Put Another Log on the Fire

My newspaper column for this week:

Ten days before Christmas. By the time you read this, the timeline will have shifted. Sounds ominous doesn’t it? Remember when we were kids and ten days was a lifetime, and Christmas seemed to take its jolly time to get here? I read an explanation the other day about why as we get older things seem to move faster—something about events no longer being new to us so we experience them at a faster pace. I am sure that explanation makes sense to someone somewhere, but it did not really resonate with me.

I do find that different things have become more important to me over the years. Things I would have glossed over or not paid any particular attention to when I was younger. As I get older, I may not get wiser, but I do find myself being more reflective and more thankful for the present. Sound like I have taken one too many bites from Oprah’s gingerbread, or delved too deeply into Deepak Chopra’s philosophy, or heaven forbid, taken a page out of Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now? (I find all of his books to be dense, or maybe I am the one who is dense.)

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to attend two small parties—one with my Writers’ Group, and another with some friends whom I have known since high school. The warmth of being surrounded by good friends (with good food in our bellies topped up with a little wine) was wonderful, but the loveliness of the moments spent with friends was brought to the fore even more vividly by a suggestion I read this morning in my search for a topic for this column. I turned to a book that my husband gave me over a decade ago called “The Little Book of Christmas Joys” and recognized in number 303 a truth that had been borne out by my experience over the weekend.

My little book of joys suggested in number 303 that “When you have friends over and there’s Christmas magic in the air, don’t let the evening end early. Throw another log on the fire.” In both instances, the hosts of the evening “threw another log on the fire”, if not literally, then figuratively. I stayed up long past my bedtime listening to shared stories and taking part in something that needed no screen, either computer or television or phone, to keep me entertained. The art of conversation and conviviality is not lost—and the closeness of friendship shared is one of the most potent elements in the magic of Christmas.

On Saturday I was fortunate to share some tea with a couple of friends at Tim Horton’s. The coffee shop was filled to the brim as it so often is. Our peals of laughter brought us to the attention of other patrons, who I am sure wondered if we had brought a flask to spice up our hot drinks. We had not—we were just enjoying being in each other’s presence. We joked, occasionally elbow jostled, and left on a higher note than the one we had come in on.

Life is full of these moments. My dream for Christmas Day is that I be surrounded by family and friends and that the warmth of the day envelope us all. But I have learned to appreciate the random moments when my family is just sitting around watching a movie, or sharing a meal and laughing together. Or those moments when you realize that the friends that surround you are the most important thing—and that sharing our lives together is what life is all about.

I have used the word “share” many times throughout this column—and though I could have called on my thesaurus to find a few derivatives of the word I did not—as there is no greater word than share. We share our lives and we are richer; we share our food and drink and we are sustained; we share our laughter and we reach that ultimate goal: happiness.

This Christmas season I am counting my blessings. And the blessing that wins out over everything else is the people in my life. They help me keep what little is left of my sanity; they bring joy to my life; they are the magic of Christmas.

Am I getting sloppily sentimental? Perhaps. But is there a better time of year to realize that sloppy sentimentality? I think not. So put another log on the fire, even if you do not have a fireplace.

What is one of your Christmas blessings?

Published in: on December 16, 2014 at 12:47 am  Comments (22)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sights and Sounds and Smells of Christmas

“All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur—this lovely world, these precious days…” ~ from Charlotte’s Web

The sights and sounds and smells of Christmas are what make the holiday come to life.

English: By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favourite sights are:

1. Lit Christmas trees laden with decorations.

2. The excitement of little kids when they get something they really wanted. I still remember my youngest son dancing and jumping up and down with excitement when he received a Fisher Price castle with all its accoutrements—it was pure joy and happiness.

3. A present with my name on it—(I know it is better to give than receive, but admit it—we all like to receive).

My favourite sounds are:

1. The tinkle of jingle bells in the distance.

2. Choirs singing beloved Christmas carols.

3. Laughter at Christmas get-togethers.

English: A cinnamon roll with glaze

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favourite smells are:

1. Stuffing or dressing—does not matter to me if it is inside or outside the turkey.

2. Ginger.

3. Cinnamon buns.

What are your favourite sights and sounds and smells of Christmas?

So, What Was the Question?

English: Vesper Martini Português: Vesper Martini

Vesper Martini (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The top three answers in a survey by the newly off the presses “livehappy” magazine were:

1. Be present.

2. Make, bring, or share food!

3. Do something unexpected.

I love all three of these answers and they pretty well cover the elements of a happy life. The question that elicited these responses was “How would you make others happy during the holidays”, but I would like to put forth the theory that these three answers are the solution to that question that has bugged all of us sometime in our lives and that is: “What is the point?”

The point is to be here and now and understand that that is all you really have and you should make the best of it. Food is almost always a good answer to any question—whether the delicacies be indulgent, or healthy, or both. Food provides nourishment, comfort, and if is a chocolate cake–happiness.

 And the third answer? That is the one that keeps us on our toes. The unexpected shakes things up—that is why ‘Bond, James Bond’, always wanted his drink “shaken, not stirred”. He knew that stirred would probably produce a better drink—but he wanted something more and stirring was just not exhilarating enough. Think about the whole process—to shake a drink you create drama, while stirring neither inflames or inspires—it merely gets the job done. (I read somewhere that shaking your drink does not result in a better drink; stirring does—but stirring brings to mind a double double not a *martini—which is much more cosmopolitan.) I think I may have wrung this metaphor (or whatever it is I am trying to express) dry. (Pun intended).

