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.
The hydrangeas in the front yard are in full bloom now, the weight of the flowers causing the stems to bow and reach toward the ground for relief. I was thinking about change earlier today, it’s in the air here in Michigan. The days are growing shorter and last night autumn tiptoed by me as I sat out on the deck reading, the cool night breeze chasing me inside for a sweater. The older I get, the more I believe that the most important trait survivors have in common is the ability to adapt and change. We all have expectations—for our relationships, for our careers and financial well-being, for our health and the health of our loved ones. But life doesn’t necessarily meet our expectations. As a matter of fact, you can be damn sure it won’t meet all of them! So that leaves us with a choice, become bitter and sad and live in a perpetual state of disappointment and unease, or surrender and change your expectations. It’s not easy, and you don’t get there by just saying you want to, it takes time and maybe even a few passing years. But you can get there. Change is good, you may have to bend a little to embrace it, but that’s okay, you won’t break.
“The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.” ~Japanese Proverb
On Sunday, Doug and I went to the University of Michigan Botanical Gardens hoping to get some butterfly photos. As you can see from the picture above, the gardens were in full bloom, but we were disappointed to find only bees buzzing around the flowers. We took a few photos, whining a good deal of the time about the lack of the lovely winged insects, and then we set out for home. As we were driving down the freeway there was a sudden loud “plunk” as a large insect hit the windshield. When I turned and looked over at Doug he simply said, “Yes…it was a butterfly.” The irony continued at home when while sitting out on the deck the swallowtail pictured below fluttered and flapped and feasted leisurely on the flowers growing in our own backyard pots. As I looked at the photo of Doug on my computer the next day, surrounded as he was by masses of beautiful flowers, I realized how foolish we were that afternoon not to be grateful for the present moment just as it was, even if it did happen to be butterfly free. So I guess our lesson for the day was – You don’t necessarily need to wander far from home to find your heart’s desire, but if you do, for heaven’s sake – stop and smell the flowers along the way!
Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, it may alight upon you. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
See other (nearly) Wordless Wednesday participants here.
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.
Okay, so right after Brooklyn was born I felt like I should write a heartfelt, touching, tear producing post about the instant joys of becoming a grandparent. But as wonderful as this week has been, the truth is, I felt a little numb, almost like I was stuck in a dream and any minute I’d wake up, and poof! Meagan would still be pregnant and we’d still be waiting for a baby. I was feeling kind of bad about the way I felt, like I was already failing as a grandparent until Doug expressed the same feelings. I’m not sure why it affected us like this. We’re guessing it may be because we’d been waiting for Brooklyn since the kids lost unborn baby Kiley last spring. Basically this child has been anticipated for eighteen long months, during which time we also lost my mother to a terrible, year long illness.
Years ago, Andy once told me how to remember which direction tightens and which one loosens things; righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. Now when I go out to water my flowers and I turn the hose spigot on and off, I often say it silently to myself, righty-tighty, lefty-loosey and I’d begun to wonder if it was possible for our emotions to turn on and off in the same way. I suppose I was expecting a lightning bolt of happiness to strike me the moment I held Brooklyn for the first time at the hospital, that my newfound love for her would wake me up, would fill me up and make me believe that I actually deserved to be happy. But Doug and I both left the hospital the day she was born in a bit of a daze.
Today we had to go over and babysit Brooklyn so that Andy could take Meagan to the doctor’s for complications from the epidural. At one point, I took the baby into her room to change her. After she was cleaned up, I swaddled her in a blanket so that only her head was peeking out and I picked her up. She started to fuss so I began rocking gently back and forth and talking to her in that instinctive, sing-song mommy voice women seem to be born with. Brooklyn quieted down. She began to study my face carefully and then she smiled, the sweetest, purest little smile and that was my moment. It didn’t happen in a brightly lit, crowded hospital room, but alone in the silence of a darkened nursery. And it was not so much a bolt of lightning, but a gentle lefty-loosey, a gift from the tiny pink lips of my first grandchild that went straight to my heart.
I’ve been thinking about happiness today, trying to put a finger on what it is and how to hold on to it when you have it. Yesterday, I suddenly realized that I was quite happy, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed. When I went to the grocery store people kept looking me in the eye, smiling, and saying hello. It was strange because I usually feel somewhat invisible. Not in a bad way, more like in an undercover, superhero kind of way. Like I can move stealthily through my day and not garner a lot of attention. Perhaps it’s the writer and artist in me, wanting to blend into the background so I can observe and gather bits and pieces of people’s lives for later use. But there was no hiding yesterday. I felt like I had a spotlight shining down on me exclaiming, “Hey, look at her, she’s a happy friendly person!”
The interesting thing is, I woke up yesterday with the same blessings and the very same worries that I had the day before. When I did a search for books about happiness on Amazon I got 260,732 results. That’s a lot of books, most of them proclaiming that they can teach people how to be happy. Which is probably a good thing because when I searched for depression I got 263,382 hits. A close race, but unless the results are tallied in Florida, I would say that depression wins hands down. Where am I going with this? I honestly don’t know. Just like I don’t know why I was feeling bummed on Wednesday but woke up happy on Thursday. But I do know this much, even though I lost my cloak of invisibility it felt pretty good to be happy, so I’m simply going to enjoy walking in that spotlight for as long as it keeps on shining.
The photo above is of my daughter-in-law Meagan, my niece Aryielle, and Mr. bookbabie at a family dinner. Every time Meagan smiled at her, the baby totally cracked up, it was so funny and sweet we had tears streaming down our faces from laughing so hard. I wanted an image that illustrated happiness and every time I see that picture I can’t help but smile:)
Some people never find it, some only pretend, but I just want to live happily ever after every now and then. Jimmy Buffet