Posts Tagged: happiness

“open your eyes, look at that”

 

Did you know that eighty percent of the information we receive comes through our eyes? And if you compare light energy to musical scales, it would only be one octave that the naked eye could see which is right in the middle?  And aren’t we grateful for our brains that can take this electrical impulse that comes from light energy to create images in order for us to explore our world? And aren’t we grateful that we have hearts that can feel the vibrations in order for us to allow ourselves to feel the pleasure and beauty of nature?  ~Louie Schwartzberg

Our American friends are celebrating Thanksgiving today.  Anybody's Thanksgiving Day is a good reminder for all of us to express some gratitude.  If you need some help thinking about what to be grateful for, Louie Schwartzberg has some ideas.  

In fact he’s done such a good job in reminding me, I’m calling him beautiful thing number seventy-seven.

 

little boy whistling

That crazy mess posted this morning has to do with a number of things.  I'm not going to explain all of them.  But I will say, I've been away from my home for the better part of a week and won't get back there for a number of days yet.  Part of that is because I was in Chicago last week with a work training thing.  Part of it is because this week I'm staying with young Sam again while his mother is away on business. 

Suddenly my world is revolving around kid homework and getting him out to school on time and conversations like “yeah, well Kid, grade four girls won’t like you when your fingernails look like THAT.”  And the accomplice, Sam’s dog, whose primary concern in life is SQUIRREL!

Today, after the dog was fed and had barked all the squirrels their final warnings for the morning, and the kid, in some clean clothes with a full belly and more or less tamed bed-hair sauntered off into the schoolyard, I took with me into my day the sounds of whistling I'd heard from him as he played over the weekend.  The kind of whistling that comes from a happy boy inventing remarkable inventions in a fantastic world in his mind.

Little boy whistling. Beautiful thing number 73. 

rounding on fifty and asking questions

I came across a bunch of thought provoking questions, which I thought would be great way to reflect via some blog posts during this week leading up to the aforementioned LANDMARK BIRTHDAY.  Some of the questions are “meaning of life” kinds of things, others get you probing who you are and what makes you do the things you do.  Some are very simple – although I do believe a simple and fast answer to a seemingly simple question can bring sometimes astounding and often deep answers. 

Mostly I just think it will be a fun way to check into who this gal has become as she rounds 50, and maybe (hopefully) illustrate some of the things I’ve actually learned over these 50 years. 

(I’m not going to tag you as one would do in your standard meme; but I would love to hear your answers to any of the questions – whether in the comments or on your own blogs.  If you're so inclined – tag yourself!)

 

What does love feel like?

Peaceful.

 

What made you smile this week?

  • Seeing the face of my niece as she carried my flaming birthday cake while everyone sang.  Nobody loves a birthday cake as much as Elaine and the various pictures of her smiling at her own birthday cakes over the course of her life are a testament to that.  If you saw Elaine’s birthday cake smile, you’d smile too.  (Elaine’s birthday cake smile – beautiful thing number 30.)
  • Seeing my bathroom scale register another notch below last time – even after the excesses of the pre-birthday party.  And I'm not just talkin' cake. 
  • The rapt look on the faces of some tiny kids sitting on the floor of a bookstore next to their dad as he read stories to them.  (A dad taking time out of a shopping trip to plunk himself down on the floor and read to his tiny kids – beautiful thing number 31.)
  • Hearing the voice of my cousin Ian over the telephone receiver.  (The familiar and not-heard-in-a-long-time voice of a loved one – beautiful thing number 32.)
  • Trying on the new nightie I had to buy because I’m sharing a hotel room with some family members this weekend and it wouldn’t do to sleep in the absence of bed clothes as I do at home.  Despite that my use for a nightie is limited to when not sleeping at home, or around the house after I’ve gotten up, I didn’t by the 40% off one as I was first inclined, instead I bought the gorgeously pretty one, the one that feels so soft and natural, and loved the minute I first saw it.  As I laid in bed this morning and admired the thing hanging on its hook, I smiled again, glad that I was able to buy myself this birthday present that was not the least bit practical but made me happy.  (My new nightie – even more beautiful for all its impracticalness – beautiful thing number 33.)

 

What are your favourite simple pleasures?

Hanging laundry on the line.  Clean sheets.  Open windows.  That first sip of coffee.  Walking.  The smell of dirt in spring.  Rainy days.  Lilacs. The smell of the woods.  Barbeques.

