Open the Door

October 29, 2021

Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

“Happiness occurs when you forget who you’re expected to be. And what you’re expected to do. Happiness is an accident of self-acceptance. It’s the warm breeze you feel when you open the door to who you are.”

—Matt Haig, The Comfort Book


Signs of Normalcy?

October 22, 2021

I ran some errands this week. It was very exciting.

If you’re like me, you’ve been putting off errands, or ordering stuff online, or just doing without, because The World is Awful and What Difference Does It Make If I Have Potted Mums on My Front Porch Because No One Will See Them Anyway.

But Florida’s COVID numbers are down, and I needed to drop off some books at the library and buy groceries, so I figured, why not throw caution to the wind and go to a nursery and buy some pretty mums to brighten up our porch and lanai? You know, add a little fall cheer to our décor. (Plus buying fall flowers was on my Fall Fun List.)

So I did. And I bought one of those cute little pumpkins the squirrels love so much (but I’m putting that on the screened lanai instead of the porch, so there, squirrels.)

This week is the first time I’ve felt somewhat normal in oh, 18 months or so, partly because I’m doing “normal” things—buying groceries, decorating for fall, planning a family get-together (someone will see my mums!), focusing on seasonal pleasures like pumpkin spice lattes (had one of those this week, too).

I know in some ways nothing will ever be the same. Still, I’m encouraged to find that the simple pleasures of seasonal decorating, flowers, good things to drink, even running pleasant errands, can bring me joy again after such a long stretch of unhappiness and anxiety.

I hope you’re finding some signs of normalcy in your life—please share any simple pleasures and everyday adventures you’ve enjoyed recently in the comments below!


The Things I Take for Granted

October 15, 2021

Photo by mrjn Photography on Unsplash

Last week we had a problem with our home’s sprinkler system, and while we were trying to get it fixed, we had to shut off the water to our house for a couple of days. Every time I went to wash my hands or rinse a piece of fruit I had to stop and figure out an alternative. I take running water for granted.

I also take people for granted. On Sunday, I attended a visitation for the mother of a good friend. One moment she was here, living a vibrant life, and the next she was gone. I take for granted the presence in my life of people I love, including my own mom, stepmother, and mother-in-law.

During the pandemic the supply chain (a phrase many of us had never heard before) has been disrupted resulting in shortages of seemingly random items (cat food, computer chips) and skyrocketing prices (basically everything). As Americans, most of us are not used to NOT being able to buy what we need (and want). Most of us are not used to not being able to do what we want. We’re used to Amazon two-day delivery, the ability to retrieve information online in seconds, and drive-thru fast food. We’re surrounded by miracles and we don’t even realize it. We have taken for granted all the many advantages and conveniences of our society.

And that’s not necessarily bad. Not worrying over and spending lots of time hunting for our basic needs has freed us up to do other positive things. But it wouldn’t hurt us (me) one bit to become more mindful of what we take for granted. To stop to appreciate those things, many of which people in other countries would be most grateful to have access to.

Over the past year and a half, we’ve had to learn how to savor the simple pleasures available to us, to put off others to the future in order to limit the spread of an illness that can be randomly debilitating or even fatal. We’ve had more time to think about what really makes us happy. Like most people, I’ve been changed by the pandemic in ways I don’t understand yet. And though I do still take many things for granted, I hope I will remember days when all I wanted was a drink of water from the faucet, a trip to the movie theater with my husband, or to see my mom in person without feeling like I was bringing a host of frightening germs with me.

I know when things feel safer and more “back to normal” I’ll probably fall back into taking things for granted. But until then, when I put my key in my car’s ignition and it starts, when I flip a switch and the lights come on, or I turn a handle and water pours out, I hope I can remember to be grateful.

What are some things you take for granted?


A Fall Fun List—the Something to Look Forward To Edition

October 08, 2021

Photo by pure julia on Unsplash

It feels like it’s been a long, long time since I had something to look forward to. Sure, I’ve had the occasional outing or simple pleasure, but they’ve been few and far between. During Florida’s hot summer months I tend to conserve my energy, as evidenced by my tiny summer fun list.

I don’t usually make a fall fun list, but this year I’m going to. I need something to look forward to. And so do you.

The importance of anticipation

Having something to anticipate with pleasure helps us to imagine a more positive, hopeful future, rather than a litany of work, bad news, and stressful events. Planning a future simple pleasure or everyday adventure gives us a small feeling of control. When my planner pages have a coffee date with a friend or a notation that I intend to catch up on my magazine reading instead of only doing work and errands, I feel a small mood boost. I’m going to do my best to do all of these before the first day of Winter, Dec. 21.

My fall fun list

  • Resume attending touring Broadway productions at the Straz in Tampa. First up: Tootsie at the end of October. 
  • Go see Dune in a theater with my husband.
  • Decorate my house for fall.
  • Do my current jigsaw puzzle. It’s not fall-themed, but I’d like to put it together before buying any more puzzles.
  • Buy some fall potted flowers—mums or?
  • Walk at a local park or recreation area with my husband and dog.
  • Eat dinner at Bern’s Steakhouse with another couple. We’ve had to cancel this meal twice because of COVID. 
  • Choose a new set of inserts for my planner for 2022. 
  • Plant some cool season veggies and herbs. Hope springs eternal, despite some pitiful efforts in the past. 
  • Read and/or write outside…once we get a real cold front.
  • And yes, drink at least one pumpkin spice latte.

What are you looking forward to this fall?

Thank you to Laura Vanderkam, whose fall fun list inspired this post.

Happiness museum

Octoberly Link Love

October 01, 2021

Octoberly isn’t a word, but I think it should be. Doesn’t it sound sort of fall-ish? As October creeps in, I’m enjoying the way the light falls through the trees, the adorable little pumpkins at the grocery store, and the ubiquitous presence of pumpkin spice. Here are a few more things I’ve enjoyed recently:

Check out the Action for Happiness Optimistic October calendar here. Today’s task is to “Write down three things you can look forward to this month.” 

I love doing jigsaw puzzles, and I was thrilled to read “Jigsaw Puzzles Can Improve Your Life More Than You Realize.” I’ve got a new puzzle sitting on my dining room table right now waiting for me to start it. 

Ingrid Fetell Lee’s posts at The Aesthetics of Joy have especially resonated with me lately. I found “Are You Talking Yourself Out of Joy? Here’s How to Stop” and “6 Ways to Find Joy During Times of Change” especially good reading.

I loved this story, and especially the message the dad wanted to share: “Some people can make any situation worse, and some people can make any situation better… always be that second person….”

If visiting Denmark (consistently ranked one of the happiest countries in the world) is on your travel wish list, here’s one more reason to go. In July of 2020, the Happiness Research Institute opened the world’s first happiness museum in Copenhagen. 

Stephanie Hayes’ newspaper columns often make me laugh, and “Christmas is canceled, Tampa Bay. Instead, choose one of these holidays” was one of my recent favorites. (You don’t need to live in Tampa Bay to appreciate the humor.) Subscribe to her free newsletter if you’d like to read more of her writing.

How fun is this?

Happy Friday—and may October be full of simple pleasures and everyday adventures!

What Octoberly pleasures are you looking forward to?