Chris Bailey

Happiness Is a Team Sport

September 21, 2018

Photo courtesy Rhythm_In_Life via Pixabay

At work, at home, and everywhere else, our happiness, productivity, and success is intertwined with the happiness, productivity, and success of the people surrounding us. If you think it isn’t, you’re not living up to your full potential.
—Chris Bailey, “I’m One of the Laziest People You’ll Ever Meet—and That’s What Drives My Productivity,” gretchenrubin.com


Armchair travel

J’aime Les Livres Sur Paris*

September 17, 2018

Photo courtesy Sierra Maciorowski via Pixabay

For the past six months or more, I’ve been reading Paris…novels set in Paris, collections of essays and excerpts from larger works on Paris, guidebooks about Paris…

Did I mention, I’m going to Paris?

If you’re going to Paris, too, or even if your travel is of the armchair variety, here are a few of the most interesting livres I’ve come across:

Fiction

Paris By the Book, Liam Callanan. This was one of my favorites, though it got mixed reviews on Amazon. Protagonist Leah moves with her two daughters to Paris after her “eccentric novelist” husband vanishes, leaving behind plane tickets for Paris hidden in an unexpected place. When Leah discovers an unfinished manuscript her husband was writing, set in Paris, she and her girls “follow the path of the manuscript to a small, floundering English-language bookstore whose weary proprietor is eager to sell.” (Amazon) Books, exploring Paris, a little mystery (Is Leah’s husband dead or alive?)—I found it delightful.

13, Rue Therese, Elena Mauli Shapiro. Another intriguing story, following American academic Trevor Stratton as he sifts through a box of artifacts from World War I related to the life of Frenchwoman Louise Brunet. As he imagines what her life was like, he begins to fall in love with his alluring French clerk, Josianne.

The Light of Paris, Eleanor Brown. The intertwining stories of Madeleine, trapped in an unhappy marriage and reconnecting with her own essential self and Madeleine’s grandmother, Maggie, whose youthful diary Madeleine discovers reveals a completely different woman than she remembers.

The Little Paris Book Shop, Nina George. Monsieur Perdu prescribes novels for the hardships of life from his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine. I’m possibly the last person alive to read this, but I picked up a copy at my library’s used bookstore for a dollar last week.

Hunting and Gathering, Ana Gavalda. “A winning portrait of a group of misfits who band together to form their own family,” according to Booklist. This sounds so good to me, I’m going to try to squeeze it in before I leave. 

Paris: The Novel, Edward Rutherfurd. I’ve never read anything by Edward Rutherford, but several family members have recommended him, so I loaded this chunky historical novel onto my Kindle to take with me. Gotta have something to read on those long plane rides.

Nonfiction/Essays

A Paris All Your Own, edited by Eleanor Brown. All-new Paris-themed essays written by best-selling writers of women’s fiction. Not only did I enjoy the essays, I added a number of books to my TBR list while reading this.

A Paris Year, Janie MacLeod. I reread this (I wrote about it here) and jotted a few notes. 

Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide, Jesse Kanelos Weiner and Sarah Moroz. I’m probably taking this one with me—not only for the recommendations, but for the inspiration of the charming watercolor illustration.

Paris in Mind, edited by Jennifer Lee. I’m reading this right now. Excerpts from writings by everyone Thomas Jefferson, Sylvia Beach (who writes about opening the Shakespeare and Company bookstore), Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, David Sedaris, Dave Barry, and many more.

How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City, Joan DeJean. Notably, I haven’t read anything about the history of Paris, so I put this book on my TBR list. Likely won’t get to it before I leave, but there’s plenty of time to read when I get home.

The Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, by Edmund White is another for the TBR list. “A collection of impressions” (Publisher’s Weekly), it sounds intriguing.

When I type “Paris” into Amazon’s search bar, it returns 50,000 results, so I know I’ve just barely scratched the surface of Paris-themed books! Which of your favorites did I leave out? Please share in the comments!

*“I love books about Paris”

Discipline

Happiness Is Earned Interest

September 14, 2018

Puppyhood: this too shall pass and this too is good

“The discipline of joy requires holding in the mind simultaneously
 that this too shall pass and that this too is good. This alchemy of mind isn’t easy, but the good life is not always the easy life. Happiness requires effort. It is not just bestowed; 
it is the earned interest on what you choose to pay in.”


