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Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

There is not a cloud in the sky, only a penetrating late summer haze. Who would have known the temperatures would be in the nineties this week, humid and sultry for our day at the Minnesota State Fair. I am not geared to spend time around throngs of people. It’s something I have to get myself prepared for. Once in the right mind set, an introvert can navigate dense crowds with the best of them. But at a high price.

I like learning about clouds. There are scientific details that I will never understand. Still, I like learning the science behind their magic. My vision feels clouded the last few weeks. Leading up to Art-A-Whirl in June, there is a busyness about summer that does not let go until after the Fair. It’s a steady pattern. This year I chose to work on the yard after the arborist came and trimmed the trees. It is work that is yet unfinished. We may take the rest of the mulch and level it out for a shed base where we will store the motorcycles this winter.

Winter. Fall, then Winter. I hesitate to wonder if we will even get any snow clouds this year. Last year, I only shoveled twice. It was the strangest Winter on record. There was no Spring to speak of. The weather immediately turned so hot and humid, we had to spend most of Spring inside. The air is not good to breathe in urban areas when it gets too humid. It’s like a cloud of wet towel around your head and nostrils that follows a long narrow path into your lungs.

I am not making any sense in this practice. That is the nature of practice. I am using it to ground myself this morning, a practice about a cloud to ground a day leading into the Holiday weekend. Labor Day. What is the nature of work? What is the nature of your work. I have had so many different jobs, all leading to a single goal—a creative life of writing, photography, art. There are jobs. And then there is work, a life’s work. Creative work.

I sit in the silence of morning, air conditioner humming in the background. Silence wakes me up. Thoughts penetrate and spur emotions. When I just sit, I feel at home. Thoughts are not always comfortable. Emotions rile. Silence can be lonely. But it is what it is, and on its own terms. It took me a long time to realize that I could not live life on my own terms. I had to live it on life’s terms. That means taking the good with the bad, the difficult with the joyful, and learning to sit with both.

I found an old notebook this morning, a small 4 1/2 by 3 1/2 black book sitting on the piano. Curious, I strolled through the pages of words I had jotted down in 2009. On one leaf was a note from Harpers. In small block print, it read: psychologist revealed that the secret to a happy marriage is accepting that life without suffering is impossible.

Maybe the secret to happiness is being able to hold the struggle and the joy in the same breath. Or maybe it’s realizing that we don’t need to be happy all the time. Why would anyone want that to be their goal.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — CLOUD is the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine. QuoinMonkey joined Marylin Schultz and Bob Chrisman in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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By Bob Chrisman

I believe that I will never know the meaning of life, where I came from, why I’m here, or where I’m going when I die (if anywhere) because I can’t know those things from my limited perspective of the universe and how it functions. I believe that my not knowing doesn’t matter because I can’t and won’t know everything in this world or in the cosmos. It doesn’t work that way.

I believe in the inherent goodness of all people which somehow gets mucked up along the way by the environment in which they live, the people who raise them, and their capacity to endure hard times without being embittered. I believe we all start out life as innocents and the world around us works hard to turn us this way or that depending on so many factors that it’s pointless to worry about what one person did to influence someone.

I believe I will die. My personal experience tells me that everyone I know who has died is really dead and not faking it. Some people think they won’t die and I’m willing to hang around and see if that’s true or not. I can’t imagine anything more horrifying than living forever in this world or in another.

I believe I was meant to be a happy person—actually that we were all meant to be happy, but the world of illusion works to convince us we are not happy and are incapable of being happy without something else. We are constantly assaulted with the idea that if we have this pair of jeans, that pair of shoes, this religious faith, that spiritual practice, this deodorant, that breath spray—that something will allow us to live in eternal bliss. We have all we need right now to be in a state of bliss. Easier said than experienced in our world.

I believe the things that happen to us are neither bad nor good, that we don’t “deserve” to have certain events occur in our lives, and that life is random with no “cause and effect” in play. And by that, I mean we aren’t the victims of some karma or some deity who wants to even the score or restore the balance. I do believe there are consequences of our actions, but we can’t always know what those will be.

I believe for every drop of rain that falls…time’s up.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — I BELIEVE… is the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman joined QuoinMonkey, Laura, and Sandrarenee in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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Nat at Cloud 9000 did an exercise in one of his posts a few days back that I’ve been wanting to steal ever since. He made a list of small things that together consititute happiness. Here’s the quote that inspired him:

A multitude of small delights constitute happiness.
-Charles Baudelaire, French poet

Here is my list of small delights that constitute happiness for me today:

  • The smell of Crabtree & Evelyn body lotion on my arms. It’s fresh and clean, and it came in my hotel room in Oregon.
  • The sound of earthmovers down on the street. It reminds me that the best cities maintain their downtowns, which in turn makes them so great.
  • The sound of honking cars, reminding me I can run down to the coffee shop on the corner and get a latte without having to get into my car.
  • Em’s voice this morning when I called to say Hello; she had a mouthful of toothpaste and said, I caaaa taaaak Boooob….I laaab u.

