California

Birds and Blooms and Winding Roads

April 20, 2018

At least once a year, Catching Happiness turns briefly into a travel blog. Travel makes me happy and I always return refreshed and inspired, though also, in some cases, tired.

For the past three years, I’ve been meeting my teacher friend Kerri during her spring break. We’ve meandered in Florida and the Southwest, and this year was supposed to be my turn to visit her in Seattle. However, my dad has been recovering from a serious bout of flu and bronchitis that put him in the ICU, so I decided that if I went west, I needed to see him. We adjusted our plans so that I could have a quick visit with both my parents before we set out on the road.

Even though I was born and raised in California, with one exception, I don’t recall visiting the areas we traveled through. And certainly not during springtime since previous trips took place mostly during summer breaks or other school and work holidays. All I can say Is, wow, California, you look good in spring.

I couldn’t get enough of the rocky coastline, pounding surf, birds, wildflowers, mysterious winding roads, giant redwoods…but I get ahead of myself. I won’t bore (or torture) you with the entire road trip, but I’ll share highlights of our explorations.

After we left my mom’s, we started our road trip in Redding with a stop at one of my favorite places, the Sundial Bridge and McConnell Botanical Gardens.


One small section of the mosaic fountain area

After that, we drove to Eureka, stopping to take photos at every opportunity. Kerri’s a serious photographer, so while she searched for the perfect shot or set up her tripod, I snapped my own photos or soaked up the difference in climate and geography. Eastern redbuds bloomed all over, a pretty splash of pink in the landscape.



We asked the man at the front desk of the hotel where to watch the sunset, and he said Patrick’s Point:

Good choice.


Sunset at Patrick's Point
Next morning, we had planned to hike to the Punta Gorda Lighthouse, but after a two-hour drive on steep, twisty, and extremely potholed roads, we opted not to take our small rental car through the running water crossing the road.

On the return drive, we dawdled even more than usual, photographing the fog, the flowers, the rolling hillsides, the zebras (why?), and anything else that captured our fancy. We explored tide pools on the beach, collected a pocketful of shells and rocks, photographed a friendly-looking seal. Good thing we missed our hike, because part of the sole of one of my hiking boots came off while we were on the beach.




Zebras!


Hello, there




An interesting road sign:

Say what, now?!
I’m still sorting through the more-than-700 photos I took, as well as sorting through the experiences, interesting facts, and memories we made. Next week, we’ll visit the Avenue of the Giants, the Medocino Coast Botanical Gardens and more. I hope you’ll come back to explore with me!




Attention

Choosing Where to Look

April 13, 2018

Photo by Rana Sawalha on Unsplash

“I have found that I cannot force myself to feel aware or happy or interested or satisfied, no matter how hard I try. However, I can choose to allow myself to enter these states by relaxing and by consciously directing my attention in certain ways.

“You cannot make yourself see or think things that are positive; but you can choose where to look and what to think about. You can choose where to direct your attention. In this sense you can determine the interior quality of your life.”
—Tristine Rainer, The New Diary



Birds

Prophets of Spring

April 06, 2018

Pterzian at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I can identify most of the birds that live in my part of Nebraska, but I can't tell one warbler from the next. But Kevin Cole, in his new book, Late Summer Plums, from Scurfpea Publishing, has identified a warbler for us. The archives of this column, at www.americanlifeinpoetry.org, has another of Cole's poems, about watching a deer cross the Missouri. Kevin Cole lives in South Dakota.

Audubon Warblers

The Audubon warblers keep the time of their coming,
Arriving on stillness of a storm,
Their breast and backs as dark as low bruised banks of cloud,
Rumps and throats as yellow as blooms of buckwheat.

They throng this evening in the newly-leaved
Tender-tipped canopies nervously weaving
Through the catkins like frantic prophets
Bearing some divine prophecy of the coming spring.

I wait, hoping for nothing too grave:
News of ruinous lands, of cutting and swarming locusts,
Of withering vines and empty granaries,
Of fasting, weeping, and rending of garments.

No, I wait for lighter fare:
Perhaps a promise that the green heron will nest
On the west end of the slough and that the ironweed
And wood lily will once again together bloom.

