometimes I block the one bad eye with an eye patch, but usually I allow both eyes to work it out. Maybe I prefer the struggle because it’s reassuring to have two eyes, even if one doesn’t see very well.

I often make the emotional connection with Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Baily, in It’s a Wonderful Life, even when it isn’t Christmas. The strands of joy and depression ran through George. Most of the time he held off the fear, but it was a constant presence in his life. Ultimately, it took an aspiring angel to help him vanquish his internal demons that the hated villain Potter kept abetting.

The title of the film, with all its irony, feels like my story. My life has been wonderful. It is wonderful, I am so grateful. Why can’t I feel that way all of the time?

Question: Are you happy?

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20 thoughts on “Confessions of a Happy Man

  1. Terry Donovan

    Amen Lloyd to your health, yes I can honestly say I am a happy man, I have good health, good job, and a wonderful wife, it doesn’t get any better.

  2. Ken

    And a very loving God uses a person who has an amazing talent to treat another man who needs to be saved. Isn’t it great to be alive!

  3. Jack

    I am a very happy and greatful man. My wonderful wife had 99% blockage in her LAD artery in January. She is now the proud owner of three stents. Still in cardiac rehab but doing great. As my physician brother-in-law explained her ordeal: It shows the resilience of the human body and the guiding hand of a higher power”. Amen

  4. Ben Malson

    Mr. Graff,
    I didn’t know if laughter was appropriate while cringe reading your article. Was it intended to be a humor or gut honesty piece? I can relate to many of your medical stories regarding ageing, but I quickly came to the conclusion that even a good therapist wouldn’t be much help at this phase. Your family gene pool will end your journey on earth, If the operations don’t interrupt the process first.

    Life is short, live it fast.
    P.S. Do your friends call you, Lucky Lloyd?

  5. Beth

    Yes, I am happy, but not because I have good health–although I do–and not because I have a good job–although I do. If I am happy because of things, then I can be unhappy because they are missing. I am happy because I choose to be happy. Instead of being unhappy because I have to drive 35 miles to work through the snow, I choose to be happy because the snow is so beautiful, especially when it clings to the dark trees, making a spectacular study in contrasts. Instead of being grumpy because I couldn’t stay in be another half hour this morning, I am happy that I have a job to go to. Instead of getting frustrated and stressed when things don’t go right at work, I am happy that I have a job I love with people I love. We have all know people who have had countless misfortunes befall them and seem happy and cheerful and other people who seem to have everything and are always miserable. There is nothing genetic in their makeup that makes them react like this–it is a choice. If you do not choose to be happy, you will be at the mercy of life’s misfortunes. I choose to be happy and, therefore, I find a million reasons to be happy. Without that choice, I would fins a million reasons to be unhappy.

  6. Jack

    Can’t be happy all the time, then you wouldn’t appreciate the good times as much.
    Found one way to be happier is to leave a bad day at work. But still once in a while find myself laying awake at 2:00AM trying to find a way to solve a problem at work.

    As for your question: Am I happy. Yeah pretty much.
    As the saying goes: Things could be better, BUT, they could be a hell of a lot worse.

  7. CEO

    “life partner”, “significant other”… only in the USA -or what you inisist on calling “america”- language is becoming more and more sterile .

    Language abused by euphemisms, the great George Carlin put it best in his show “Doin’ it again (

    Me? I refer to her as my wife, almost never call her by her name, it’s always “love, my love”. Partners? only in business.

    Does she likes to being refer as a “life partner” rather than “my wife” ? I can bet 30, even 15 years ago you never called her that, what changed?

  8. Rhett M.

    Hey Lloyd,
    You’re human so you will never be satisfied, no matter what. And even if you do feel satisfied at the moment, it’s a temporary feeling. Usually you have to experience some mind or life altering situations to bring you back to appreciating the simple things. Hey there is a lot of money in this world but you can’t make it all. Who knows you could get warranty work on that 2140 day old LAD, like my father did, who is about your age and still working. He tells me he never worries, but he does have 2 stents in him. His warranty service was roughly about 2920 days after the first stent. That should help you forget about trivial things.

