People

Meeting Awesome People

September 13, 2019

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

“I know it sounds like a cliché but you do get to meet some awesome people traveling around the world. There's so much negativity in the press, but doing what I do makes you realize that 99.9 percent of people on the planet are really decent people. We just tend to concentrate on the small percentage who aren’t.”
—Will Hide, travel writer

My husband and I are about to go on a long overdue and much needed vacation together, and we expect we’ll be meeting awesome people while we're away. I’ve set up some posts for Catching Happiness while I'm gone, but purposefully, I'm limiting my access to email and comments. Have a happy couple of weeks, everyone!


Happiness

Double Nickels

September 09, 2019

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

This week I’m celebrating a milestone birthday—55—“double nickels,” as they say. I wanted to write a post like, “55 Things I’ve Learned in 55 Years,” or even just share a few nuggets o’ wisdom with you. 

Well, I would if I could.

Instead, what I’ve learned over the past couple of months is that I still have so much to learn! That even at the mature age of 55, I make dumb mistakes, feel at a loss when faced with certain problems, and that the depth of my resources for coping with a series of mishaps and inconveniences is not as robust as I would like it to be.

All good things to learn, if a bit humbling. Does that happen to you? Just when you feel like you have a handle on life, it all goes catawampus?

For too long, worry, stress, and frustration have been my frequent companions.  If you read August’s Happy Little Thoughts newsletter, you know that Tank has been having a problem that could become quite serious, our truck died and needed a new engine, and this weekend my car had to have an expensive repair. Oh, and the reason this post is going up after 7 p.m.? My laptop keeps crashing every time I type a few letters into my word processing program.

I have been trying (oh, how I've been trying) to allow simple pleasures and everyday adventures to shore up my happiness during these difficult times. What has helped most is knowing that these frustrations have a shelf life. The vehicles will, eventually, both be fixed. Tank has been improving and seems out of danger. Some personal stuff will also eventually resolve. What I need to do is pay attention, be present, and act with maturity. I’m doing my best. 

And that's not a bad lesson to learn, no matter what your age: do your best. Assume everyone else is doing the same. And, as someone once said,  Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

What is one of the most valuable things you've learned in your years of living?



Aristotle

One Brief Time of Happiness

September 06, 2019

Photo courtesy lucasphotography from Pixabay

“One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”
—Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics 

Animals

Labor Day Weekend Link Love

August 30, 2019

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the progress of Hurricane Dorian this weekend. It’s not supposed to reach us until Monday, and as I write this, we don’t yet know where it will make landfall. Some models show it crossing from the Atlantic over us into the Gulf of Mexico, so keep Florida in your thoughts. Other than last-minute hurricane preparations, this weekend we’re expecting a visit from my mother-in-law, celebrating our son’s birthday, and my husband and I are attempting to repair something on my car—wish us luck! I might do some baking—maybe chocolate chip cookies or some type of muffin. We’ll see.

Just in case you have some free time on your hands this weekend (a three-day holiday weekend for most of us in the U.S.), here are a few items of interest I’ve come across recently. Enjoy!

“How to Manage Your Energy to Get More Done” was a timely read for me, as I’ve been dragging lately. Going to pay more attention to renewing my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy.  

Have you ever tried to “Follow Your Jealousy”? As Sheila Devi writes, “Jealousy tells you what you want more of. What if you listened to it?”

Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy’s “Rom-Com Syllabus” if you’re looking for something fun and light to watch over this long weekend. There are some great additional suggestions in the comments, too.

This long essay by Roy F. Baumeister examines the differences and similarities between happiness and a meaningful life.

I totally understand and identify with “Pet owners share 55 hilarious rules their animals have made.” The animals are clearly in charge.

What do you think about research that shows that trying to be happy can result in feeling less happy? “Quit Doing 1 Thing Today, and Science Says You’ll Feel a Lot Happier (It's Counterintuitive)” is worth a read.

