I went to the Topanga Film Festival this morning to see the documentary Happy and I started thinking about happiness, the concept, the reality and the possibilities. I have been following The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin for about a year now and enjoy the daily quotes and reflections, but I wondered, how can I spread happiness, encourage happiness and find areas in my life to insert happiness?
Encouraging signs are popping up everywhere, for example, my husband was given the book Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert awhile ago and it was mentioned in the movie today, and this quote that showed up today on Facebook from Weight Watchers:“Life has no remote. You have to get up and change it yourself!”
So I know what I can do to make myself happy:
incorporate a healthy lifestyle into my daily life,
allow creativity to be a priority
spend time with my family
connect with my close friends
practice kindness and toleranceNow I want to expand by giving more happiness:
sharing what I have to give
helping worthy causes
creating more happiness in my home
creating more happiness in my classroom
It is a commitment, but also a choice, to surround oneself with happiness. It is a road I am choosing to walk.
It occurred to me the other day, that the saying “life is a bowl of cherries” is a little confusing. Taken literally, comparing life to a bowl of sweet, plump fruit, I am confronted with the basic fact that life certainly isn’t always sweet and ripe with potential. Life can be sweet and I can think of many sweet events in my life: my wedding day, the births of each of my three daughters, watching recitals, concerts and musicals my daughters performed in, bat mitzvahs, and graduations. Like cherries, those events and moments are small, bite-sized bits of deliciousness, a little fruit, eaten in one bite, but life is also filled with hidden dangers, little landmines, hazards, and potential debilitating stones on our path to happiness and contentment.
Cherries really rise to the occasion when they reside in cherry pie, sweet, kind of sloppy and held safely within a firm crust. I can trust these moments because the crust guarantees that the cherry filling won’t slide away. I can enjoy it all, licking the plate if I want to, no morsel wasted.
Cherries are delectable in jam, pureed into sweetness that I can spread on more solid bases and use it to make the most ordinary, special. The memories evoked by the smell and the taste of the cherries take me to places where I enjoyed the first bite of summer fruit, long lazy summer days when I had nothing more to do than enjoy a bowl of fresh cherries.
The hidden part of cherries, the pit within, is a reminder that even the sweetest parts of life have peril, sometimes, hidden inside of “normal” events are parts of life hard to deal with and dangerous to swallow. There are times when our bodies betray us and hide deadly disease, and times when a toxic secret is revealed in a relationship. There is nothing to do with a pit, swallowing it can choke the life out of you. The only reasonable thing to do is to spit it out and move on to the next bite.
Cherries offer the best surprise when they are hidden among other fruit. A fruit salad filled with flavors, some tart, some tropical and then, when you are least expect it, a sweet, ripe, juicy cherry, a reminder that the variety of flavors in life offers chances and challenges, changes and character building opportunities. If all of our experiences were prepared for us, pitted, where would the excitement be? Predictability has a place, but I prefer to live in awareness, being present to the moment, pits and all.
Life sometimes grabs you by surprise, and when you least expect it, just when things are rolling nicely along. a moon pops up just as you are jumping for joy. Today was that kind of day. I am a bewildered cow today, just hanging on, waiting for the recuperating weekend. I have taken to bribing myself with special evening and weekend rewards-just for making it through the rest of life, you know, the driving in traffic, working, managing a house and finances, not to mention the extreme amount of maintenance it takes to keep up appearances. My reward preferences are:
*A lingering visit to the gym that includes not only the mandatory walking and lovely yoga, but a special sauna and nice long, on someone else’s dime, shower complete with Kiehl’s soap and shampoo.
*A facial, anytime, anywhere.
*A massage, ditto.
*A pedicure (OK, I guess it is obvious I want to be pampered)!
*A walk on the path between Will Rogers Beach and the Santa Monica Pier (I am saving up for a cool cruiser bike)! Advice anyone? Best brand, best seat, gears or no gears-I’d like to take it to Mammoth to cruise around this summer too.
*Sitting in the movies with my hubby, escaping into an adventure, another place or another person’s life.
*Reading a good book.
*Writing while sitting on my worn green sofa with the holiday lights that frame my window casting a soft glow.
*Dozing on the above mentioned sofa with my darling dog, Charlie (he is the reason the sofa is worn and we have given up getting him to stay off the sofa) who is spoiled beyond belief, but also very helpful in helping me achieve my 10,000 steps as his favorite reward is to have me get up and walk over to the sliding door to let him in and out every 5 minutes.
So, the mug in the photo, with the bewildered cow, belonged to my mother. She often encountered the surprises of life, and rewarded herself with a cup of coffee and the chance to read anything and everything. I miss her, and the talks we had in the afternoon when I got home from work. She was an ever-present ear to my venting and even if she tired of hearing me vent, she never made me stop until I was finished. I miss that unconditional love, unending companionship and understanding. I still talk to her, but the part I miss the most, is the advice and answers she held for me. Sometimes, the answers to my ponderings are whispered to me by a little voice I can only assume is hers. When your DNA is entwined with that of another, it is inevitable that the connection is permanent.
“Everyone is smart, but if you tell a fish to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
I am spending a lot of time thinking about life choices, paths and opportunities. We often spend a large part of our lives trying to figure out what we are meant to do, or who we are meant to be. I spend a lot of time watching children, being a teacher and all, and I think we need to tune into the natural, innocent “knowing” that children poses. We try to make children conform to our preconceived notion of who they should be or to fit into the mold that the experts determine is right for children, what they should be able to do by a certain age, how they should learn, and how we can measure their knowledge. But, what if they are wrong? What if children are born to be something else, to learn in a different way and perhaps even to teach us?
Observation is a great tool that is often underutilized but always available. The next time you have the opportunity to observe children at play, take the time to really watch their actions, interactions with other children and choice of play. Some choose solitary play, quiet time alone. Perhaps they a retreating from an overstimulated life. Some chose to softly sing or hum, giving their life a soundtrack, future composers in the making. Some chose to recreate family situations that need more processing to understand totally. Some choose to draw elaborate scenes of dream worlds or scenes of events from their past. Children need to process information and they need the time and medium to do that without interruption of adult direction. Play is the method through which children learn and they need time for unstructured, child-centered play.
Take the time to think like a child. Instead of completing a list of “have too” tasks, create a list of “want to” activities. Think like a child. What will help you process your world? A quiet walk along the shore? A hike in the mountains? A dance class or listening to a concert? Sometimes creating art is a way to process reality. For me, it can be all of these things, but writing is the way I process-thinking on paper.
Children are innocent and don’t rely on preconceived notions, just on immediate desire. Their play erupts from ideas hatched spontaneously, relying on instinct. Trust your children to know their path. At the most, you will give them the gift of acceptance, at the least they will be happy trying.
Things were happening... and I remember there was music playing.
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reflections on hidden enlightenments
reflections on hidden enlightenments
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Musings from a middle aged mom
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reflections on hidden enlightenments