This would be an ample prophecy for another year—
This and a promise to keep the time of their coming.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Kevin L. Cole, “Audubon Warblers,” from Late Summer Plums, (Scurfpea Publishing, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Kevin L. Cole and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Flow

In Motion

March 30, 2018

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

“Your life has a natural motion. Surrendering reveals how flowing this life could be.”
—Kelly Martin, When Everyone Shines But You: Saying Goodbye to ‘I’m Not Good Enough’

Breaks

Spring Break

March 26, 2018

Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

Looking back on my posts so far this year, I see that I’ve mentioned refilling the well of inspiration several times—but I’ve yet to actually do anything about it. My brain has scattered itself in the winds of spring, and I’m having a tough time concentrating on anything. I even forgot to send March’s Happy Little Thoughts newsletter yesterday, not realizing it was the last Sunday of the month! I promise it will be in your mailbox by the end of today. (If you don’t already receive HLT, you can subscribe by clicking here.)

So I’m granting myself a spring break. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be taking a break from blogging, except for the Friday posts of quotes or poems. I hope to come back with fresh inspiration, and maybe even an epiphany or two.

P.S. There may be a road trip involved—stay tuned!

Action for Happiness

If It's Friday, It Must Be Time for Link Love

March 23, 2018

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad it’s Friday. I have some writing to do today, and then my husband and I are going to the movies tonight! And then…ah, the weekend. I hope you have some fun weekend plans in store. And if you have a few spare minutes, here are some links to love. Enjoy!

Just because it’s almost the end of March (already?) doesn’t mean we can’t use the prompts on Action for Happiness’ Mindful March calendar. So many great and simple ways to become more aware of the happiness all around us.

I know this isn’t in the usual Catching Happiness wheelhouse, but Shakespeare’s Top 50 Insults made me smile. (“Thine face is not worth sunburning”).  Be sure to scroll to the bottom for the Shakespeare Insult Generator. (If you don’t, you’re a spleeny, onion-eyed foot-licker!)

I adore solitude. If you do, too, you’ll probably recognize these “23 Things Only People Who Love Spending Time Alone Will Understand.” So many of these resonated with me.

If you’re in the market for an everyday adventure, consider trying something for the first time. Dani DiPirro at Postively Present has a list of some possibilities here. Pick something and do it!

Speaking of adventure, my friend Laure Ferlita just announced the possibility of an art retreat in the south of France, in addition to her already-scheduled Blue Walk tour in Paris. This sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any artists out there.

Gretchen Rubin’s “My Best Advice for Graduates: 12 Tips for a Happy Life” is worth reading, even if your own graduation, like mine, is far in the past.

Cats and yoga. Namaste.


Have a happy weekend!


Happiness

International Day of Happiness Is Almost Here!

March 19, 2018


Since 2009, I’ve been writing about happiness and related concepts—and even now I sometimes struggle with the feeling that happiness is frivolous—a topic that doesn’t really matter in the face of the real and pressing problems of the world. I’ve even wondered if it’s OK to be happy.

But happiness is only frivolous if you define it as the fleeting feeling you have when you’re only pursuing your own pleasure and everything is going your way. True happiness is more than that—it’s a lasting feeling of well-being. What could be more important?

Happiness is so important that on March 20 in 2013, the United Nations declared the first International Day of Happiness “as a way to recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.” As we observe it each year, it serves as a reminder that happiness is important on a global level. 

On a personal level, I think we should each be mindful of what makes us truly, deeply happy. Then we should go about filling our lives with things that matter in the long-term, not futile pursuits and thoughtless busy-ness. When we are happy, we make others happy. We operate from a place of abundance rather than lack, opening our hands to let happiness flow to others rather than clutching it desperately for ourselves.

So today, tomorrow, and every day, I wish for you, and for myself, a life of meaningful, deep happiness and true well-being.

How will you celebrate the International Day of Happiness?

For more information:

The latest World Happiness Report ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels. The United States dropped four places to 18th, and Canada was 7th. (Finland ranked number one.) 




Kristen Ulmer

Let Them Be

March 16, 2018

Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash

“Honor your moods not by forcing a different reality, but by just letting them be. It’s very Zen. When you’re sad, just be sad. When you’re afraid, just be afraid. When you’re overwhelmed, just be overwhelmed. When you’re unfocused, can you find a way to let it be and simply enjoy that state?