This is an oldie, but still hilarious. My husband showed this to me again this week, so I hunted it up on YouTube for you:



May you have a safe, relaxing, and happy Labor Day weekend!

Fallow time

Fallow Time

August 26, 2019

Photo courtesy Alfred Borchard via FreeImages

Our backyard has grown from oasis to jungle after months of rain and sun. My husband has had his hands full keeping the bird feeders and birdbath cleaned and filled, and collecting all the debris that falls into the yard from the trees (sticks, Spanish moss) and trimming out the most obvious dead stuff. He hasn’t had time for pruning or puttering around for pleasure, and it’s still too hot to plant. Right now, in many ways, we’re holding on, waiting for a change in the season, or at least a lessening of the heat and humidity enough to allow new things to sprout.

In gardening, as in life, there are times for planting, weeding, pruning, and harvesting. There are fallow times.

In the US, I don’t think we allow ourselves enough of this fallow time. Instead, we tend to fill every free minute with noise—whether it’s actual noise from the TV, radio, or a podcast, or “noise” from the written word. We don’t give ourselves time for our own thoughts to wander where they may. At least I know I don’t, because my own thoughts are often full of worry or fear.

I’ve been weeding and pruning and getting rid of the most obvious dead stuff, otherwise known as purging. Pulling books off shelves, throwing away or shredding file folders of outdated papers, sorting through my clothes, putting closets and shelves in order. Taking everything off my desk and cleaning it thoroughly. Getting ready for fall’s cooler temperatures and generally higher energy levels, when I’ll be capable of planting again.

But before that, during this last week of August, I need some fallow time. Maybe only an hour or two here and there, to lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling, or to rock in my glider rocker while acoustic guitar music plays and I stare out my office window. To sit propped up in bed with my journal and pen in hand.

The past 12 months have brought a lot of changes, new projects, new experiences, sad losses, and one spectacular trip to France. I feel like I haven’t processed half of it. It’s time to allow myself to slow down, even stop, and let all of that sink in. There will be time, soon, for planting, weeding, pruning…the cycle will continue. But first, fallow time.

Do you allow yourself the rest and restoration of fallow time? 

California

California Hills--Landscape of My Childhood

August 23, 2019


When I read this poem I had to share it, because it so perfectly captures for me the look and feel of the area in which I spent my growing-up summers, an area that I love deeply and find beautiful, in ways that may seem puzzling to those who come from more well-watered areas.

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Let’s hope that by the time this column appears all fires in California have been extinguished. I wanted to offer you a poem that shows us what that beautiful but arid state can look like before it’s caught fire. The poet, Dana Gioia, served as Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts and has been a friend to, and advocate for, poetry for many years. This poem appeared in the anthology, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, from Scarlet Tanager Books.

California Hills in August

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.

An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.

One who would hurry over the clinging
thistle, foxtail, golden poppy,
knowing everything was just a weed,
unable to conceive that these trees
and sparse brown bushes were alive.

And hate the bright stillness of the noon
without wind, without motion,
the only other living thing
a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended
in the blinding, sunlit blue.

And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

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 ©1986 by Dana Gioia, “California Hills in August,” from Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, (Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan, Eds., Scarlet Tanager Books, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Dana Gioia and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2019 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.

Alexandra Stoddard

Catching Happiness Inspiration--Alexandra Stoddard

August 19, 2019


Back in March, I wrote about one of the authors who inspired my mindset when I started Catching Happiness. Today I want to introduce you to another: Alexandra Stoddard.

Stoddard began her career as an interior designer, working with Eleanor McMillen Brown. She became a top design professional, and established her own design firm, Alexandra Stoddard Incorporated.  She also became an author, penning 28 books and giving lectures on not only design, but on personal happiness and living a more beautiful life. Her website lists her as “contemporary philosopher, author, interior designer, and speaker.” All this at the age of 77!

Her mantra is “Happiness is the first principle of life. Love & Live Happy.”

Once again, I can’t remember how I originally found her work, but over the years I’ve read probably half of her books. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been remaking her acquaintance by rereading some of my favorites.