Anticipation

The Simple Pleasure of Anticipation

September 10, 2018

Photo by Amelia Bartlett on Unsplash

“‘What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?’
“‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best,’ and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.”
—A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

I believe the word Pooh was looking for was Anticipation.

Anticipation is that pleasant, tingly feeling we get when we’re looking forward to something in the future. It’s worry’s much happier cousin.

I wrote briefly about the importance of anticipation in my August Happy Little Thoughts newsletter, but it deserves more page time.  (Not a subscriber to Happy Little Thoughts? Become one here. I’ll never sell or share your email with anyone else, and you can unsubscribe at any time.  Happy Little Thoughts comes out once a month, and it will give you something else to anticipate…)

Waiting makes the thing anticipated more valuable. How much more do we appreciate a purchase if we save up and pay cash rather than buy on credit? I still fondly remember the first thing I ever saved my allowance for as a child: a little gold alarm clock with rhinestones surrounding the face, just like the one my best friend had.

Delaying gratification can draw out the pleasure of things we enjoy. Instead of an “on demand” mindset of instant gratification, why not wait? Why not watch one episode of Stranger Things at a time, rather than streaming the entire second season in one weekend? (I may be speaking from personal experience here.)

Scheduling and planning ahead for simple pleasures and everyday adventures rather than just waiting for them to fall into our laps also gives us the chance to anticipate the happy event beforehand. When we buy tickets for a movie this weekend, or a concert in November, we give ourselves time to look forward to pleasurable experiences.

And when we anticipate an event or experience in the future, we have time to deepen our enjoyment by preparing for it. When we anticipate a vacation, we can add to our enjoyment by reading up on the area we’re visiting, researching the cuisine, or practicing the local language if it’s not our own. 

Consciously looking forward to something and preparing for it—whether it’s an experience, event, or purchase—can be a simple pleasure all its own. Cultivate anticipation by deliberately delaying a pleasure, by looking ahead to pleasures to come, or by taking steps ahead of time that you know will deepen your pleasurable experience.

What are you anticipating? How can you better savor that delicious feeling?

Joy

Happy Out, Happy In

September 07, 2018


Photo by Maria Shanina on Unsplash

“If we want a joyous life, we must think joyous thoughts. If we want a prosperous life, we must think prosperous thoughts. If we want a loving life, we must think loving thoughts. Whatever we send out mentally or verbally will come back to us in like form.”
—Louise L. Hay, You Can Heal Your Life

New Year

Summer Rerun--September Is the New January

September 03, 2018

Photo courtesy Candace Penney
Now and then I dip into the Catching Happiness archives and share a post from the past. Even though this one was written in 2013, I’m still doing some of the same things, including purging my house, getting excited about fall, and planning another anniversary trip, this time to commemorate our 30th anniversary! Apparently, some things never change.

Is it just me, or does September feel like a new beginning? Most of my life I’ve treated September the way most people treat January: as a new year. Even before I had a child going back to school or lived in Florida where the promise of the occasional cooler, drier day bumps up my energy, I reevaluated my life in the fall. My birthday is in September, so I think that adds to the “new start” feeling since like most of us I become more introspective around birthdays.

I’ve thought about starting my own Happiness Project, like Gretchen Rubin has written about in the book of the same name, and its follow-up Happier at Home (where the title of this blog post came from). I even began listing areas I’d like to focus on, but decided I’m not ready to attack things I want to change or enhance in quite that fashion. Planning all those months in advance felt too overwhelming to me. Instead, I decided to take baby steps and do some very simple things to get my new year off to a good start:

First, I’m keeping a time log this week to see where I’m spending my time. (I’m using this one.) From there, I hope to come up with a flexible schedule so I can get the important things done while still having time to play.

My weight has become a concern again, so I’m tweaking my eating and fitness routines to combat those creeping pounds.

I’m making plans for fun by figuring out the details of our postponed anniversary trip and scheduling some upcoming Field Trip Fridays.

I’m purging—the freezer, my closet, my file cabinet. I’m always battling stuff!

Even though it’s still blazingly hot here and it doesn’t feel like fall yet, I’m starting to feel more energetic, more likely to make some changes and explore new avenues. I’m ready to savor simple pleasures and take part in everyday adventures. Even though the calendar says September and not January, I’m ready for a new year!

Do you make any special plans in September? Are there any other times of year you evaluate life, set goals or take up challenges?

