I usually have two books going at once, one fiction and one non-fiction. Yesterday, I was scanning my bookshelf in the family room looking for something motivational/comforting/self-helpish and I spotted What Happy People Know by Dan Baker, Ph.D. I read it a few years ago, but apparently I’ve forgotten “what happy people know” because I’ve been feeling pretty blue lately. After rereading it I decided to play along with the Teaser Tuesdays Blog meme at MizB’s Should Be Reading blog. I randomly opened the book to page 94 and picked out this quote to share. “From that day on, I realized that there was something happy people know that unhappy people don’t: No matter what happens in life, there’s always something left to love, and the love that remains is always stronger than anything that goes against it.”
I like that, the idea that love rules, that the capacity of our hearts to appreciate and love unconditionally can overcome the craziness in our minds. Craziness that is almost always motivated by fear. Fear that we aren’t good enough, we aren’t loveable, fear of loss, fear that things won’t get better, fear that we are helpless to “fix” the broken pieces of our life. I think we all have to dig deep sometimes to find the courage to quiet that fear-based voice with a conscious prayer that begins and ends in gratefulness and love. My take away after reading Dr. Baker’s book again is simply this: Life is a dance and we all might be a little happier if we remember to lead with love, not fear.
I took this photo when we were up north in July. I don’t remember what building it was on, and I don’t know what is behind it, I just liked the way the door looked painted red against a backdrop of crumbling, beige cement. And the truth is, I’d rather not know what’s behind it because not knowing allows me the opportunity to imagine whatever I want. Maybe there’s a trapeze school in the building, people soaring through the air, reaching out toward polished swinging bars, learning to let go and fly. Or maybe it’s the storage room for an antique carousel, a forgotten treasure of beautiful hand-painted prancing horses, leaping bunnies, and roaring tigers, waiting to be discovered and restored. Or perhaps it’s the world’s biggest ice cream parlor, a palace of stainless steel and white marble where colorful sprinkles and chocolate chips fall from the ceiling like rain into bowls overflowing with delicious, lactose-free ice-cream!
Of course, there could be something scary behind that door, something that might even break my heart. I know that too, we all figure that out sooner or later, don’t we? But sometimes we have to open the door anyway, say yes, when we really want to say no. No, not today. I can’t. I’m afraid, or maybe I’m simply too tired. Those are the days we have to take one small step forward, say a quick prayer for sprinkles and bunnies and the strength to let go, and have faith that we are not as alone as we feel.
“Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. An lo, no one was there.”
This is Jake. A couple of times each summer, Jake comes over with our friends Ann and Shirley and he goes for a swim in our pool. He has trained us humans to throw a ball into the water and he swims out after it – we repeat this drill over and over again. We love to watch Jake chase his yellow tennis ball because he does it with such complete joy and abandon. When I go in the pool it has to be warm enough. I try not to get my hair wet because I don’t want it to get frizzy and I’m afraid the chlorine will turn my expensive highlights green. I don’t really have a bathing suit I like, you know, that elusive swim suit that makes me look ten pounds slimmer and ten years younger? I want to be like Jake. I want to jump into the pool and enjoy the feeling of the cold refreshing water as it washes over me. I don’t want to worry about my hair or what I’m wearing or how my body looks. I guess what I’m saying is I want to live like a dog, content with the simple delights that each moment brings, unaware of the past and unafraid of the future. Hmm, maybe the next time we’re sitting out by the pool I’ll have Mr. bookbabie toss a jar of Sanders Hot Fudge Topping into the deep end and we’ll see what happens;)
I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren’t certain we knew better. ~George Bird Evans
See other (not quite) Wordless Wednesday participants here.
I strong-armed my son Andy and my daughter-in-law (actually, it was my son who needed the coaxing) to model for some iStock pics this weekend. Before we got started I offered to do some photos for them of Meagan’s growing tummy. So far, everything is going great with this pregnancy. When they first got pregnant again we were all so guarded, trying to push back our emotions, afraid that…well, just afraid. Some of Meagan’s friends, when trying to comfort her after she lost the first baby, told her that everything would be fine this time because they already had a heartbreaking event. And as we stumbled through the baby’s loss last year and my mom’s progressing illness and difficult death, we sometimes told each other the same thing. Sometimes. Most of the time we knew the truth. That pain and heartache know no boundaries. That they will come into every life, even when we think we least deserve them, even when we think we just can’t take any more. But we have also learned another truth. That hope is not just a word. It is a light that can lift you up off your knees and carry you into a tomorrow where broken hearts are slowly mended – where joy replaces fear.
When I was growing up, my mom often took on responsibility for two of her brothers who suffered from mental illness. My first trip to New York City was to visit one of those uncles on Staten Island in the hospital. I remember riding the subway in the city, taking cabs for the first time, and skimming across a blue-green New York Harbor on the Staten Island Ferry with my mother at my side. It was all a grand adventure as far as I was concerned and it never occurred to me that my mom was under any stress; wondering what kind of shape she would find her beloved big brother in, being forced to talk to strange doctors and make arrangements to get him back to Michigan. My grandmother always turned to her youngest daughter for help when the shit hit the fan because Carol was the “strong” one, the one who could get things done. I was surprised while talking with my mom in later years when she mentioned going to the doctor to get a prescription for Valium before she had to go to court to commit her other ill brother to a mental hospital. I suppose that was one of those eye opening moments when I really looked at my mother as a person, not as an all-powerful and all-knowing parent.
One of the characters in my latest book makes the following statement while talking to a friend, “…and the thing about strength is, nobody faces a potential heartache and thinks, Hey bring it on, I’m ready. It just doesn’t work like that Susie. We do what we have to do when the people we love need us and it’s damn hard sometimes. I don’t really buy into that idea some people have more strength than others.” So I’m wondering if you agree with her, are there people who are by nature stronger than others, or are some people simply more willing to act despite their fear? And do we pay a price by acting when we are afraid, or do we gain strength?