As much as I enjoy her books, Stoddard has a more formal approach to living than I do. I’m a California/Florida girl and I’m ultra casual in almost everything. But I aspire to her tranquility and her cheery outlook. I love the idea of making our daily surroundings as pretty and uplifting as we can, as well as her belief that we have a role in creating our own happiness. (She also has no computer or smart phone, and hand writes manuscripts using a fountain pen. I start most of my writing with pen and paper, but couldn’t do my work without both a smart phone and a computer…much as I might like to sometimes.)

A few of my favorite Alexandra Stoddard quotes:

“In my work in interior design, I’ve noticed that many people have a tendency to save up 95 percent of their money and effort to spend on 5 percent of their lives—festive occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, and the special, more public places in the home, such as the living or dining room. Instead, the way to live a beautiful life is to make the daily 95 percent of your life wonderful.”

“Whenever we want to learn to do something well, we have to go into training. Just because we’ve been given eyesight doesn’t mean we know how to use our eyes to look and really see.

“We have to train ourselves to look at all things and see things well. We must not be limited by the familiar but must instead look and look again. Seeing well is a process of opening our mind as well as our eyes. We will be intrigued and curious, but in the beginning we also need to discipline our mind and eyes and discern through practice.”

 “I love the idea that bees gather nectar from flowers and herbs and then go home and make honey. We are like bees in that way. We move about, going from here to there, having thousands of different experiences, and learning how to cultivate our own. We take everything in, then we make our honey, our own dreams come true, our own happiness.”

“When you greet life choice by choice, detail by detail, aware of how much more happiness you can experience, you will be living a good life.”

We live in a frightening, frustrating time—but what era has NOT been frightening and frustrating? There is, there has been, and probably always will be suffering as long as we are humans. Despite, that, we have a choice whether to live our lives in sadness, fear, and discouragement or to embrace what we have, make it better, share it with others. We can try to inspire and encourage rather than tear down, divide, or add to the fear and frustration around us. Even though that’s quite often the larger challenge.

I do it imperfectly, but I choose to seek after and share happiness.

What are some of the little things you do to make your life happier and more beautiful?

For a list of Alexandra Stoddard’s books, click here.


Fear

Take Off Your Gloves

August 16, 2019

Photo by Philippe Jausions on Unsplash

“We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

”When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.

”It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.”




Comfort zones

Summer Rerun--Three Habits That Trap Us in Our Comfort Zones

August 12, 2019

Now and then I dip into the Catching Happiness archives and share a post from the past. Lately I've been thinking a lot about the balance of comfort and discomfort in the pursuit of happiness. This post from 2016 touches on habits that can trap us in our comfort zones. 

Photo courtesy Martin Wessley

So many times we’re tempted to procrastinate, to quit, or, worse, not to try at all, because something we want to do is complicated or doesn’t come easily. Just once, I’d like to try something new and find it immediately easy, but this has not been my experience with even my favorite activities: horseback riding, sketching, yoga, writing. These activities often push me well outside my comfort zone, but they have given me hours of happiness. I still don’t find them “easy,”—easier, yes, but not easy. Maybe easy is not the point?

Worthwhile pursuits—the ones that give us lasting happiness—often don’t come easy. We have to practice, to put in the time and effort to improve, or else we’ll be frustrated. And how many times do we opt for the easier choice: the TV program, the mindless internet surfing, and so on? What other factors keep us safe in our comfort zones instead of pursuing the very things we say we want to pursue? In my experience, there are three things that contribute to the inertia keeping us from enjoying challenging and happy-making pastimes: comparing ourselves to others; worrying about what others think; and not stopping to appreciate how far we’ve come.

Comparing ourselves with others. When we see someone perform effortlessly (or even just better than we do), we compare ourselves to them. Problem is, we compare our “inside” to their “outside.” We don’t know their lives and experience. We don’t know what’s going on in their heads and hearts, how easy or hard things are for them, how long it has taken for them to make it look effortless. It may feel just as hard to them as it does to us, only we can’t see that. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” according to Theodore Roosevelt. If we must compare, we should compare ourselves to ourselves. (See below.)