August

Au Revoir, August, Don’t Let the Porte Hit You in the Derrière

August 31, 2018

August is pretty, even though it's hot

Every year I stagger through the summer and I feel surprised when my energy begins to come back in September. This summer is no different. I’m happy to say goodbye to August, and already I feel stirrings of autumn energy (thank goodness) because I have a lot on my plate. For instance:

In October, I’m going to France for three weeks (!) to attend two on-location watercolor workshops with Laure Ferlita. My to-do list has a to-do list, which is part of the reason I’ve been spotty about posting here. Je suis désolé (I’m sorry). 

I’ve been looking for a new boarding barn for my horse, Tank. My longtime barn is being sold so the owners can move closer to family. I found a facility that I like, and at first I thought I’d have to move right away to keep from losing my spot, but that has turned out not to be the case. I’d rather leave Tank with the people he’s familiar with (and who are familiar with him) while I’m gone in October, so this is a good development, if a bit stressful.

Our son is temporarily moving home after his roommate moved out of state. He can’t afford an apartment on his own yet and was unable to find someone he was comfortable sharing with. He’s working on a professional license that should boost his earning power, and is hoping to move out on his own again in a few months. We hope so, too, because as much as we love him, my husband and I have enjoyed it being just us two again.

I’ve been reading some good books, practicing French, practicing sketching, getting my Global Entry approval, and having a yearly physical. Luna continues to be a handful.  I’ve continued writing for America’s Horse, and especially loved writing this piece

Add these things to the usual work and personal obligations, and my own summer doldrums, and well, you get it. I’m tired. I’m more than ready for September! And even though we likely won’t get cooler weather until October or even November, in the meantime I’ll watch the light begin to change and to make plans for fall and winter. To be ready for the burst of energy that fall brings. Since travel also boosts my energy, I should be quite a dynamo when I return from France!

So au revoir August—bring on September!

What have you been up to in August? Any plans for the fall?

John Foy

A Walk in the Woods

August 24, 2018


Introduction by Ted Kooser: John Foy is a poet living in New York whose book, Night Vision, published by St. Augustines Press, was the winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize. I especially like this leisurely, conversational account of a walk in the woods that just at the end lifts its eyes and looks into a deeper place beyond the particulars.

Woods

I took the dog and went to walk
in the auditorium of the woods,
but not to get away from things.
It was our habit, that was all,
a thing we did on summer days,
and much there was to listen to.
A slight wind came and went
in three birches by the pond.
A crow uphill was going on
about the black life it led,
and a brown creeper went creeping up
a brown trunk methodically
with no record of ever having
been understood by anyone.
A woodpecker was working out
a deep hole from the sound of it
in a stand of dead trees up there.
And then a jay, much put upon,
complained about some treachery
it may or may not have endured,
though most are liars anyway.
The farther in, the quieter,
till only the snapping of a stick
broke the silence we were in.
The dog stood still and looked at me,
the woods by then already dark.
Much later, on the porch at night,
I heard the owl, an eldritch thing.
The dog, still with me, heard it too,
a call that came from where wed been,
and where we would not be again.


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 John Foy, “Woods,” from Night Vision, (St. Augustine's Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of John Foy and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2018 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.

Being

Remember the Joy of Being

August 17, 2018

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

“In today’s rush, we all think too much, seek too much, want too much and forget about the joy of just Being.”
—Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Preparing

Weathering Summer Storms

August 13, 2018


It starts with a grumble in the east. You quickly glance up at the sky—what’s the cloud situation? Is there lightning? The Spanish moss hangs limp from the oak trees and there’s not a whisper of breeze.

It’s still sunny where you are, but puffy clouds edged with gray appear, racing across the sky. A summer storm approaches.

Quickly the blue sky turns gray, the air temperature drops, the rumbling surrounds you. Sometimes the light takes on an eerie green tinge.

The house shakes the next time the thunder booms, and you begin to see lightning flashes. In moments, the rain begins to spatter the ground, speckling the pavement. The rain whispers or rustles or thuds, depending on how hard it’s coming down. If you’re lucky, you’re inside, cozily watching. If you’re unlucky enough to be out and about, you’re probably drenched despite your umbrella. You might take off your sandals so they don’t get ruined, and run through the parking lot to get to your car. (Or is that just me?)

After a few moments—or an hour—the sun may shine through the rain. This is what’s known as a sun shower. Or a rainbow will appear. Your gift for weathering another summer storm.

Sometimes we can see the storm coming from a long way away and we can prepare at least somewhat, as my family and I did last summer when Hurricane Irma was bearing down on us. Sometimes a storm appears seemingly out of nowhere and we’re forced to take cover until the worst is over. Afterwards, we pick up the pieces.