 

What is your fondest memory from the past three years?

It has to be this party.

 

What book has had the greatest influence on your life?

If I had to narrow it down to one, I think it would be The Secret Garden.  Certainly the first time I encountered that story I wouldn’t have known of the lessons inherent in it:  that in the natural world one finds healing and true meaning in our existence; and that nurturing things/people outside yourself brings is what brings true happiness and fulfillment; and that beauty invites spiritual awareness and growth. 

But now, having read that story a number of times over my lifetime, it's clear that my perspective and understanding of all these things is a major force in how I view the world, and how take meaning from my life and what’s happened in it.  Occasionally, in my denseness, I need to re-visit these lessons – but they are lessons that I know deep within me.  That story, The Secret Garden, beautiful thing number 34.

 

I'm finding beauty, are you?

it’s 2011 and I’m glad you’re here

The other day my friend Lynn posed the question to her facebook people:  “what one word describes your 2010?”  My experience in expressive arts tells me that the only way to answer such a question is to answer it quickly.  If you respond quickly and think about it later, you can open the door to some unexpected personal insight. 

I answered with “New.”

I think it was a good word.  In 2010 I changed strategies in a number of realms.  Early in the year I re-vamped my blog and moved it to a platform that I think better reflects the spirit behind the writing.  In turn, I started photographing more and began to pull together some shots that have further captured the theme I’m going for.  I spent a good part of last winter documenting my ideas of “beauty” and the sources of it around me in my daily travels.  I was rewarded, again, to find how one step leads to another – and these steps led me straight out of a funk – personal as well as creative. 

Later in the year it occurred to me to stop looking for “home” and just to live in a fun spot and let home come to me.  I get all over my writing students for resorting to clichés, but it’s a lesson I seem to learn over and over again: get out of the past and the future and get living in the moment.  THAT’s when the change happens – not when I'm thinking about it, mourning it, planning it, hoping for it, wishing for it. 

Still later in the year, pretty recently, I decided to revamp me.  I vowed I would try more, trust more, BE more and stay devoted to reflecting the authentic me.  I carried that focus on authenticity around with me as I shopped, in the books I chose, friends I found, and in the ways I approached my jobs and free time endeavours.  I knew that the most important part of this personal revamp was to drop some walls – particularly because it also included the return to the pursuit of romantic love.  I explored the opening of some chakras and worked at smiling at strangers more often and (sorry another cliché) being the change I want to see.  Again with the small steps leading me in directions I never imagined.

So the end of the year arrived, and some wonderful surprises have presented themselves.  For different reasons, I’m not writing about them yet.  But I can say that I have more than one reason to step forward into 2011 anticipating much more NEW.  And I’m filled with optimism and hope that some kind of ball is rolling and that you’ll join me in its path.

It’s day one of a new year.  I don't know what the word will be for 2011 – but it doesn't matter.  I'm sticking in the now and rolling with the rhythms.  I do know that I'm really glad you're here to discover it all along with me. 

our time together marches on: a magpie thought

I wasn't going to tell this story.  For reasons which will become obvious.  But that day Willow had posted this week's Magpie Tales prompt, and it seemed to need to be told.

The other day I go down to the atrium for a cup of tea and a quick read.  Not long after I sit down an old guy sits near me.  His wife follows right after, fiddling with a bag and says, “so you’ll just wait here until I get back?” 

“Yeah!  I’ll wait here,” he snaps as she walks over to a medical office. 

The man’s voice is as craggy as that of his demeanour.  He looks to be in his late 70s, but perhaps the demeanour ages him.  He flips open a cell phone and calls someone’s voicemail and complains about what he calls an unfair charge and demands, as a 35 year customer, that the charge be rescinded. 

I’m annoyed.  I came down here for a few alone moments with my book and it seems I’m going to have to listen to this guy’s private conversations.  As I’m considering finding another place to sit, the man connects with someone else, presumably a friend. 

“Listen Jimmy I don’t want to make you mad or insult you or anything, but I need to talk to you about what you said to Dotty the other day…

“Listen, when you told me, in front of her, that I need to talk to her nicer, you made my life a living hell.  Now every goddamn time I open my mouth she’s on me for not talkin’ nice to her…

“No… listen, I’m not mad, but you gotta know what she’s like!  You have no idea.  When you see her, when she comes by, she’s all nice and sweet.  When it’s me and her, my life is HELL.”