Worrying about what others think. If we’ve been comparing ourselves to others and feel we’re falling short, we probably also feel others are looking down on us. If we are new to a pastime or putting our work out there for everyone to see, it’s only natural that we feel worried about others’ responses. The truth? Most people don’t care what we do, or what we look like while doing it. They are too busy worrying about themselves. While they’re otherwise occupied, we can do what we want without fear of what others think.

Not appreciating how far we’ve come. The first time I took a horseback riding lesson, I was scared. Thrilled, but scared. My school horse was big and, to my mind, unpredictable. My body was confused about pretty much everything it was expected to do. Now, many years later, I’ve learned a great deal about horses and riding, and many of my actions on horseback are automatic. But since I’m still learning new things, I do have times when I perform awkwardly, or just plain badly. I could get frustrated by this, but because of my past experiences, I know not to give up if my first attempts are awkward or embarrassing. Compared with how I rode as beginner (sorry, Tank), I’ve come a long way.

Most things, if we keep at them, will become easier. We won’t always feel awkward and embarrassed, we won’t always have to think so hard about every action. Even if we’re trying something for the first time and we’re awful, by stepping outside our comfort zones, we’re miles ahead of all the people who haven’t been brave enough to try in the first place.

What challenging pursuit would you like to begin? What’s holding you back?

Discomfort

Discomfort Opens Windows of Opportunity

August 09, 2019


“…discomfort can open great windows of opportunity. When we were younger we ran from discomfort constantly. We were in search of an easy life, and of course we never found it. We found the opposite.

“Over the years we’ve learned that the best things in life are often the hardest to come by, at least initially. And when you shy away from difficulty and discomfort, you miss out on them entirely. For example, mastering a new skill is hard. Healing from grief is hard. Building a business is hard. Writing a book is hard. A marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Staying healthy is hard. But all are amazing and worth every bit of effort you can muster.

“If you get good at handling discomfort, you can do almost anything you put your mind to in the long run.

August

August Monday Musings

August 05, 2019

The soupy view from my window

August in Florida features heat, humidity, frequent thunderstorms, and sometimes, hurricanes.

Though I try not to wish the days away, August is a month I mostly just try to get through. I ride Tank very little, if at all. Luna is happy to stop our walks early and come inside. I need a shower after picking up the mail at the mailbox.

But there are still simple pleasures to savor, even in August:

Big books and cold drinks. Salads for dinner. Naps on the couch. Chilled white sangria. So many different kinds of Outshine bars. Watching the light change and knowing we’re drawing closer to my favorite season, fall. Planning a trip with my husband. Tackling organizing/cleaning projects to prepare for my usual fall burst of energy. Lying in bed at night listening to a rainstorm, being grateful for my safety and comfort, in a world where those things are increasingly in question. After the events of this past weekend, I am not complaining about sweating a little lot or any of the other trifling irritations in my life.


What are you grateful for this month?

In other news, I’m very proud that my profile of Paula Francis and her horse “Zack” is the featured cover article in the August-September issue of America’s Horse. Click here to read their inspiring story.

Alexandra Stoddard

No One Can Be Happy For You

July 26, 2019


“Be idealistic. No one on earth deserves to be happier than you do. Because you are unique, if you are not happy, no one can be happy for you. Happiness is love in action. The more you love your life, the more you will love all of life. You can accomplish great things when your energy is loving. It is recognizing what we love inside and out that leads us to greater happiness.”
—Alexandra Stoddard, Choosing Happiness

Books

Summertime and the Reading Is Easy

July 22, 2019


Nearly every day I find myself drenched in sweat—we’re talking “wring out your t-shirt” sweat (too much information?). That’s because Florida has experienced record-breaking heat since May. Not only am I avoiding the outdoors as much as I can, on the days when I do have to go outside (the dog needs walking, the horse needs tending to), the heat drains my energy so much that after taking a swig of an electrolyte drink, I often plop myself down to read…and sometimes I drop off into a nap, but we won’t tell my husband that. Except he reads the blog, so I guess I just did. Oops.