What’s true of the weather is also true of our lives. Sometimes we see the storm coming, other times it takes us by surprise and all we can do is hold on. If you’re in the midst of a storm, know that it will end, and that you may very well find a world made new on the other side. If you’re watching a storm on the horizon, what can you do to prepare for it? And if you’re currently enjoying a stretch of beautiful weather, savor every moment of it, knowing that soon enough, the storms will come.

What storms have you weathered lately?


JOMO

Lazy Summer Link Love

August 10, 2018

Well, it’s August. What more can I say? I’m feeling about as lazy as is possible while still being conscious, just marking time until the weather cools off. But my fingers still work and I have an internet connection, so here are a few links I’ve loved recently:

I’m not the only one struggling through summer. Apparently, according to at least one study, your brain really does slow down during hot weather. Read about it here: “It’s Not Your Fault If You Can't Get Anything Done in the Summer.” 

Laura Vanderkam’s posts are always full of common sense. In “Every Yes Is a No, Every No Is a Yes,” Laura writes, “The upside of keeping this phrase in mind is that it reminds you that expectations are infinite, and time is finite. You are always choosing. A choice to do one thing is a choice not to do something else, and therefore a choice to disappoint someone. So the question is who are you choosing to disappoint, and why?”
“Reclaim Your Weekends” looks at the importance of scheduling time for restoration: “We all need rest and rejuvenation. Without deep, restorative time, we power through jam-packed weekends (or aimlessly surf the net), only to wake up on Monday mornings feeling tired and dissatisfied.”
I’m still exploring Julia’s Bookbag, but so far I’m enchanted. How lovely it would be to receive one of her book boxes! And wouldn’t it be fun to create them?
Read “10 Things to Keep You Going When Everything Goes Wrong,” because it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you respond to what happens to you. Numbers 3, 7, and 9 especially resonated with me.

I just finished reading Quiet Girl in a Noisy World, and checked out the author's Tumblr, “Where’s My Bubble?” The book reminded me that I haven’t been allowing enough recharging time for my introverted self. 
To continue with the theme of doing less and enjoying life more, have you heard the acronym “JOMO”? It’s FOMO’s (“Fear of Missing Out”) cousin, the Joy of Missing Out. Read about it at “FOMO vs JOMO: How to Embrace the Joy of Missing Out.” 
And for the times when it requires too much energy to go to the beach, here’s a video of waves crashing on the beach...


Hope you have a relaxing, restoring, and very happy weekend!

Being present

This Moment

August 06, 2018


Breathe.

I’m an expert at worrying. About the future. About what might happen.

But in this moment, I’m OK. My loved ones are OK. Sure, there will be times when this isn’t the case. But not this moment.

Breathe…

All my worrying, my complaining, maybe my problem is not noticing and being grateful for this moment. This moment is a gift—that’s why it’s called the present.

Hurry, distraction, multi-tasking—these are the enemies of presence and peace.

I want more presence and peace.

Instead of constantly searching for something bright shiny new (shopping, reading yet another self-help book, etc.) to distract myself from uncomfortable feelings I’m practicing appreciating, caring for, and savoring the many gifts I already have.

Will you join me today in stopping to breathe and appreciate where you are? All the things that work in your life? Let all the worries for the future go—poof! Maybe even make a list of 10, 15, 100 things you love about your life right now. Summer is a good time for slowing down to appreciate this moment.

What do you notice when you become present in the moment? What’s best about your life right now? What would you like to change? Please share in the comments!

Habits

Cultivate Habits of Happiness

August 03, 2018

Photo by gabrielle cole on Unsplash

“So many of us believe that to be joyous we need to do a lot of work. But the truth is, our essence is already sparkling with happiness and bliss. All we really need to do is cultivate good internal habits to allow our divine spark be revealed.”
—Tzivia Gover, Joy in Every Moment

What habits do you cultivate to reveal your inner spark?

Dreams

Summer Rerun--Someday Isle

July 30, 2018

Now and then I dip into the Catching Happiness archives and share a post from the past. I hope you enjoy this one, from 2010. 


Have you ever been to Someday Isle? Maybe you find yourself taking up residence now and then—I know I do. Someday Isle is a wonderful place—there is always enough time and enough money to do just what you want to do. On Someday Isle my desires are just as important as everyone else’s. I can follow a dream and not worry about what that will mean for anyone else. (I don’t have to do laundry on Someday Isle, either.)