“This is how—like water through a hose—these states will come into, through, and out of your life. Do this and that reality will always run its course, and there will be space right behind it for something else to enter.”
—Kristen Ulmer, quoted in Tribe of Mentors


Life lessons from the barn

Life Lessons From the Barn--Relax Your Mind

March 12, 2018


I rode Tank on Saturday while a lesson was taking place, and I heard the trainer call out one of my favorite expressions to one of the students: “Relax your mind.”

I’ve heard her use this phrase often, usually when a student is stretching outside her comfort zone and becoming uptight about it. In riding, if you’re anxious about taking a jump, for example, your horse will pick up on it and might refuse the jump, or spook at it. After all, if you’re worried about it, there must be something to worry about…

So much of horseback riding—and life—depends on our mental states. Our anxiety levels, expectations, intentions, our ability to let go of fears and worries. It’s all too easy to get worked up about specific situations, or even life in general, until our minds resemble spinning hamster wheels of thoughts (I’m especially prone to this at around 3:15 a.m.).

The antidote?

Relax your mind.

It’s a good skill to learn, and one that I’m still working on. Here’s what I do when I remember to relax my mind:

  • Stop holding my breath and start taking deep, slow breaths. This sends a calming message to my nervous system.

  • Unclench my muscles, releasing physical tension.

  • Open my eyes, ears, heart, and mind to the entire situation—i.e., stop staring intently at whatever I’m worried about, expecting it to blow up in my face.

When I’m able to relax my mind, the outcome is always better, even if it’s not ideal. 

How would you follow the direction to “relax your mind”?

Backyards

Feathered Friday--Birds at the Backyard Feeder

March 09, 2018

“I don’t ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning. There they are, and they are beautiful.”
—Pete Hamill

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the backyard with you-know-who lately. While I supervise playtime (she eats, or at least chews, everything and we’ve already been to the vet once because she ate something she shouldn’t have), I have the chance to slow down, be quiet, and observe. Our yard is full of birds, some of which I’ve never noticed before. The simple pleasure of observing the birds coming and going has made my backyard jaunts happier. Today I thought I’d share a few of our pretty feathered visitors:


Rufous-sided towhee 


Red-bellied woodpecker

Catbird

Mr. Cardinal

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Bonus Butterfly:

Zebra longwing
What’s making you happy today?

Danielle LaPorte

Insanity and the March Rebellion

March 05, 2018

Photo courtesy Ryan McQuire, Gratisography.com

You’ve probably heard this definition of insanity before: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Well, call me insane.

For more than a year, I’ve been creating monthly, quarterly, and yearly plans, setting goals for each month, religiously writing down and crossing off tasks and to-dos in an effort to build my freelance writing business, strengthen my health, maintain our home, keep in better touch with my friends and family, improve my horsemanship, sketch more, and so on. I want to experience all the simple pleasures and everyday adventures I can—I don’t want to waste any precious time, or look back and wonder what I did with my life. My lists usually help me stay focused and remind me that I have a choice about how I spend my time.

Until they don’t.

Until I reach overload, and realize I’m moving many of the same items from list to list, week to week, month to month, without doing them. Expecting that “this month it will be different.” (See, insanity.) Even the ones I was nailing were beginning to bug me.

Danielle LaPorte’s words in White Hot Truth sounded eerily applicable: “Contemporary women revere their [To-Do] lists like Moses loved his stone tablets. They are directions to the Promised Land. The thrill of crossing something off: check, check, and check. Mmmmm, feels so good. So good that you might write stuff down that you’ve already done just so you can cross it off (yep, you got it bad). Like any addiction, the to-do list is destined to lose its thrill when it rules us….

“My list started feeling like a row of soldiers shouting at me…. Once I started paying attention, that background noise became awfully loud. Its refrain, on repeat: I sort of suck because I should…” 

Well then.

So last week when I hauled out my master list for the year, my goals workbook, February to-do list, and prepared to write out March’s list of goals I hit a brick wall.

Nope. I can’t do it this way anymore, at least for now. I’m sick of copying the same-old, same-old goals and tasks from month to month. Even the ones that consistently get done every month. It’s only March and I already feel burdened and rebellious. I do not want to feel burdened and rebellious. I write about happiness, fercryinoutloud.