Anyway, I digress. Blame it on the heat addling my brain.

I’ve been zipping through my summer reading list, and I’ve also been enjoying a couple of the books I found on this blog post by Modern Mrs. Darcy. Do not read her blog unless you want your TBR list to explode. From my own shelves, I finished Ride With Your Mind, and read Vanishing Point, by Patricia Wentworth, a very enjoyable mystery featuring Miss Maud Silver.

My library holds did all come in at once as I suspected they would, but I was able to read the ones that had to go back because other people were waiting for them, and hold on to others for a longer period, so it’s all worked out OK so far.

Here are some of my favorites:

The Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See (Scribner, 2019) was not at all what I expected and at times it was an intense read. Set on the Korean island of Jeju, it followed the lives and friendship of Young-sook and Mi-ja, and the forces that draw them together and tear them apart. I really loved the peek into a culture I know nothing about. Well worth reading.

Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog, Dave Barry (Simon & Schuster 2019). One of the library holds. I’ve loved Dave Barry’s writing for 30 years—he’s made me laugh out loud hundreds of times. This book, while still funny, is more thoughtful than some of his previous work. He’s 70 now, and his college-age daughter experienced a life-changing illness that clearly shook him up. The dog doesn’t die in the book, so that’s always a plus!

Wolfpack, Abby Wambach (Celadon Books, 2019). This slim book was based on Wambach’s viral 2018 commencement speech to the graduating class of New York’s Barnard College. Her vision of leadership inspired me, and I copied out several quotes from the book, including:

“Imperfect men have been empowered and permitted to run the world since the beginning of time. It’s time for imperfect women to grant themselves permission to join them.

“Perfection is not a prerequisite of leadership. But we can forgive ourselves for believing it is.

“We have been living by the old rules that insist that a woman must be perfect before she’s worthy of showing up. Since no one is perfect, this rule is an effective way to keep women out of leadership preemptively.”

The Year of Pleasures, by Elizabeth Berg (Random House, 2005) was a Modern Mrs. Darcy suggestion. It follows a recent widow, 55-year-year old Betta, as she begins a new life without her beloved husband, John. An easy and pleasant read, if a little too “neat.” One of my favorite things was minor character Jovani’s mangling of the English language.

I’m two-thirds of the way through another Modern Mrs. Darcy suggestion, Celine, by Peter Heller (Vintage 2017). So far I’m loving it, especially the descriptions of nature. Heller often writes for Outside magazine and National Geographic Adventure and it shows. Celine is a private detective who specializes in reuniting families. She’s also a 68-year-old woman with emphysema—not your typical PI!

What’s next? I’ve just started to read Mansfield Park and the Autobiography of Mark Twain over the weekend. Mark Twain is intimidatingly large, but I’m going to do my best to finish in the next few months. I’m not as familiar with Mansfield Park as I am with other Jane Austen titles, so I plan to take my time getting the most out of it.

And a couple more library holds just came in. Thank goodness I have plenty to read, because it’s going to be summertime here for the foreseeable future.

What have you been reading lately?

Atomic Habits

Enter Here

July 19, 2019

Tank (right) experiencing perfect happiness

“Happiness is not about the achievement of pleasure (which is joy or satisfaction), but about the lack of desire It arrives when you have no urge to feel differently. Happiness is the state you enter when you no longer want to change your state.”
—James Clear, Atomic Habits

Interesting

That Was Interesting

July 15, 2019

Interesting perspective in this photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

I have a judgmental brain. Whenever something happens to me, I want to slot it away in either a “good” or “bad” mental filing cabinet. There are many problems with that, including that few things are entirely good or bad, and it’s often unclear what the long-term outcome of any one occurrence will be. Sometimes things that appear positive end up being negative, and vice versa. Good comes out of bad all the time…and yes, vice versa.

