A Happy Life
August 11, 2009 4:21 PM   Subscribe

What are some examples of events that add up to a happy life?

I'm planning a montage of shots for a short film that show "happiness" in the life of a woman as she looks back over her eighty years of life, and I'm looking for suggestions.

What would you be able to look back on, from your sunset years, that would allow you to say, "I've had a happy life"?

Simple pleasures like swinging as a child or dancing as a young adult are great. Deep, meaningful events like the birth of children, or making a difference in the world will work just as well, but ideally they could be portrayed with a single shot (holding a newborn for the first time, hauling lumber in a Habitat for Humanity shirt, etc.)

Thanks, in advance, for your ideas!
posted by beautifulstuff to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Easy single shots...
  • Winning a childhood race or other competition appropriate to character/age.
  • Obvious graduation, wedding. Include a second and third wedding to be cute.
  • Meeting husband/boyfriend returning from war (pick a war)
  • Iconic vacation shots (Eiffel Tower, World's Fair, Pyramids, Statue of Liberty etc.)
  • Any popping champagne and/or fireworks event (New Year's etc.)
  • Christening a boat with a smashed bottle
  • Children, as you said. Stage same shot for child as for grandma (winning race etc) to be clever.
(PS: Habitat was only founded in 1976, and wasn't big for more than a decade after that, so be careful with that timeline.)
posted by rokusan at 4:30 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Near the end, a shot of old woman lovingly looking through a thick photo album / scrapbook of excellent life.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:32 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might get some inspiration from the account of Solon and Croesus in Herodotus's histories... I'm serious -- Solon gives a very different account of happiness, not as about achieving, gaining, and winning things, but about service and duty.

So perhaps, in that vein, something like the Iwo Jima shot...
posted by paultopia at 4:38 PM on August 11, 2009

There is an XKCD for this, as for all things.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:38 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I saw one of these once that featured a few sexual images, which struck me as very honest. Without that stuff, it runs the risk of feeling sanatized and Hallmarky.
posted by martens at 4:40 PM on August 11, 2009

Best answer: Probably the hardest thing I've had to do in my life is get sober from nearly 25 years of alcoholism. It took about five years from the time I was ready to get the monkey off my back until I actually got the gumption to do something about it. Those five years were pure hell. Nearly every time I got drunk, as I was doing it, I'm telling myself I don't want to do this, I don't want to do this.

Finally, I checked myself into a 30 day alcohol rehab facility and began to learn how to live a complete life without drinking. There were some tough days, no doubt. I had to sit on my hands and hurt. I listened to the counselors, the MDs, the other patients, and the recovering alcoholics and addicts in AA and NA. It was a relief to find out that I wasn't so unique after all, and thank goodness, that I wasn't the center of the universe.

The last night, as I lay in my plywood frame bed for the final time, I thought back to all the events of my month in treatment — and I cried. I was scared breathless. I didn't want to become like those alcoholics who just couldn't get better, and... they were making me leave in the morning. Sending me out into real life with "little more" than I entered rehab, or so it seemed. I prayed as I slowly drifted off to sleep. That "little more" would be my hope; that I had seen through the month's worth of experiences everything I would become if I didn't begin living life on the outside without alcohol.

They make a big deal when someone graduates from the treatment center. At 9:00 group they gave me a big copper coin to carry in my pocket. To me, it meant I had actually finished something I started. They go around the circle and everyone shares what your participation has meant to them. All the patients and staff give you big hugs and tears flow freely. Then they send you out the door, alone, without supervision. As I left the hospital and walked into the sunshine I felt like a free man. That monkey was gone. I had really done it. I still had a long row to hoe ahead of me to stay sober on the outside, but just for that one day I was happier than I had been since I was a child.

They call it happy, joyous, and free. I was that day, and I still am.
posted by netbros at 4:41 PM on August 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Great ideas everyone! Please keep them coming! I'm looking for lots of examples from every phase of life (childhood, teen years, young adult, middle age, golden years, etc.)

rokusan, some fantastic ideas.

restless_nomad, you are dead on. In fact, the short film is an adaptation of that exact xkcd.
posted by beautifulstuff at 4:54 PM on August 11, 2009

Best answer: To avoid cliche, I'd include some things that aren't explained or really obvious.

Walking down the aisle = obvious.
Finding a single white feather left on the dining room table, picking it up, and smiling slightly = more intriuging.

That kind of stuff lets the viewer construct their own story around the small event, and can become very profound.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:55 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is going to make me sound like a sap, but, honestly, I thought the opening sequence in Pixar's Up was just about the most moving life montage I've ever seen. I thought the rest of the movie was okay, but that one section telling the story of the Fredricksen marriage was downright phenomenal. The happiness shone through all the brighter in contrast to the difficulties they faced.
posted by Diagonalize at 5:15 PM on August 11, 2009 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You might want to check out this book.

The having kids thing and a lot of the other suggestions are rather formulaic versions of "this will make you happy" that seem... Hallmarky. Frankly most of the suggestions (except the having kids one) appeared outright in "Up!"

Consider something more meaningful.
posted by rr at 5:22 PM on August 11, 2009

Best answer: The hand of an old woman grasping a newborn's hand.

Puppy joy! Running up to somebody, bowling them over, kisses everywhere.

A woman bending down to sniff a bouquet of gorgeous flowers.

A silhouette shot of a woman who has obviously just arduously climbed / trekked up to a mountaintop, with a glorious panoramic view of some iconic landscape - the Himalayas, Grand Canyon.