The Rebellion caused me to look at my proposed goals and decide 1) whether I still wanted to do them, and 2) whether I could realistically do them this month given the other responsibilities on my plate (I’m looking at you, Luna). I hate admitting this, but I do not have the physical or mental energy to do the number of things I want to do at any one time. And I can’t always be saying no to the simple pleasures and everyday adventures that give me joy and help me relax in favor of working or “achieving.”

I sat for a few moments reflecting on which of these many (many) items were truly important for me to accomplish (and do well) in the next four weeks. Which ones would I enjoy most—whether because the thing itself was enjoyable or having it checked off the list would make me feel especially relieved and happy.

Instead of copying all of February’s goals to a new file, renaming it, and removing the items that got checked off in February that don’t need to be repeated in March, I started fresh with a blank piece of paper and wrote down just a few things I’d like to do in March. The writing jobs I’m committed to. Puppy obedience classes. Planning and preparing for an April trip to California to see my parents and my friend Kerri. My list was shorter, but more meaningful to me.

I don’t know what March is going to bring. Maybe I won’t even accomplish what’s on my shorter list. But at least for now, I don’t feel quite as insane.

How do you cope when you feel overwhelmed by everything you’d like to do?

Gifts

Honoring the Gift of Life

March 02, 2018

Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

“Happiness is about understanding that the gift of life should be honored every day by offering your gifts to the world.”
—Mike Maples Jr., quoted in Tribe of Mentors (Tim Ferriss)


Note: Tribe of Mentors is full of great life advice. I’m only about a third of the way through. Expect to see more quotes from the book appear on Catching Happiness.

Everyday adventures

Have You Had an Everyday Adventure Lately?

February 26, 2018


I don’t know about you, but my well of inspiration needs refilling. Maybe you’ve been cooped up all winter, and you’re craving something different, too. Have you had an everyday adventure lately?

There’s nothing wrong with having pleasant comfortable routines—I’m a big fan. But the second half of the Catching Happiness tagline is “everyday adventures.” When pursuing a happy life, everyday adventures are just as important as simple pleasures, but since they require more effort on our part, they sometimes don’t get the attention they should. Having a mini-adventure to look forward to makes it much easier to cope with life’s inevitable boring or difficult stretches.

Everyday adventures don’t have to cost a lot—or anything at all. They’re more a mindset than anything else (being called for jury duty, for example, was an everyday adventure!). Here are a few possibilities:

  • Eat at an ethnic restaurant you’ve never tried before, or cook a meal from a different culture at home
  • Visit a park or botanical garden (weather permitting), or a zoo, aquarium, or museum
  • Watch a foreign film
  • Read a book in translation, or from a culture you’re unfamiliar with
  • Take the long way—or at least a different way—when you drive to work or run errands.
  • Go to the library and browse the books, music, and DVDs—check out something completely new to you.
  • Take an online class.

In addition to being something to look forward to, everyday adventures are often a gift for the remembering self. I love having something to share when someone asks me what I’ve been up to lately, beyond “Um, working and taking care of our house,” that is. I’m not sure yet what my next everyday adventure will be (besides Luna, that is)—but I’m thinking it’s time for some well-filling inspiration.

What will your next everyday adventure be? Please share in the comments!


Dawna Markova

Each in Our Own Rhythm

February 23, 2018

Photo by Iulian Pana on Unsplash

“Most of us and our organizations still follow the old mythology, where we are thought of as perpetual motion machines, working at one speed—fast as can be, productive as possible—like stair-climbers in a gym, up, up, up, asking us to exert more effort but getting nowhere very quickly. Ascent, ascent, higher and higher. Never descent, never darkness or a plateau for regeneration.

“As a consequence, we become imprisoned in our own rigidities. What if, instead, we realized, like Ram Dass, that we go through many incarnations in this one life? What if we realized that instead of ‘things’ getting better and better if we work harder and harder, that, like a seed, we will each in our own rhythm, go through endless cycles of gestation, birth, growth, death, and renewal?”
—Dawna Markova, I Will Not Die an Unlived Life

Einstein

Falling

February 16, 2018

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: It seems that love poems have a better chance of being passed around from person to person than other poems, and here’s one by Richard M. Berlin, who lives in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, that we’d like to pass along to you.