Much of that has to do with our own perspective, how we see things.

Instead of immediately jumping into judgment about the goodness or badness of something, I’m experimenting with the phrase, “That was interesting.” It’s a way to at least hit the pause button before judging—or most likely getting upset—to give myself time to think instead of simply react.

I’m not the only one with a judgmental brain. Our world is filled with hotheaded, all-or-nothing folks, who don’t allow for any sort of nuance. Who believe in “my way or the highway” and refuse to listen and learn from anyone else. If they (we) would respond with “That was interesting,” we might be able to understand others better, and even find common ground.

This is just something I’ve been thinking about lately. What do you think? Do you have any tools you use to avoid making snap judgments, or to stay calm in the face of the unexpected or unnerving? Please share!

Peg Duthie. Ease.

Making It Look Easy

July 12, 2019


Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: There’s nothing that can’t be a good subject for a poem. The hard part is to capture something in such a way that it becomes engaging and meaningful. Here's a poem from the Summer 2018 issue of Rattle, by Peg Duthie of Tennessee, in which two very different experiences are pushed up side by side. Her most recent book of poetry is Measured Extravagance, (Upper Rubber Boot, 2012).

Decorating a Cake While Listening to Tennis


The commentator’s rabbiting on and on
about how it’s so easy for Roger, resentment
thick as butter still in a box. Yet word
from those who've done their homework
is how the man loves to train—how much
he relishes putting in the hours
just as magicians shuffle card after card,
countless to mere humans
but carefully all accounted for.
At hearing “luck” again, I stop
until my hands relax their clutch
on the cone from which a dozen more
peonies are to materialize. I make it look easy
to grow a garden on top of a sheet
of fondant, and that’s how it should appear:
as natural and as meant-to-be
as the spin of a ball from the sweetest spot
of a racquet whisked through the air like a wand.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. 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 ©2018 by Peg Duthie, “Decorating a Cake While Listening to Tennis,” from Rattle, (Vol. 24, No. 2, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Peg Duthie and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 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.

Beach

Summer Rerun--A Gift for the Remembering Self

July 08, 2019

On Saturday, I drove by the place where I took Tank riding on the beach a few years ago, so I dug up this post from June of 2015 to share as a summer rerun. It was a lot of fun to remember this experience. I hope you’re giving your remembering self something happy to think about this summer! 

A few months ago, Laura Vanderkam used a term in a blog post that intrigued me: the remembering self. Vanderkam described riding the train to New York (from her home in Pennsylvania) on a Saturday night to hear a Christmas concert, even though she was pregnant, the weather was bad, she’d endured a difficult week, and so on. She wrote, “The remembering self deserves consideration in decisions too, not just the present self.”

This term resonated with me so much that I commented: “I love the phrase ‘the remembering self.’ It reminds me that often it’s the things we don’t do that we regret later in life.”  She responded: “I think it’s as much that the remembering self and the experiencing self [or the present self] value different things. The experiencing self is never 100% happy, because it occupies a corporal body that experiences little annoyances like an itchy nose, needing a bathroom before the concert starts, etc. The remembering self looks back on the wash of the experience and doesn’t see all of these details. It’s easy to over-value the experiencing self because it’s what we’re currently occupying, but the remembering self deserves some consideration in all this too.” (Read the entire post here.)

Sometimes I let my experiencing self run the show too much. If it’s hard, scary, or uncomfortable, my experiencing self doesn’t want any part of it. (She’s kind of a wimp.) If I let her dictate what I do, my poor remembering self has nothing of interest to reflect on! Remembering self is not impressed by excuses.

All this is on my mind because last week I checked off an item on my summer bucket list: I took Tank to the beach.