What are the small delights that make you happy?

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A spare moment, one not accounted for or otherwise claimed. A moment to carve out warmth on the sofa, from sitting here long enough that the heat transfers from me to the cushion, envelops me just so. Just so much that I know when I stand to pick up the pizza crust box and read how to make the dough, the warmth will evaporate, from me and from the couch.

What makes me happy is having no one accountable, me to them, them to me. Hearing the girls talk in their room, no voices raised, no agitation at all except for arguing birds out the half-cracked kitchen window.

Happy for health in all its forms. Strong, vibrant body. Shimmering skin. Em was sick with the stomach bug this weekend. She stayed with Mom, and I have to say I was happy to let my mom deal with my vomiting feverish child, happy it wasn’t me doing the soothing and cleaning, nor the puking. (Yet sad to know how easily I relinquish those duties, still not a mother yet, not the mother I knew and loved.)

Happy to have spent time this morning painting, although with the Open House looming today my quiet patience turned to impatience, especially when I realized I couldn’t scan my drawings without my laptop. Unhappy with technology, the whims of CD-ROMs, how they must be cataloged and saved and pulled out just in case. Yet, the CD with my printer driver is long gone and the blue moon at last arrived.

I can’t say I’m happy this Sunday evening. I’m not sad. I’m content, overwhelmed by owning more than one house, wish the other would find its buyer. Wouldn’t mind a fast forward to June or July, or even September, the start of my favorite, most happy time in New Mexico.

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It is another day. I choose to practice. I am not yet awake. My body feels worn out this week. Tired. Can’t get enough sleep. In the evenings, I get home from work, meetings, whatever I have going on, and plop down on the couch. The sun gleefully beams in the windows. It’s my first spring living in this house. I like it.

Finches, cardinals, robins, nuthatches, and downy woodpeckers flit back and forth from the 3 feeders to the ash and juniper in front of the deck. The sun is strong through the fogged picture window. I sometimes have to lower the blinds so I can see my laptop screen. My back is sore. I must have slept on it wrong.

I am in transition. The same as the seasons. The winter was fruitful. There is a noticeable gap in the weeks I used to go to Taos. Last year was full of writing trips to Taos. This year, I make plans to go South to work on my book. And don’t really even understand exactly what that means.

I’m reminded of one writer friend who is flying across the Midwest in her Subaru wagon, mile after mile after mile, gathering details for a story she is writing. Did you know Subaru is the Japanese word for the Pleiades? Information is falling into her lap at breakneck speed: interviews, relatives, old landmark buildings, prisons, diners, prosecutors, and gallows. She leaves me messages daily, connection, and tells me she has no idea where all this is leading.

I feel the same way. Yet her last words to me in her voicemail this morning from somewhere in Missouri were, “I love being a writer.” I wonder if that’s something writers will always experience. Not knowing where we are going. Yet loving that we are writers. I don’t know.

All I know is that my back is sore, I’m exhausted, and I’m also the happiest I’ve ever been. Happiness, that elusive feeling that soars along brain lines with serotonin and epinephrin and pheromones. When I’m down, how much is hormonal? And how much is me?

When I’m happy, how much is hormonal, how much circumstantial? And how much is me? I am glad to be alive. And there are some who do not get to make that choice. I grieve as we all grieve. Wave after wave sweeps the nation. But I choose to focus on hope. For all the single-minded villains out there, there are a million other humans moving the mountain of grief toward healing.

Easy for me to say. I’m never going to know what it was like in Blacksburg. I listened to NPR this morning to an incredibly brave and composed woman walking the interviewer through what started as any normal morning. Then, there she was under fire in the center of her German class. Everyone around her was shot – but her. How do you make sense out of that? I don’t know if I have that kind of bravery in me. She is brave to want her voice to be heard. She is alive.

It is good to be alive on a Midwestern spring morning. I appreciate my life, my friends, the writers that keep me going, my family who never gives up on me. If nothing else, gratitude for what I have will keep me going. I have to focus on the glass half full. It’s an old cliche. But it’s my way of grieving.

What makes me happy? Living each day as fully as I can. The simplicity of playing with 3 cats on the Queen-size bed in the morning while my partner dresses and laughs in the corner, sipping her morning French Roast.
 
Writing makes me happy. It also brings a lot of hard truths. On this spring filled Thursday, when the word of the day in the dictionary I just pulled up online is debauchery, connecting makes me happy. I’ve been craving the safety of home; I have also been needing connection. And love. As corny as it sounds, yes, love.

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

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