I visit Someday Isle every time I say, “Someday, I’ll…”

“Someday, I’ll” can keep you going when things are tough, give you hope for the future. There can be many excellent reasons why you’ll do whatever-it-is “someday.” There really are times when personal responsibilities and lack of time or money will keep you from your dreams. But not always. The trick is knowing when “someday, I’ll…” is a cop-out and when it’s legit. Usually, what’s stopping me is an issue with time or money, but occasionally it’s fear or guilt.

That’s right: sometimes actually getting what you want brings up some negative emotions. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Greece for two weeks. I have always wanted to visit Greece, my husband said to go for it, and we had the money to afford the group fare. I had a traveling companion, my mother-in-law, who had brought the trip to my attention in the first place. I hesitated—I hadn’t traveled overseas in years, I didn’t know anyone else in the group besides my mother-in-law, I would have to renew my passport, and figure out what to pack and make plans for keeping things running on the home front while I was gone. I felt guilty about spending that much money just on myself. Life had given me a beautiful gift, and I was afraid to take it. Thankfully, I didn’t let any of my apprehensions get the better of me. I went and I had the time of my life. I think about that trip often and the good feelings remain with me to this day. 

Of course, that doesn’t’ mean the words “someday, I’ll” don’t still frequently come out of my mouth. I have a file folder labeled “Someday” filled with clippings of things I want to do or experience…“someday.” There are also plenty of things I want to do with my horse “someday” and there’s that book I want to write “someday….” Well, you get the picture.

What are some of your “someday, I’ll”s? Do you really have to wait for someday? If so, what can you do right now to bring someday closer?

Someday Isle?

C.S. Lewis

Do You "Like" Happiness?

July 27, 2018


I *Heart* Happiness
“I begin to suspect that the world is divided not only into the happy and the unhappy, but into those who like happiness and those who, odd as it seems, really don’t.”
— C.S. Lewis

Absent in the Spring

Rereading Absent in the Spring (Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott)

July 23, 2018


 

One of the things I like most about traveling is the complete break from the usual routine. I almost always come back from a trip refreshed and ready to make changes in my life…whether or not those changes actually take place. Sometimes it takes leaving home to see myself more clearly.

All that sounds pretty good—having time to oneself to re-center, finding solitude to think and evaluate one’s life.

It can also be a little bit frightening.

At least in the hands of Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacott, in Absent in the Spring. I reread this book over the weekend, and it was as thought-provoking as I remembered it. (And no bodies in the library...this is a different kind of frightening.)

Absent was one of Christie’s favorite books. She completed it in three days straight, and wrote in her autobiography that it was “one book that has satisfied me completely…. It was the picture of a woman with a complete image of herself, of what she was, but about which she was completely mistaken…. What brought about this revelation would be the fact that for the first time in her life she was alone—completely alone—for four or five days.”

In the book, self-satisfied, middle-aged Englishwoman Joan Scudamore finds herself stranded at a rest house in the desert on her way home from visiting her daughter in Iraq. There are no other travelers for company, she runs out of things to read, uses up her writing paper, and has no sewing or handiwork to occupy her. She’s left with nothing to do but think and remember. At first, this makes her uneasy:

“The truth was, she reflected, that she had always led such a full and occupied life. So much interest in it. It was a civilized life. And if you had all that balance and proportion in your life, it certainly left you rather at a loss when you were faced with the barren uselessness of doing nothing at all. The more useful and cultured a woman you were, the more difficult it made it.”

And then downright frightened, as her thoughts take her places she’d rather not go.

“There was nothing to be afraid of in being alone—nothing at all.”
 
Eventually, she comes to see herself as she really is, not as she’s told herself she is all her life.

“She had got to know, once and for all, just what kind of a woman Joan Scudamore was….”

The title comes from a line in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 98, “From you have I been absent in the spring.”  One of Joan’s realizations is that even though she really loves her husband, she’s been “absent” from him in the ways that really matter.

When Joan returns to England, will she keep her hard-won self-knowledge and make changes? Or will she return to her old ways? I won’t spoil the end for you—you’ll have to read it for yourself.

Absent in the Spring was written in the 1940s, but anyone whose life is overfull with commitments, social media, and general busy-ness might recognize in themselves the tendency to fill up time with doing in order to avoid uncomfortable thinking.

At fewer than 200 pages, Absent in the Spring is a quick and compelling read. Check it out, and let me know what you think!