Einstein’s Happiest Moment

Einstein’s happiest moment
occurred when he realized
a falling man falling
beside a falling apple
could also be described
as an apple and a man at rest
while the world falls around them.

And my happiest moment
occurred when I realized
you were falling for me,
right down to the core, and the rest,
relatively speaking, has flown past
faster than the speed of light.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Richard M. Berlin from his most recent book of poems, Secret Wounds, BkMk Press, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Richard M. Berlin and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Goals

Making Success Out of Habits

February 12, 2018

It’s mid-February—do you know where your goals are? Are you still working towards them, or have you become discouraged or distracted? 

The excitement of a new year has worn off by now, and most of us are faced with the reality of ongoing effort, of putting one foot in front of the other. Have we made it easy—or at least easier—to be successful in pursuit of our goals and dreams? Have we put in place habits and routines that support reaching them?

I’ve been thinking about habits and routines a lot lately for two reasons:

First, we now have little Luna to teach and take care of, and as we train her, we try to set her up for success—by walking her often, keeping her contained and under supervision (so she doesn’t get into too much trouble!), and praising her when she does things we like. We have a regular schedule, with feeding times (her favorite), play time in the back yard, short obedience training sessions, time she spends quietly in her dog crate, and plenty of praise, cuddling, and petting. We want to make it easy for her to do right, to reach her goal (which we set for her, because…she’s a DOG) of living happily with humans. Having a set routine not only helps her to learn what to do when and what we expect of her, it helps us shape her behavior.

Second, my own routine has been thrown off by the demands of Luna’s routine! At least for now, I have to create new habits and routines to suit my altered situation. It’s a great exercise in flexibility, which I admit I’m not skilled in.

Whatever your goal is, what habits can you develop that will lead to success? If you want to be an artist, are you sketching, painting, or sculpting every day (or most days)? If you want to write a book, are you sitting down with pen and paper or at your computer and getting the words down? If you want to be healthier, are you taking a daily walk, or eating more vegetables, or drinking a glass of water when you wake up? If you want to read more books, are you turning off the TV or computer and setting aside time to read? These habits, this dailyness, leads you forward toward the inevitable: reaching your goal of a finished sketchbook, a healthier body, or an enviable Books Read list.

So if you want to use habits and routines to reach your goals:

  • Choose a habit—it can be as small as you like, as long as you commit to doing it daily or almost every day.

  • Practice your habit until it becomes a routine. 

  • And when your routine is disrupted (which will happen sooner or later), do what you can to maintain some semblance of habit during the disruption. If this isn’t possible, don’t stress about it—just return to your established routine when you can.


What habits and routines do you find most helpful? What habits and routines do you plan to put in place in order to reach your goals?

Ready for action

Acceptance

The Particular Self

February 09, 2018


“…before we can be what we are meant to be, we must accept what we are not. This form of discernment asks us to let go of those grand fantasies that take us out of our nature, that make us work to be famous instead of loving, or perfect instead of compassionate.

“Yet the instant we can accept what is not in our nature, rather than being distracted by all we think we could or should be, then all our inner resources are free to transform us into the particular self we are aching to be.”
—Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Chaos

Happy Little Things: We Adopted a Puppy!

February 05, 2018

Meet Luna, the newest addition to the Catching Happiness family:


It’s been more than two years since we lost our family dog, Scout. My husband especially has been missing the companionship of a dog. After months of discussion, stewing, and trolling adoption websites, we came upon this little face:


She was described as a lab/Jack Russell Terrier mix (though we think she looks more like JRT/beagle or hound). She and her four siblings had been abandoned. We adopted her from a rescue group about a week ago, and they estimated that she is about three months old. We plan to celebrate her birthday on Halloween!

Queen Prudy is curious but allows no unwanted advances.  Since we didn’t change her routine or territory, so far she’s OK with the new arrival. This morning she almost looked like she was ready to play. Fingers crossed they can be friendly, if not friends.

Luna is already sleeping through the night in her crate, and knows how to sit and stay for short periods of time. She’s doing well on housetraining.

(Clearly, she’s gifted J)



Her little tail wags a mile a minute and she greets a 30-second absence from the couch as though it were 30 days. She’s loving and people-oriented, and my husband is thrilled with his new buddy—I think it kills him just a little to leave her to go to work every day. They spent hours outside in the yard together this weekend.