And then he starts to up the tone – and the ante.

“Ya, ya, but wait.  You really don’t know her.  You don’t know what she’s like at home.  She LIES. 

Wait, wait – here she comes.”

The offending Dotty returns and fusses in her bag again and her craggy man has magically switched his voice over to a conversational tone and is talking about the Blue Jays and the weather.  She returns to the medical office and the agitation is back.

“Your words are now written in stone man.  EVERYTHING I say to her makes her fucking jump all over me saying I don’t talk nice to her and she deserves fucking better and all that.  She's a BITCH.

He’s like a pot coming to a boil.  Sitting at the edge of his seat his voice gets louder and I get more uncomfortable, wishing I could say “Yo, buddy – I’m right here!  I didn't need to know this!”

“Nobody knows how she talks to me.  She’s nice when everyone else is around but with me.  Well… no… listen, really… Jimmy…  Jimmy!  She’s a BITCH.  I have to be so fucking careful and it’s impossible to please that woman.  Maybe if someone gave her a hundred thousand dollars or somethin' she’d just fucking leave…”

Finally the Craggy One seems to notice he’s not alone and walks away to another area to finish convincing Jimmy of Dotty’s double personality.  His voice has raised up another notch and I hear regular crescendos of the emphasising the wrath of Dotty because Jimmy said the Craggy One should speak nicer to her.

I think about the years that have passed in the life of Dotty and the Craggy One and wonder when it was that love turned to such bitterness.  I wonder if they’ll, at some point, look back on their lives together and see any value in their days turning over, seasons evolving into the next, and their having grown old together, choosing each other to finish out their lives with.

I go back to my office think I’d still like to grow old with someone.  Whoever you are – let’s not let it come to that, ok?

Magpie hourglass 

This is a Magpie Tale.  For more takes on this and other wonderful photo prompts visit Magpie Tales.

everything’s strange and everything’s the same

My girls and I leave the city Saturday morning and head southwest to my hometown for an oft-lauded wine festival and visiting with old friends.  We listen to classic rocks songs on the radio which instigate one memory after another - a nice accompaniment to the flat, boring stretch of highway.  As we get close to Essex County, the sky gets more and more overcast and we curse the imminent rain for intruding on the much anticipated party. 

Navigating the once-daily haunts due south of HWY 401 is like I always say: everything’s strange and everything’s the same.  I drop the girls off at their dad’s and go to Debbie’s where we catch up over a Guinness.  I hope you have a friend like her

The rain is coming down hard and steady and we carry on cursing it over a drive to the grocery store to pick up what will become the beautiful spread of a breakfast the next morning. Once we’ve all gathered back at the house we pack up golf umbrellas and plastic sheeting to cover wet picnic table seats, and the rain lets up just then.  Even the weather gods shouldn’t mess with serious wine drinkers intent on a good time and happy homecoming.

The grounds are a bit mucky but certainly not “Woodstock” as some grim souls had predicted.  As soon as we walk into the place and before I can get some wine into my glass we start running into old friends.  I didn’t send out a “facebook blast” saying I was going down, thinking that with the short turnover in time I’d be content to bump into people as the fates would have us do. 

There are lots of long hugs.  I don’t know if I can describe my gratification in the love I got from my old friends – to still "belong" to them.  I make my home in Toronto now, but despite a number of moves around different neighbourhoods I still don’t feel as if I “belong” anywhere.  Maybe that’s related to my single, empty-nester state.  But whatever it is, these wonderful old pals can’t possibly know how easily they filled what has been a rather empty vessel for quite some time.

Next morning at Debbie and Len’s we all sleep late, maybe a little groggy from all those bottles of that excellent D’Angelo Foch.  After the big breakfast, Deb and I sit out in the backyard with spiked orange juice and admire the day – particularly the clouds.

MaillouxFarm 
Not willing to waste the weather gods’ change of heart, we go back to the festival site and see some more people, and try some foods.  It's such a beautiful spot beside the river, and it is great to look around the town and all its changes. 

NavyYard1 
CloudsOverRiver1
The Detroit River – such a feature of that town, fundamental to the peoples' sensibility.  My father sailed tugs on those waters for many years.

