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Relishing Happiness

March 2, 2012

Everyone loves Fridays. Even grumpy people are happy on Friday. The air is lighter, work less stressful. Just think about how much we LOVE Fridays…and how good it feels.

On my commute home this evening, I listened to a really, really good podcast–the subject: being held hostage. I first heard this podcast two years ago when it originally aired on This America Life, but as I was on the train listening to it (again), I was so riveted by it that I didn’t realize that I had heard it before.

The segment that really got my attention and got the old mind a’ thinking, was called “I’ve Fallen in Love and I Can’t Get Up.” In this segment, Chris Higgins tells a story about a man named Matt Frerking, who is literally held hostage by love.

Four years ago, Frerking developed narcolepsy with cataplexy. Narcolepsy is a disease that causes sudden sleep attacks–With cataplexy, the slightest trigger can cause an attack of paralysis.

And for Frerking, that trigger is love…happiness…

In a society where we are guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, this seems just criminal. In a world where we live to stop and smell the roses, delight in the simple things, strive for a lifetime of love…I just cannot imagine not being able to love and be happy, freely, because your own body won’t let you.

In the story, Higgins tells how Frerking tries to make himself learn to enjoy things less. That he will pretend to be a robot, to avoid his body from locking up, frozen from movement for minutes at a time.

Even seeing strangers express love can trigger paralysis.

As I listen to this story, on a Friday of all days, my body buzzing all day long with yesterday’s elation from winning a trip to Mexico (!!!!), I can barely fathom the tragedy of having to avoid happiness.

Higgins finishes the story with hope though:

“But it’s important to point out, even though Matt is being trained by his brain everyday not to feel these emotions, he still has them…Although Matt tries to avoid happiness, it’s still a part of his life. He’s proof that you can’t avoid happiness, it will find you no matter what.”

Frerking’s story is a tremendous one and it touched me deeply today, today, on this Friday.

We need to relish our happiness.



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