So things are just a bit chaotic here. I work when she naps—just like when my son was a baby. She’s helping me to take breaks and go outside, to get out of my head and pay attention, to simply be without feeling I have to multi-task all the time. I know there will be many more simple pleasures and everyday adventures ahead for us and I look forward to them all.

Pooped puppy

What’s making you happy right now?

Courtney Carver

Perfect Isn't Real

February 02, 2018

Photo courtesy Iva Balk

“…your story doesn’t have to be perfect or complete to inspire others. After all, perfect isn’t real. We cannot connect with, or be moved or changed by perfection.
Courtney Carver, Soulful Simplicity

Epiphanies

Epiphanies Sold Separately

January 29, 2018

Photo by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash

Recently I read a blog post that I really liked. I liked it so much, that I immediately wanted to use the same format to write one of my own. It started with an epiphany, and went on give an example from the author’s life of how she grew to understand the epiphany.

As I sat in my office rocking chair, pen and paper in hand, I wondered, “Why can’t I think of any epiphanies and great stories like this to share with my readers?” I mulled it over for a while, and there it was…an epiphany about epiphanies (how many times can I write “epiphany” in one post?!):

You can’t force epiphanies.

They come when they come. So much as I would love to have new and brilliant epiphanies to share with you every week, I just…don’t.

Perhaps this is an indicator to me that I need some well-filling—an artist’s date, a mini-break. Noodling time has been scarce for me lately, and I’m feeling the effects. And after all, it is winter. Winter is a time for introspection, staying warm, allowing some dormancy so that spring can bring new growth. A time for gathering thoughts and seeking inspiration.

When searching for life lessons (you thought I was going to write epiphanies, didn’t you?), all you can do is open your mind and heart to what’s around you. Have a humble and teachable attitude. Try not to be oblivious. And even if you do all these things, you may still come out with nothing.

Epiphanies sold separately.

That’s OK—they’re still there, and you’ll—we’ll—find them in due time. At least, that’s what I believe.

Have you had any epiphanies lately?

Action for Happiness

Happy Friday Link Love

January 26, 2018

Hurray for Friday! This has been a busy and happy week for me—how about you? Just in time for the weekend, here are a few links I’ve loved lately:

Do you listen to podcasts? I rarely do, but would like to do so more often. Action for Happiness has some that look good. (What are your favorite podcasts? Suggestions welcomed.)

This post (and this one) would have been perfect last year, when my word of the year was “deeper”. They’re still really great reads for those of us who want to live with depth and intention. Some tidbits: “What a discovery it is, to suddenly see the wealth buried in your own house, or even lining its walls.”

and

“Do we need more and better possessions, relationships, homes, hobbies, skills, and opportunities, or do we simply need turn our efforts towards cultivating our land, rather than prospecting for more and better places to dig?”

If you want to be happier, think like an old person! According to this New York Times article, “When the elders described their lives, they focused not on their declining abilities but on things that they could still do and that they found rewarding.” The author of the article, John Leland, wrote a book about his experiences with six New Yorkers over the age of 85. Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons From a Year Among the Oldest Old was published this week.

Stop by the Good News Network when you’re fed up with bad (or “fake”) news. This was one of my favorite stories, and so was this one.  

Some good advice in “This Is What ‘Self-Care’ Really Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths and Chocolate Cake,” including: “If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with ‘treating yourself’ and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.”

I found this article about headwinds and tailwinds thought-provoking. As the article points out, we tend to remember the struggles we’ve had (headwinds) more than the advantages we’ve been given (tailwinds). How can we help provide tailwinds for more people?

I think Tank would be willing to give Prudy a ride, but I don’t think Prudy would be as happy as this cat is:


Everyday adventures

7 Things Making Me Happy Right Now

January 22, 2018

I live in Florida, so I like winter, but I know it’s a challenging season for many people. All the more reason to look for and savor simple pleasures and everyday adventures that will help you through the cold, dark days. I’ll start. Here are seven simple pleasures and everyday adventures making me happy right now:

  • Actually having a “winter”. I’ve been cold. I’ve worn sweaters and jackets and fuzzy socks and we ran the central heat! This is noteworthy in central Florida.