  9. Misterchipster

    I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” How true.

  10. Greg

    Hi Lloyd,
    Congratulations on keeping a good attitude (being happy) even through tough times. Even though you may go through being pissed off about things, you have the sense about you to know that you are alive enough to feel it.

    I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself happy all the time (or some days even some of the time), but I do try to keep a joyful attitude, even when it seems the alligators are snapping awfully close by. At time, I can find a certain joy in being miserable, as long as I don’t allow myself to linger there too long.

    Thanks for a thoughtful piece that came at a good time…not having a fun day…and reminding me to find some joy in today. Besides, trite as it may be…it could always be worse. Woke up on the right side of the ground again this morning, so gotta keep plugging along. And might as well try to enjoy it while I’m at it.

  11. Mr. Ed

    Great article Lloyd, you are a survivor!!
    Psalm 90:12 ” Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

  12. Bryan

    Lloyd, glad you survived. I have greatly enjoyed you article/comments even if I do not agree all of the time. I too have struggled sometimes with letting high pressure job distract me from the many great blessings in my life. I have to remind myself what is important.

  13. Jeff

    By and large, I’d have to say I fall on the “Happy” side of the fence.
    Glad to see you dealing with your health issues so well.
    I’m not quite to your age. Yet. About 10 years behind you, chronologically. Had my share of events. Stroke. Brain bleed as a result of that. Open heart surgery to prevent another stroke. Diabetes. Then a recent three month down time from a shop injury. Nearly lost a foot. But I’m still upright and taking nourishment. Finally got the life partner thing figured out(3rd times the charm!) with my current and what will be the last wife. Absolute love of my life. That helps all the other stuff kinda fall in to proper priority. I get up at 4 am, get dressed(by myself), kiss her good morning, fix my breakfast, and then drive to work 35 miles away.
    I’ve learned to be careful what you pray for. I just thank Him for the good things he brings my way every day. A job I enjoy doing for the most part. Decent living. Not ric by any means, but more than I deserve for sure. Good kids, who are all doing pretty well. Few aches and pains, mostly from being too well fed my whole life, which isn’t something I feel like I should complain about. I’m warm in the winter, cool in the summer, when I wanna be. while life isn’t a dream, it sure beats the alternative. SO yes, I’d say happy.

  14. Richard Lussier

    I thank you for your article. I think it fits most people that run a business. Like you, I’ve got my share of physical and mental issues (age 67). The mental are the most challenging. The decline of thought processing can real drag on a good day. But like many of your respondents I’m pretty happy with life and I do thank the Lord for that.

  15. Kurt

    I am happy, although with some of the worries others have mentioned. Beth’s response is what I have also learned: we always have a choice of how we feel and how we respond. A great book on this subject is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It’s relatively short, but a very powerful story of his observations in a concentration camp during WWII. As a trained psychologist, he had a unique opportunity to observe the response of people in horrifying circumstances. Highly recommended reading for all.

  16. Lloyd Graff

    Kurt, how interesting that the Holacaust comes up again in a discussion of happiness. I recently read the story of a 90 year Hungarian survivor who lost her entire family to the Nazis. She recalls it like it was yesterday. Can she ever be “happy”. I wonder.

  17. Dick Crosby

    Lloyd: For what it’s worth, I think your article, hoprfully, expresses the feelings of a lot of small business owners, in the fact that we were lucky enough to be born in, or emigrated to, a place (America), where we were free enough to “Do our thing!” My wife, Georgia, and I, every once in a while remind our kids of that fact. We also wish the damn governments, at every level, would stop trying to take that away from we the people, via taxation of the doers, and personal and business conformity regulations mandating
    “One size fits all!” Orwell’s, 1984, is coming at us. Viva la Netanyahu! And I’m Scotch, English, Irish, & Swede. Thanks for listening!
    PS:- I too had an LAD event, on 8-6-2011. 5/8″ long, 99%, about an inch and a half below the branch off of another fairly large artery. If it had been at the branch I wouldn’t be here writing this. So! It matters where your blockage occurs. PPS:- My left knee is now (12) years old, and still holding up. Lucky, happy, me!


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