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Are you a good judge of other people’s happiness? Tell us about a time you were spot on despite external hints to the contrary (or, alternatively, about a time you were dead wrong).

Memory fails me on exactly when I was right and when I was wrong, but I can usually sense when someone is not happy or not “in balance.” This goes for family members as well as friends.

Once I was chatting with another teacher (friend) once about kids, and she just broke down crying. Fortunately it was after school, and she’d had to “be strong” all day long, when her son had been arrested for a DUI and was in jail overnight. Hey, I can relate to this because something similar (but fortunately not a DUI) happened to one of my children. I knew something was bothering her, because she tends to get a bit terse, and uncommunicative when she’s worried about something, or mad or upset. I didn’t expect the reaction I got, but was glad to be there and share some of her worry, and be empathetic.

My daughter is happy as a clam being a mother. We just talked on the phone and she was telling me about the different things she’s doing with her kids. She’s always on the go with them and seems to enjoy their activities as much as they do. She is homeschooling — and although her children are you, it’s going well. She seems to be doing what she was meant to do, be a caring, loving person.

We all struggle with anxiety disorders of different sorts, and my children and I have all had to work through our particular anxiety permutations in our own ways, but at least we know what the other is going through at times (and sometimes laugh about it). In the case of my two daughters with children, their job of being mothers has helped them to live their lives more fully. They still have to deal with anxiety, but both have developed (with counseling) coping mechanisms, and they want to be successful, so they work at it. Having children (or a job one loves or a goal to achieve) makes it even more rewarding to overcome these problems. So, noticing their happiness in their vocation is gratifying.

I learned a long time ago that people prefer people who don’t complain; they’d rather spent time with people who are positive and happy. Not a surprising revelation, but it means that sometimes we either don’t express things that are bothering us, or avoid seeing it in others. When I feel that someone has something bothering them I rarely come out and just ask — I try to set up a situation where they can speak about what’s upsetting them, and then wait. If they don’t want to discuss it, fine, that’s their prerogative, and it’s my place to let them have their privacy.

In the case of my husband, sometimes I can tell something’s bothering him because he’ll get angry about silly little things, or he get snappy. I can say to him, “Is something bothering you because you seem kind of tense or distracted (or whatever)?” And more often than not I’m right, and we discuss it and things seem to ease. In a close relationship often it’s better to get things out in the open rather than stewing over them. The problem may be something simpler than you imagine.

I feel very aware of other people feelings, whatever they are, and find that it’s helpful in my relationships. People know I won’t pry and I don’t gossip, so it’s easy to discuss things with me if they decide to. Doesn’t mean I’ll have answer, but as they say, ” A burden shared is a burden halved.”