As I told a couple of my colleagues about the weekend Monday morning, one said she thought I looked particularly happy.  She’s right.  This sort of weekend is one of those reminders about what exactly it is that sustains us.  I don’t care what they say.  You can go home again, and they will all love you as much as they did the day you left.

feel the waves

 

“There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves”
~ Frank Herbert

I've had a couple of conversations with people lately about a yearning I'm feeling this summer – that some sort of change is wanting in me.  I'm not exactly sure what that is, I need to get with a journal and paints and do some serious reflection about what the hell it is that I want.

I've been here before – and it was summer then too.  Maybe it's just a desire to hang on to the summer, or to engender in me the feeling of peace and "slowing down" that comes with it.  It's summer, but there's peace missing.

Something's off balance.  It's not a particulary bad feeling – if one weren't up for changing or growing or enhancing, life would seem pretty dead-end, wouldn't it?  Or maybe that's just the ever restless me.  I don't feel balanced unless I'm moving, otherwise some sort of vertigo sets in.

Face forward, that's my strategy.  If you're always looking down you might miss the signs.

Bike ride 10
Bike ride 10
Bike ride 10
Bike ride 10
Bike ride 10
Bike ride 10
Bike ride 10
Bike ride 10 

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
 ~Albert Einstein

a magpie question: what’s your story?

This is a response to Willow's latest Magpie Tales visual creative writing prompt.  Visit Magpie Tales and find all kinds of wonderful writers and poets and their takes on the prompt and giving hearty support to each others' creative efforts.  Give it a try! A creative challenge is good for you!

 Magpiepencils 
"Some may think that to affirm dialogue–the encounter of women and men in the world in order to transform the world–is naively and subjectively idealistic. There is nothing, however, more real or concrete than people in the world and with the world, than humans with other humans."  ~Paulo Freire

Once, when I was a teenager, I was away from home for a weekend with my family, and my [now former] stepfather kept repeating statements like “Jen is always so grouchy when she wakes up, ”or “ good MORNING grumpy!”  It was when he started to mock my “miserable” face I thought, how do you EXPECT me to feel?  I didn’t recall ever being grumpy or monstrous when I woke up in mornings, except, maybe, when my sister was hogging the shower and I was late for school.  What made me grumpy and irritated was being told over and over again that I was miserable.  And if I was miserable, I can assure you, it had nothing to do with the process of waking up; it was about someone else creating what I felt was an unfair and inaccurate picture of me and me feeling helpless to change it.

We understand our world through stories.  Family stories, history books, religious parables, pop songs, news reports, art, employee manuals, report cards, mathematical theories, police reports, gossip, family photo albums, fashions, magazine ads… a mosaic of stories creates the backdrop to our perceptions and helps to form the way we see things.  It’s up to you to decide if these things represent the reality of your experience.  And if they don’t – it’s up to you to tell your story in a way that does. 

When I was in university, I analysed lots of media.  I intensively read papers and watched news shows and movies and deconstructed and compared and scrutinized and examined and questioned, and to my naturally critical and questioning mind I was in my glory.  But more and more I was shocked to find the stories that were being used to define my community, my gender, my nation and my own role in my family were not how I was experiencing them myself. 

During that time a new provincial government came in that lowered taxes by way of reducing welfare benefits and education funding and punching other holes in the social safety net. 

This government knew the power of a story.  Suddenly, there were attacks on certain groups in the media, such as, coincidentally, teachers and single mothers.  I can tell you, this single mother did not enjoy being stereotyped as a lazy, beer swilling, cigarette smoking couch potato on welfare who fed her kids pancakes for dinner every night because didn’t know how to manage her grocery dollar.  One notorious politician of the day graciously gave welfare mothers tips on how to stretch their reduced budget by buying dented cans of tuna and day old bread.  Lots of people bought the stories these politicians were telling.  Lots of us didn’t. 

Whenever I speak with someone who is considering telling a personal story of any kind, I feel like something important is happening.  Because I believe that when a person tells her own story, she is taking ownership of it – she is claiming her history.  I believe that when someone tells his story, he is empowered to think critically about his place within his family, community, society, world.  And when a person is empowered, opportunities for change arise, both personally and socially.

Maybe a group can alter the history represented in a text book, or a politician can take advantage of stereotypes to create a new community understanding, or a family member can try to paint a picture of you.  But not one of them can change your story if you tell it.  It’s up to you to determine how you fit into the grand march of history.  

“Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen”. 
~From Pretty Boy Floyd, Woody Guthrie