  • A milestone wedding anniversary. My husband and I celebrated our 30th anniversary last week! We’ve now been together far longer than we were alive before we got married. We’re planning a celebratory trip of some kind later in the year.


  • Jigsaw puzzles. I put together a puzzle a friend gave me over the course of a week or so, and I enjoyed it so much! Bonus: this made me realize that if I set up my sketching supplies the way I set up a place to do my puzzle I might actually start sketching again.



  • Riding Tank at full strength. All his owies are gone. We’ve started jumping again. Another bonus: spending time with him without coming home drenched in sweat (see #1).


  • Crazy Aunt Purl is back as crazytourist.com. CAP/Laurie Perry was one of my favorite bloggers when I first started blogging myself. She took a break from writing for a while, but she’s back and as delightful as ever.

  • My Reticular Activating System (RAS). Say what?! The RAS is a part of your brain that “takes what you focus on and creates a filter for it. It then sifts through the data and presents only the pieces that are important to you,” according to Tobias van Schneider, writing on Medium.com. My RAS has been active in looking for flow—I’m seeing it everywhere, including the January 2018 Editor’s Letter in Better Homes and Gardens. (Thanks to my friend Kerri for introducing me to the RAS.)
Your turn! What simple pleasures and everyday adventures are making you happy right now?

Flow

Happiness and Flow

January 19, 2018

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

“Happiness is achieved by flowing with the known and the unknown within you, being in a state of simplified simplicity.”
—Pablo Andres Wunderlich Padilla

Attitudes

Making a Friend of Fear

January 15, 2018

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t consider myself brave. My first reaction is to shrink back rather than charge forward. “I am afraid” is one of the limiting beliefs I’ve been doing battle with all my life. And while I’ve found work-arounds for times when I need to push through feeling fearful, I’ve never actually thought about fear in a positive way.

Until last week.


Last week I picked up a pretty and deceptively simple little book, My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown (2018, TarcherPerigee), by Meera Lee Patel. Just like reading The Upside of Stress changed my attitude towards stress, reading My Friend Fear triggered a change in my attitude toward fear by helping me see it in a new way.  

Some tidbits:

“Fear is a friend, and it’s here to support you. Like all friendships, the one you have with fear is a two-way street. It requires time, hard work, and honesty in order to become and remain healthy. It requires us to sit with it, listen to it, and try our best to understand it—even though we don’t always know how. Like any friend, fear can help you only if you let it.”

“Becoming aware of fear is the first step to befriending it. After all, how can you become friends with something you’re pretending doesn’t exist? 

“It’s okay to be afraid. All it means is that there’s something you care deeply about. It’s okay to have fears, as long as you are willing to explore them. It’s okay to hug fear closely, to poke and prod and discover what’s underneath that heavy, dark cloak.”

“Fear is here to help you uncover your greatest wish.”

As I was finishing up My Friend Fear, I picked up my copy of Susan Jeffers’ classic Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. After a quick skim, I realized these two books worked together to help something click in my mind. (Don’t you just love when that happens?)

Here are my epiphanies:

  • Fear will always be there when you step outside your comfort zone. All learning and growth occurs outside of your comfort zone, so unless you want to stop growing, you will always have some fear.
  • The only way to get over being afraid of doing something is to do it.
  • The doing comes first, then the fear fades.
  • Everyone feels this way—I’m not an anomaly.
  • Fear is my friend. It shows me what matters to me.

My tendency has always been to think something was wrong with me when I felt fear, and to push it away instead of listening to it. Or I’d become paralyzed and overwhelmed—the antithesis of flow

After reading these two books, I’m changing my response to fear. Instead of trying to “overcome” fear, I want to learn how to be comfortable with it, and with being afraid. I’m no longer going to feel like I shouldn’t be afraid, or that I should just ignore fear and push ahead. I’ll be looking on fear as the friend who highlights the areas of my life that matter the most, the areas where I’m stretching outside my comfort zone. 2018 is already giving me opportunities to test this theory, with new writing projects on the horizon, the chance to help teach a yoga and journaling workshop this weekend, and, in October, a chance to travel to Paris with Laure Ferlita and The Blue Walk

Do you welcome fear into your life? What would you do if fear were your friend?


Look for my travel writing here