All photos taken by Gayle Bryan

I confess that though I wanted (in theory) to take my horse to the beach, I was anxious about actually doing it. I knew it would be very, very hot, I knew I’d be riding with a bareback pad and halter instead of a saddle and bridle, and I knew that my horse can get excited and strong (i.e., hard to control) when he goes to a new place. I knew the trip would take most of a day, and that I’d be good for almost nothing after spending so much time in the sun, thereby throwing off my weekly schedule. I knew I’d have to wake up earlier than normal and to come up with the money to pay for the trip. My “experiencing self” was full of worries and complaints. But I managed to shut her up for a little while so I could give my remembering self this gift.

And while my experiencing self did endure some uncomfortable moments, they’re becoming hazier by the day. My remembering self is already delighted to look back on the adventure and proud of herself for stepping out of her comfort zone. I know Tank enjoyed the change of scenery, but he was less than enamored with actually going in the water, even though all three of the other horses marched right in, and a couple of them went in deep enough to swim. Some of his expressed thoughts:

“This stuff moves. Is it really safe to walk in it?”

“There’s too much slimy green stuff along the edge, it looks like it might grab me.”

 “WHAT IS THAT BLACK THING ON THE SAND?!” (It was a discarded t-shirt.)

Despite his skepticism, he eventually relaxed and splashed through the water with everyone else, and when we were on the beach itself, I gave him his head so he could explore, which he loved. And he especially loved snacking on the patches of grass we found. Instead of merely walking on the beach, we trotted and cantered on the sand and it was totally awesome. Even experiencing self had to agree.

When you feel overwhelmed at the thought of something you really want to do, how can you help the experiencing self to relax so you can give your remembering self this gift? It helps me to learn all I can about the upcoming event/experience, to look for support from friends or family, and to ease into what I want to do in a way that feels comfortable to me. And even if it’s still scary, I know my memory of it will likely smooth over the fear and remember the joy. Some things will just be more fun to have done than to do.

What are some memories your remembering self especially enjoys?




Alexandra Stoddard

Reach for the Light

July 05, 2019


“To achieve high levels of happiness, reach for brightness in your daily life. Light and dark are integral to the natural cycle of life. We can accept darkness as we point toward the light. Become conscious of all your varied options for increasing cheerfulness of your immediate surroundings. We know firsthand that the sun does not perpetually shine down on us. Not only do we face darkness every evening but there are also many overcast, dark, and stormy days. It is up to us to bring light into our lives.”
—Alexandra Stoddard, Choosing Happiness

Mindfulness

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat, It’s July!

July 01, 2019


January through June of 2019 have to have been the quickest six months of my life. And experience tells me that the next six months of the year won’t be any more leisurely if left to their own devices. How can I slow down time—or at least make it feel slower?

Summertime is the perfect time to do that, because generally the pace of life tends to slow down on its own. Many people schedule vacations, kids are out of school, and most of us make an effort to chill a little more during the hot months.

What it boils down to for me is becoming more mindful of the quality, pace, and texture of my days.

Again.

(Sigh.)

Here are a three simple ways to slow down and become more mindful that I swear I’m going to try. Want to join me?

Build in breaks. Use a timer if necessary. After a work session, schedule at least a 15-minute break, to stretch, drink a glass of water, walk around the house or office, look outside at blooming nature, and so on. I'm TERRIBLE at this. I tend to rush from one project to the next without taking a few minutes to reset and suddenly it’s 5 p.m. (And it has to be a break. No sorting the mail (or reading emails), tidying up the kitchen, or pretending that chores are a break. They are NOT.)

Create rituals throughout the day. First thing in the morning, take your coffee outside to see what’s going on in the yard, sit in meditation for 10 minutes and do a few yoga poses, or climb back in bed to write in a journal and read something inspirational. At lunchtime, pause to appreciate the smell and appearance of your food before eating, take a short walk afterwards. At bedtime, jot down three good things that happened to you today, read a poem, or practice relaxation exercises in bed. Rituals can help slow us down, as long as we don’t let them become mindless ruts

Revise the to-do list. Take at least one thing off it, and when you’re done with your list, you're done. Go put your feet up and read a book. Or whatever your favorite thing happens to be.