A Book That Takes Its Time

The Best Route to Happiness

July 20, 2018


“Happiness is primarily about cultivating your inner life, instead of trying to influence your external life…. Even if you can control most things, controlling everything is impossible. So the best route to happiness is not trying to control your surroundings, but to control what is happening inside you. If you can control your feelings, your emotions, and your desires, you can be happy. It’s not what happens that makes you unhappy—it’s your reaction to what happens.”
—Frederic Lenoir, “Be Aware of the Good Things Around You,” A Book That Takes Its Time

Growth

Rules of Adulthood Revisited

July 16, 2018


Way back in 2010, when I first read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I seized on the concept of Rules of Adulthood. At that time, mine included:
  • There is time enough
  • Live joyfully
  • Be Kathy
  • Put on your big girl panties and deal with it
  • Pause before you say no
  • It is what it is
  • Rise to the occasion
  • I am enough
  • Slow down—faster isn’t better
  • Progress, not perfection
  • Help is everywhere
  • What would I do if I wasn’t scared?

There’s been a lot of figurative water under the bridge since then, including my turning 50—howisthatevenpossible? Now that I’m, ahem, so mature, I've been toying with the idea of revising my Rules of Adulthood for my new stage of life (midlife-no-kids-at-home-but-not-quite-retired).

One of the issues I commonly deal with now is worry about the future. As I get older, I see my parents and in-laws aging and coping with various physical and emotional challenges. I worry about losing my husband. About becoming ill myself. After Scout’s death hit me hard, I worry about losing Tank, Prudy, and Luna, knowing that there's no guarantee they will live the long life Scout did.

Milestones keep coming, but they’re not fun ones like college, marriage, and starting a family. More like colonoscopies, bereavement, and loss of physical vitality!

Wait, where was I?

Oh, yes, Rules of Adulthood. To combat these worries, I some additions to my original Rules of Adulthood:

  • Everything is figure-out-able (courtesy of Marie Forleo). Instead of stressing about what might (or might not) be ahead, believe that I’ll be able to figure it all out when the time comes.
  • Life is not a competition.
  • Be easy with yourself. After all these years, trust that you are a good and decent person, even when you make mistakes. (See next rule.)
  • Everyone is doing the best they can--including you.
  • Quality, not perfection. Perfection is unattainable, but you’re almost always able to live and work with quality.
  • See the funny side. Because laughing is better than crying. Usually.
  • Don’t immediately label things that happen to you as “good” or “bad”

It’s good to review the way we think from time to time. As we age, ideally we’re becoming wiser, kinder people. As we experience more, we learn to see other peoples’ points of view. Maybe we soften, maybe we grow stronger. Life is a work in progress, and though change is sometimes scary and hard, sometimes it’s just what we need.

Do you have Rules of Adulthood you live by? Please share in the comments!



Feelings

Looking Wider Than What Hurts

July 13, 2018

Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash

“In actuality, misery is a moment of suffering allowed to become everything. So, when feeling miserable, we must look wider than what hurts. When feeling a splinter, we must, while trying to remove it, remember there is a body that is not splinter, and a spirit that is not splinter, and a world that is not splinter.”
—Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening 

Appreciation

What I Learned From a Daily Vacation

July 09, 2018


Last week, while I participated in Laura Vanderkam’s Daily Vacation Challenge, I:

  • Did a crossword puzzle
  • Spent time with Tank
  • Read a book
  • Watched a movie without doing anything else at the same time

What I learned surprised me:

I already do these things, with the exception of the movie, every week. It seems I’m good at scheduling simple pleasures, but not so good at savoring them while they’re occurring. Which means I’m not so good at remembering that I’ve indulged in a simple pleasure. I rush through even pleasurable things to get to the next thing, which leaves me feeling stressed and grumpy. I’m still fighting the busy fight.

I don’t properly appreciate the many lovely things in my life. I don’t fully savor them, or reflect on them later.

I’m embarrassed by how much I complain about my perceived challenges and how ungrateful I’ve been. I hope—no, I plan—to change this. I started 2018 with a gratitude practice—writing down three things I was grateful for every day. I stopped doing that a couple of months ago, and I’m going to pick it up again. (I’ve been having some issues with depression again, and I wonder if this would help? Couldn’t hurt.)

