“Someone once said that if you want to be happy, you must decide to be happy. I try to do that,” he said yesterday.
“I try to do the small things to make myself a little bit happier. You get out of bed and say ‘I’m able to get out of bed’. That’s a wonderful start to the day.
“Take as much joy out of the simple things as much as you possibly can — the big things are all out there.
“I’m a firm believer in the old adage that it could be an awful lot worse.”
The 58-year-old Dubliner, now living in New York, was at the Dingle Film Festival last night to accept the first Gregory Peck Award for excellence in film.
He recalled an unexpected and moving encounter in New York a few months ago. After rounding a corner, he saw a mother and daughter — a beautiful girl about 14-years-old on crutches. It was clear one of the girl’s legs had recently been amputated.
“It just struck me that anything we take for granted can be taken away from us,” said Byrne.
Interviewed on The Tubridy Show on RTÉ Radio, he said we live in an envy-driven society.
“What we have isn’t enough or things like if I had that I would be happy… or if I had that guy’s money I would be happy.”
Admitting that he had made mistakes and that he was not as content as he should have been in his 20s and 30s, he said he had looked at all the things that made him unhappy.
“I try to live the second half happier — not a bad ambition, I think.”
He agreed with a saying by an English comedian that people should enjoy every day as if it was their last and one day they would be right. The late actor Gregory Peck’s grandmother, Catherine Ashe, hailed from the Dingle Peninsula and members of his family were in Kerry for last night’s presentation.
Byrne, recently nominated for an Emmy award, recalled meeting Peck when he first went to Hollywood more than 20 years ago. He and Peck did readings from Irish novels in libraries around Los Angeles.
He said Peck’s life-long connection with Dingle was very strong and not just of the sentimental or nostalgic variety.
“There was something in it [the connection] that gave him some kind of sustenance — his people went to America in very difficult times.”