I’ve written about these things before, and tried them all with varying degrees of success, and it’s time to get back into practice. Do I control my life, or does it control me? Do I want to look back in December and wonder where the last six months went? No, I do not.

What are your tips and tricks for slowing down and being more mindful? Please share in the comments—I’m convinced we could all use some help in this area.

More posts about mindfulness and slowing down:

Also, check out the Action for Happiness July calendar. Today’s prompt: Make a list of things you’re looking forward to. I love it!



Anne of Avonlea

The Sweetest Days

June 28, 2019


Photo courtesy an_photos via Pixabay

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens, but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
—Anne Shirley, Anne of Avonlea (L.M. Montgomery)

2019

A Midsummer Day Check-In

June 24, 2019

Photo by Kyle Peyton on Unsplash

In the Northern Hemisphere, we’re at the edge of summer. We just experienced the longest day of the year on June 21st, and today is Midsummer’s Day. In many countries, such as Sweden and Finland, Midsummer’s Day (or Midsummer’s Eve) is a holiday that celebrates the longest day. The actual festivities take place on different dates, depending on the location, and activities include bonfires and maypoles.

While I won’t be lighting a bonfire (it’s plenty hot enough here already), I am taking some time today to check in on how my year is going so far. I didn’t set a bunch of big goals at the beginning of the year—I just wasn’t up for it at the time—but I did choose a word of the year, rise, which I’m sorry to say I’ve basically forgotten all about.

Oops.

But I feel more inclined to set a few goals now, though I still want to stay low-key with the process. I’ve already checked off a couple of items on my Summer Fun List, including taking a yoga class, and indulging in a black cow (more than one, if I’m honest—wouldn’t want that root beer to go to waste).  I’m also well into my Summer Reading List—I finished The Foundling, and have started The Island of the Sea Women, Ride With Your Mind, and The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

The year is slipping away all too quickly, and I don’t want to waste any of its precious days. So, notebook and coffee cup in hand, today I’ll be thinking about what 2019 has held so far, and what I’d like the rest of the year to be like.

If you’d like to take the opportunity to check in with yourself, too, here are some questions to ponder:

  • What do I want for the rest of the year?
  • What is working well? What isn’t?
  • What gifts has 2019 given me so far?
  • What habits do I want to break? What habits do I want to continue or start?
  • Is there anything that I absolutely want to accomplish this year? If so, what small steps can I take immediately to work towards that goal?
I’d like to look back on the year in December and be happy about not only what I’ve accomplished, but how I’ve lived—did I savor the simple pleasures and everyday adventures, or was I too busy and distracted to appreciate what I had? Did I make the most of my time, or did I fritter it away on pursuits that ultimately left me feeling empty?

Taking some time to reflect on your life—whether you do it on Midsummer’s Day, New Year’s Day, or every Sunday evening, can help you focus on the activities, people, and thoughts that help you lead your happiest life.

What has 2019 been like for you so far? Please share some of what you’ve been doing, thinking, and learning this year in the comments below!  

Joy

More Sorrow, More Joy

June 21, 2019


Photo by Viviane Okubo on Unsplash

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see in truth that you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” 
— Kahlil Gibran

Backyards

Come Visit Our Backyard Oasis!

June 17, 2019


A few years ago, my husband became interested in gardening. Since then, he’s spent hours every weekend working/playing in our yard, turning it into an oasis. He plants mostly perennials, growing most things from cuttings neighbors have shared with him, or that he’s taken himself. Two winters ago, we had several hard freezes, and I wondered what that would do to the yard. As you will soon see, it came back better than ever.

Today, I thought I’d share some photos of his handiwork (click on the photo to enlarge it):


One of my favorite simple pleasures, when it’s not too hot, is to sit in one of our Adirondack chairs and watch the butterflies and birds. 



I also love to take pictures of the flowers.




Coral bush

Coral bush flower 


Angel wing begonia



This is just one small way my husband makes my life beautiful—and I’m grateful to him for it, and many other things.

Have a beautiful Monday!


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