I didn’t expect to learn these things about myself—but I’m glad I did. This coming week, a non-vacation week, I’ll still indulge in some of my favorite simple pleasures, and I’m keeping a time log, so I’ll have a place to record those daily breaks. My goal is to slow down enough to actually appreciate them while they’re happening. I’ll dust off my gratitude journal and bite my tongue when I start to complain. 

Did you participate in the Daily Vacation Challenge? What were your favorite mini-breaks? Did you learn any unexpected lessons? Please share in the comments below! 

Growth

Work, Play, Be Joyful

July 06, 2018

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

“Summer is a period of luxurious growth. To be in harmony with the atmosphere of summer, awaken early in the morning and reach to the sun for nourishment to flourish as the gardens do. Work, play, travel, be joyful, and grow into selfless service. The bounty of the outside world enters and enlivens us.”
—Paul Pitchford



Daily Vacation

The Daily Vacation

July 02, 2018

Photo by Mohamed Ajufaan on Unsplash

My husband is taking some time off work this week, so I’ll be doing the same. (That means I’m going to try to accomplish in two days what it usually takes me five days to do—wish me luck!) Also, as luck would have it, starting today I’m joining Laura Vanderkam’s Daily Vacation Challenge. The idea of the Daily Vacation is something she learned about while researching her new book, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, which I’ve requested from the library but haven’t read yet.

The Daily Vacation is simply planning 15 minutes of doing something you know you’ll enjoy each day. Laura writes: “Each day for one week, you anticipate your daily vacation. You try to slow down during it, and really notice all your senses. You think of how you might describe this pleasure to someone. Afterwards, you make a note of it somewhere, to help cement the memory.  Then you look forward to your next vacation.”

I’m in! I’ll be sharing my daily vacations on Instagram (follow me here if you don’t already)—and maybe I’ll do a round-up of how it went next Monday, if it seems appropriate. You can share your daily vacations with Laura by commenting on her blog post linked above, or by tagging her or using #offtheclock on social media. I’m sure she’d love to hear what you you’re up to!

And so would I—what simple pleasures will you enjoy this week?

Abundance

Confused

June 29, 2018


 “We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness….”
—Tom Waits

Cats

“Happiness Is a Warm Puppy”*

June 22, 2018


Today is Take Your Dog to Work Day, and while I tried to convince my husband to take Luna to the office with him, he declined. Since I work at home, every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day for me, and while that has its drawbacks, overall I love being able to take a break for cuddle time with either Luna or Prudy, my other fuzzy office mate.

For many, myself included, pets are a lasting source of happiness and simple pleasures. In honor of the dog in my life, here are a few quotes about how dogs and happiness:

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace.”
—Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

“When we adopt a dog or any pet, we know it is going to end with us having to say goodbye, but we still do it. And we do it for a very good reason: They bring so much joy and optimism and happiness. They attack every moment of every day with that attitude.”
—W. Bruce Cameron

“Animals have come to mean so much in our lives. We live in a fragmented and disconnected culture. Politics are ugly, religion is struggling, technology is stressful, and the economy is unfortunate. What's one thing that we have in our lives that we can depend on? A dog or a cat loving us unconditionally, every day, very faithfully.”
—Jon Katz

“My idea of absolute happiness is to be in bed on a rainy day, with my blankie, my cat, and my dog.”
—Anne Lamott

(Sounds good to me!)

“Because of the dog's joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born.”
—Mary Oliver

Happy Friday, everyone—and if you have a dog, cat, or other animal companion, give them a little extra love today.

*Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts


Summer Rerun--Artful Living: Applying the Five E's

June 18, 2018

Now and then I dip into the Catching Happiness archives and share a post from the past. I hope you enjoy this one, from 2012. 

Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion, Athens

I recently completed Laure Ferlita’s online art class, An Imaginary Trip to Greece, an experience that qualifies as both a simple pleasure and an everyday adventure. One of the main focuses of her classes is learning how to quickly capture a scene on location where conditions can change quickly, you can be interrupted, etc. One tool Laure stresses in class is the “five E’s”—concepts that help us figure out what we want to sketch and how we can make each sketch uniquely our own. The Five E’s are: Evaluate, Eliminate, Edit, Exaggerate, and Embellish. Always on the lookout for principles that could be useful in living a happier, more artful life, it occurs to me that the five E’s could be quite useful:

Evaluate. Just as an artist evaluates his or her subject to find its most pleasing aspect or determine what is sketchable in the time available, you can evaluate your life to see how it's running. What feels good and bad, how you’re measuring up to your standards, how you’re progressing toward your goals. Taking stock of the who, what, when, where and why of life. In stopping to evaluate, you bring awareness to your life instead of drifting (or charging) around mindlessly.