Someone coming out of an airport and being greeted with tears and hugs after a long absence by family and friends. (In particular I'm thinking of that final scene in Love Actually which was a timelapse of hundreds of people coming out of Immigration at Heathrow; Hugh Grant comes out and his girlfriend runs through the crowd and leaps into his arms).
posted by HeyAllie at 5:25 PM on August 11, 2009

Best answer: - Opening her own business (retail would probably be easiest to show but could be cliché)
- Standing at a podium in business clothing receiving great applause
- Standing in a developing-world clinic handing a small child to a smiling mother
- Riding her bike in a scenic setting
- Spiking a volleyball
- Building a cabin in the woods
- Launching a rocket (toy or otherwise)
posted by PatoPata at 5:33 PM on August 11, 2009

Best answer: It doesn't strictly convey "happiness" but this excellent short film does pretty much what you're looking for, and quite well.
posted by dhammond at 5:39 PM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

How about moments rather than specific events? The awareness I had during a few weeks in middle school that I could actually understand the English language was a beautiful moment in my life.

Another one was when I returned a couple of years later and I realized that I was at home in two vastly different cultures was also a very special moment.

Years in college?
Learning to enjoy books?

I'm not sure if that's what you're going for, but aside from what others have written above, that's what stands out for me.
posted by dealing away at 6:13 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Good works? If the subject has done charity or community work, something to symbolize that contribution.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:17 PM on August 11, 2009

Best answer: - Protesting the Vietnam War
- Volunteering with the poor at the Free Clinic
- Voting for the first time
- Paying it forward (i.e. buying the older couple's meal in a restaurant)
- Holding her first grandchild (smelling her newborn head)
- I'm all for the sex too, a passionate fling in the back of a car or elevator
posted by ~Sushma~ at 6:25 PM on August 11, 2009

Best answer: Fulfilling romantic relationship - for me would be visually a tender moment looking into each others eyes in a hammock, laughing together playing scrabble or cuddling, holding hands in front of a campfire.

Parenthood - for me visually would be building sand castles at the beach with my child or laying in bed with my partner and child talking, laughing. Watching your child discover something (one of my favorites is watching a ladybug I had placed on his hand fly away-he never seen a bug in flight). Watching your child sleep.

Travel- driving motorcycles with friends after a rain storm in the caribbean past waterfalls.
riding horses on the beach or sailing.

maybe getting met by loved ones at a ferry, train station or airport.

Oh and field trips as a kid made me happy and road trips when I was older.
posted by beccaj at 6:51 PM on August 11, 2009

Have you seen the movie UP yet? The beginning of the movie is basically this scenario...and they used the same scene (her and her husband going up the same hill to picnic under the same tree) at different ages. It was very moving. (seriouly. see the movie. not a dry eye in the house..)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:16 PM on August 11, 2009

Best answer: What if: there was an object that was consistent throughout... maybe a necklace first worn by her grandmother, then her mother, (both without comment in other scenes involving them) then given to her as one of the memories, then appearing on her without comment, and at the end she either gives it to her own child/granddaughter or is shown fingering it as she realizes her life's been a happy one.

Similarly, it would be nice if there were one or two objects that appeared in all scenes set in houses--perhaps a vase or a lamp--that could then be in the frame during the realization scene.

Other ideas:
a surprise party
playing music with friends or a band/orchestra... maybe a marching band in high school?
signing a deed or buying a house
fingerpainting (as a child or with children)
pillowfight (as a child or with children)
learning to ride a bike (as a child or with children)
picking vegetables from a home garden
leaving cookies/milk for Santa
wearing Halloween costumes (homemade, e.g., gypsy, pirate, etc.)
getting a handwritten letter
posted by carmicha at 7:26 PM on August 11, 2009

Response by poster: So many fantastic ideas! Thank you all so much! If this short film ever gets made, I'll make sure to thank the awesome MeFi community in the credits and post a link in the Projects section.

You rock hard, Metafilter!
posted by beautifulstuff at 7:36 PM on August 11, 2009

Best answer: An old woman watching a girl of about 6 as she's joyfully flying a kite on a lovely afternoon.
posted by ambient2 at 8:28 PM on August 11, 2009

Best answer: Watch a Viagra or Cialis commercial for the groundwork ;o) But seriously; it''ll raise the budget but travel often heightens our sensitivity to happiness; it broadens the mind; escape from the norm; adventures etc... So: Driving a convertible in Hawaii, rock climbing, touring Europe... etc. Best of luck and if you're looking for an editor, hit me up...
posted by rocco at 10:11 PM on August 11, 2009

Best answer: Placing the last sandbags on a pile for the Red Cross during hurricane season
Smilingly delivering a plate of food at a soup kitchen
Carrying a banner/giving a speech in an anti-war protest
Digging weeds while happily having a conversation at a community garden
Getting people to sign a petition as an activist
Handing someone a "I just voted" sticker volunteering at a polling site
Reading to inner city kids in an after-school program
Putting the last touches while painting a community mural
posted by aquafortis at 10:47 PM on August 11, 2009

Greeting her husband as he returns from World War II.
posted by thisperon at 12:40 AM on August 12, 2009

I just finished the series finale to Six Feet Under, and it has a similar montage. Might check it out for a) ideas; and b) to avoid duplication!
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:42 AM on August 12, 2009

« Older Excel can do this, right?   |   Bash scripting problem Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.