Sally Huss has learned one of life's great lessons: "Happy days are made by happy people. Happy people are made by choice."
You, too, can choose to be happy, she says. "If you wait to be happy, you will wait forever," she said. "If you are happy now, you will be happy forever."
If it seems that Huss is speaking in aphorisms, it's because she is. Huss, an artist and writer, is the creator of a new newspaper feature, "Happy Musings," which begins in the Deseret Morning News today. It consists of what she calls "life thoughts" simple, uplifting ideas that she hopes will remind people that even if these aren't the easiest of times, it is possible to be happy.
"Happiness is a state," she said in a telephone chat from her home in La Jolla, Calif. "You move into it. It's the same state where you find love not romantic love, but universal love and it's possible for anyone to move there. Happiness has less to do with circumstances than with attitude."
That was a lesson Huss learned early in her life. When she was 10 years old, she set out to be the best tennis player in the world. She was very successful and by age 15 was ranked as the No. 1 player in her division in the United States. At 19, she won a semifinal match at Wimbledon.
"I realized that I thought I had to win to be happy. If I didn't win, I wasn't happy." But she also realized she didn't want her happiness tied to wins; she couldn't win forever, so that meant she couldn't be happy forever.
She eventually left competitive tennis and returned to her interest in fine arts. She went on to a varied career, doing research and production work in film and television, managing Paul Simon's music publishing company, teaching tennis to the likes of Barbra Streisand and Joel Grey, running a club in Aspen, writing children's books, painting for galleries. Her artwork has been picked up for everything from greeting cards to wallpaper, clothing and purses.
"But it was always art and thoughts together," she said.
Along the way she has become a student of happiness, not just waiting for it to come along but actively looking at what it is and how to work toward it.
It can be an elusive thing, she said, "but it's all about trusting life."
It doesn't mean than nothing bad will ever happen. But a positive, happy attitude will help you deal with what does happen. "If your inner space is happy, you can deal with the outer things as they come. If we depend on things outside ourselves to make us happy, we won't be happy."
But that's what too many people do, she said. Too many of us accept the notion that we can find happiness in things. "Everyone tells us we need to buy things to make us happy," she said, but you can run out of things.
One of her books, called "The Happy Book," is a series of 30 exercises that people can do to become happier. And that can improve your life in numerous ways, she said. "One thing I learned teaching tennis is that if you are happy, you perform better. You're more relaxed and that translates to better performance."
That applies in other parts of life, too, she said.
Her ideas are not new, Huss said. "There really aren't any new ideas. But I think they come through me in a certain way, with my own sense of whimsy and lightheartedness, that seems to connect with people."
It is very gratifying, she said, when someone tells her a particular musing meant something important to that person. "A lot of people collect them. That's really fun."
You never know what will strike someone at any given time, she said. "I hope my sayings will trigger a reminder in a person of what is important, that they can hang on to what is useful and let go of what isn't."
Huss arrives at her "musings" by writing every day. "I write about themes. I write about what's happening. I just write." Periodically she will go back through her writing and pull out ideas that seem to be "worthy."
Then she runs them by her husband, Marv. "He's a very practical person. He used to be head of promotion and marketing for Hallmark, so he's perfect for the job. He lets me know if they get too esoteric or don't make sense."
She doesn't worry about running out of ideas because life is filled with ideas, she said. Life is and should be filled with happy thoughts."A happy person makes for a happy family," she said. "A happy family makes for a happy community, and a happy community makes a better world. So being a happy person is the most important thing in the world."