Eliminate. On location, once you’ve chosen your subject, you want to eliminate anything that doesn’t significantly add to the sketch. You simply won’t have time to get every detail down on paper, so choose your details wisely. In the same way, life is short! After you evaluate it, you might decide you have some things to get rid of. Maybe literally, like that closet of items you want to donate to charity or a stack of old magazines and catalogs you’ll never get around to reading. Maybe it’s a chore or other commitment that has outlived its usefulness. It might even be a person who drags you down every time you’re together. What can you get rid of to make your life better?

Edit. In sketching and life, once you’ve decided what you want to focus on and what you want to eliminate, what’s left? Maybe you don’t want to eliminate something all together, but you can pare it down or simplify it.

Exaggerate. In class, Laure advises students to “use your creative license to exaggerate the elements to make it a great piece of art.” In sketching, that might mean darkening the values, or adjusting the direction of the light hitting your subject to make a more interesting composition. To translate this into life, choose to focus on, encourage and support the positive.

Embelish. The fun part! In art, this is where you add your own style to your sketch. In life, this is where you find ways to make it more beautiful—buy the fresh flowers, eat the chocolate, go see that movie, play, concert or sporting event that interests you. Life should be more than a list of chores and responsibilities.

Just as Laure’s five E’s make sketching on location easier and more fun by giving me a framework to help me choose a subject and execute a sketch, using the five E’s as a framework for living helps me feel like an artist in my own life. (And thank you to Laure for introducing me to these principles in art and in life!)

Do you have any principles that help you lead a happier, more artful life?

Cats

Happiness Is Like a Cat

June 15, 2018



“Happiness is like a cat, If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you'll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap.”
—William Bennett

Books

Summer Reading List 2018

June 11, 2018

I’m feeling a bit bookish, how about you? Watching the premier episode of The Great American Read reminded me of just how much reading and books have meant to me, and how passionate readers are about their favorites. Plus I’ve been inspired by blogging friends who’ve posted their own summer reading lists: Leanne Sowul has an ambitious list of 37 books on hers! And Danielle Torres has a cool theme for her summer reading. Check it out here.

Me, I’m all over the place. I want to read All The Books. I’ve chosen quite a few from my groaning TBR shelf, and a few from the running list I keep in my planner.  I know I won’t read them all, but that’s OK.  I love the process of choosing books to read. Thinking about reading is almost as fun as actually reading.

The first two books come from the Great American Read list of 100 novels: The Giver, by Lois Lowry and The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m not sure I’m up for this chunk of a book, but maybe. Or maybe I’ll woman up and choose War and Peace?  

I’m very intrigued by Circe, by Madeline Miller. 

Blandings Castle, by P.G. Wodehouse. Sometimes I just need a little Wodehouse. (I was disappointed to see none of his novels made the list for the Great American Read.) 

Starting to prepare for Paris in the fall with these possibilities: 

The Light of Paris, by Eleanor Brown. This one is waiting for me at the library as I type. Thanks to Danielle for the recommendation.

The Little Pleasures of Paris, by Leslie Jonath.


Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide, by Jessie Kanelos Weiner. I’m already reading this charming little book.

Speaking of Paris, I should be practicing my drawing and painting prior to the trip. Am I? No, I am not. Maybe one of these books will jump start my practice:

Keys to Drawing, by Bert Dodson.

The New Creative Artist, by Nita Leland

How about a peek into someone else’s life? I have the Journal of Eugene Delacroix on my shelves, as well as Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden.

Surviving Your Dog’s Adolescence, by Carol Benjamin. Because Luna.

Upstream, by Mary Oliver. I love her poetry, and look forward to reading this collection of essays.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Leport. Because now I have a thing for Wonder Woman.   

Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan, by Elaine M. Hayes One of my favorite jazz singers

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club. by Gil McNeil. Because it’s been on my TBR list for years!

A collection of short stories: either by Eudora Welty (I have a collection on my TBR stack at home), Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors, Edith Pearlman’s Honeydew, or Ellen Gilchrist’s Acts of God.

These are the books I feel like reading now—and that list is likely to change over the summer as new books catch my eye. Will I find a new favorite author or will one of these books rate as a “best read” for 2018? I can’t wait to find out.

What will you read this summer?


Look for my travel writing here