Dick Clark was on the television set, but I wasn’t in my living room. It was 2007, hours away from 2008. I was standing at the foot of my father’s hospital bed, looking at him, not quite understanding how fate had brought us here. It was the eighth visit to the hospital or maybe the tenth, or I don’t even know. After ten visits, I think we all lost count.

On this New Year’s Eve, it was my turn to the stay the night. My mom, my sister and I had made a pact that we would never leave my father alone. Every chemo treatment, every scan, every cutting edge treatment, at least one person from our family would keep my father company. So I made a makeshift bed, on the ground, letting my father know that I was there. The room felt thin to me.  Lying on the floor, looking up at the patchy ceiling, I felt an intense amount of sadness. While writing about it now, I can transport myself there, the puke yellow paint, the smell of old skin and medicine, and the beeping of machines.

The truth is I don’t think I will ever forget that feeling. And I am grateful for that. Until I spent that night, I don’t think I understood what sadness was about. And because of what I carry inside of me now, I understand the meaning of happiness.

Happiness is health. Happiness is waking up in the morning and breathing fresh air. Happiness is the belly laugh of a baby. Happiness is having dinner with your family. Happiness comes in the form of hugs and kisses from your husband. Happiness is writing. Happiness is reading. Happiness is a conversation with an old friend. Happiness is in the present moment. Happiness is the little things in life, whatever they may be for you. Happiness is everything that is now, not what you hope it to be. Happiness is yours.

I know this pendulum can shift at any moment, sadness and happiness at either end. From sadness, though, I understand happiness.