Northshore Magazine

Northshore April 2020

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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89 has maintained that sense of happiness even through personal loss, grief, and a recent health scare. Despite being in good physical shape at 61 years old, Leed was having what she thought were heart attacks. Instead, she learned, it was angina, a heart disease alarm bell. "I was one step shy of having a massive heart attack, and I had a stent put in my 'widow-maker' artery," she says, adding—in a very Paula Leed way—that "Susan Lucci just had the exact same thing!" The stent procedure required her to take some time off work. "It really changes your world," she says. When she got bored during her recovery, she challenged herself to think about what else she was good at. "The only [other] thing that I'm exceptional at is being happy. So I decided to write a book on happiness," she says. The resulting book, From Half-Full to Overflowing: A Simple Guide to Personal Happiness, is a sweet and compact volume filled with cute drawings, happiness exercises, and personal anecdotes, as well as solid advice and real insight into cultivating and maintaining happiness through all of life's challenges. Leed says the book has "tiny chapters and big print," and that's on purpose. It aims to be uplifting but also, as one reader described it, "down and dirty, cut-to-the- chase," as it offers a practical guide to growing and sustaining happiness whatever your life situation. It covers topics ranging from family to career to pets to grief, all with an eye toward how our choices—even when we don't think we have any—impact our happiness and well-being. For Leed, writing it came naturally to her. "It's spiritual and internal," she says. "It's the way I live my life." That's been true since she was a little girl. Leed recalls a formative moment when she was about seven years old and found baby food in her family's kitchen cabinets. She wasn't a baby, so why was there so much baby food? Her mother explained that it was for Leed's father, who was very sick. "It was the first time I realized my father had severe, debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. He was in excruciating pain…everything hurt when he wasn't in remission," Leed says, and he sometimes couldn't eat solid foods because of his illness. But through it all, Leed says he reminded her, "There's always somebody worse off than you." "He always looked at the bright side and said 'Never feel sorry for yourself, you're always lucky,'" she says. "From that day forward I thought, 'How could I ever complain?' I looked at my father, who was in so much pain, and he didn't complain, and he always saw the bright side, so who am I to complain?" That's not to say Leed doesn't feel sorrow or pain or grief, nor does her book dictate the "right" or "wrong" way to grieve. A key part of processing pain, in fact, is to feel it, not push it away. "If I feel a sense of woe, I allow a really short period of time to feel that way," Leed says. She points to losing her parents. "I was devastated for a long time, but I understood why I was devastated; I put it in perspective and allowed myself to grieve," she says. Reframing can also help: Instead of viewing mistakes as failures, we can view them as learning opportunities. In fact, happiness can and should be cultivated because of life's fragility—the life-threatening illnesses, the mistakes, the losses—not in spite of it. "All these things basically make you realize that you're not immortal. That you need to take time to smell the roses, you need to take time to realize everything in life is special," she says. Already, the book has been a success, and has spurred Leed to start a happiness coaching service. She's also busy writing a follow-up book. And in the meantime, she considers her proverbial "cup" not half- full or half-empty but "overflowing," as the book's title says. "Most people don't even think about happiness or focus on happiness," she says. "But the truth is you're born, and someday you're going to die, and the in-between should be joyous." PHOTOGRAPH BY CHART PALM BEACH MAGAZINE PUBLISHER CASEY TENNYSON Paula Leed of Royal Jewelers recently published a book.

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