Anyway, back to the point—what is your answer to “How would you make others happy (and yourself) during the holidays? We are allowed to be a little self-indulgent at this time of year, don’t you think?

·        For the erudite: It was in the movie Casino Royale in 1953, that Bond orders “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.” (Wikipedia)

Simple is not Easy

margaritas

margaritas (Photo credit: M. Martin Vicente)

Simple is not easy

Told someone yesterday to be happy ~

To fake it for a while until the feeling was authentic;

They looked at me as if I had fallen off the turnip truck

They could not fathom happiness

It was not within their current vocabulary

They could not grasp the concept.

As I said

Simple is not easy

Happiness sounds simple

It is not easy.

What do you think about happiness? Sounds simplistic—but it is hard work I think.

This post was inspired by Margarita who said this to me in response to my post Let It Be:

Dearest LouAnn, “simple” and “easy” are not synonyms, in my experience. Just because a concept is simple, does not mean it’s easy to execute. Once I released myself from that perception (simple=easy), it was easier to let things be. xoxoM

Published in: on August 24, 2013 at 10:30 am  Comments (38)  
Tags: , , , ,

You too?

An emoticon with a smile. For more emoticons i...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

from Mama’s Midlife Crisis says she is:

“Just trying to make my way through a life that doesn’t seem like the one I originally signed up for.”

This may not sound too blissful, but how many of us are making our way through a life we did not expect? I had many dreams, expectations, and wishes. Some of them came true and some of them did not.

When I was younger I did not see myself married. I have now been married 31 years. Happily for 25 (not in a row–lol). Most important: happily now. (Explanation–seriously does this need an explanation–has anyone ever been happy during their whole marriage? My husband is my best friend, but he has had his moments.)

I thought I was going to have a butler. This has not happened yet. “Yet” is the word to pay attention to here.

I did not think I would have children. I have two boys (men really now). And I am happy beyond belief that I had children.

I thought I would be a writer. I am a writer. (I want to write “sort of”  here–but that would be denigrating my career path and I am not going to do that)

I have achieved some wisdom in that I have come to the conclusion that whoever said that money cannot buy happiness has not been without money.

I have had times that were too good to be believed. I have had times that were bad beyond belief. Who hasn’t? I have decided that I really liked the times that were too good to be believed. I am working on having more of those, and less of the other times.

Bliss is the realization that the life we thought we had signed up for is a myth we can turn into a reality. What do you think?

Published in: on February 10, 2013 at 5:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Weekend Bliss

English: Looking down a rural dirt road after ...

Snow covered trees dressed in winter bling. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

~Winter Bliss~

Snow gently settles on fragile branches

Clothing bare branches

stripped of leaves by the season;

Dressing them in winter bling.

 

This little “poem of sorts” by a self-described “poet of little merit” (me, in case you were wondering) was inspired by yesterday’s lovely snowfall. There was no howling wind. Big puff balls of snow lazily fell out of the sky, covering the dull brown earth and dormant grass. It turned a world of cold days, blustering winds, and bundled to the nose weeks into an instant, if fleeting winter wonderland.

Friends

Friends (us someday) (Photo credit: aftab.)

I was invited to lunch with two friends whom I have known for decades. We ate a lovely lunch and settled in the living room which featured a large window looking out over a tiny forest of trees made fragile due to old age. The trees in spring and summer show their age as many no longer wear their leaves of youth, but in the winter snow they were transformed to their youthful beauty.

Sips of tea (okay it was really wine), convivial conversation, laughter, and a fond but sad parting made for a wonderful February Saturday afternoon when troubles were momentarily forgotten.

What is your favourite way to unwind and enjoy friends?

Published in: on February 3, 2013 at 11:06 am  Comments (41)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Happiness and Bliss

fraternal twins

fraternal twins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“…happiness need not shout its presence…” ~ Mimi from Waiting for the Karma Truck (mimijk)

Happiness is the  twin sister of bliss, but not identical. Fraternal if you will. As I continue my bliss project in its many guises– happiness, that seemingly elusive state of bliss, is within our reach. William Morris said that: “The true secret of happiness lies in the taking (of) a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” Gretchen Rubin, author of the “Happiness Project”, and more recently the book “Happier at Home” took a “genuine interest in all the details of daily life” in both of her books.

Her first book on happiness spent more than 60 weeks on The Globe and Mail bestseller list, so obviously the topic resonates with the general public. Five years later, while her happiness project did not really change her life, she says that it “did heighten my happiness”.  In the introduction to her latest book she said, “I was able to change my life without changing my life”. This meant not taking her circumstances for granted, or allowing herself to become vexed by petty annoyances or fleeting worries. She wanted “to appreciate… life more and live up to it better.”

Why did Gretchen want to expand her happiness project, or more accurately, focus it on home? In her own words, she says, “Behind our unremarkable front door waits the little world of our making, a place of safety, exploration, comfort, and love.”

The “Happier at Home” book is broken down into monthly chapters. January is the month she decides to “Cram My Day with What I Love.” The first month of the New Year gives her a “fresh burst of resolution-keeping zeal.” She decided her theme for the year would be: ‘Bigger’. Contrary to the ever popular “urge to simplify, keep things small and manageable”, ‘Bigger’ challenged her to “think big” and “tolerate complications and failure”.

I think this is a breakthrough. We are so often counselled to simplify our lives, to unclutter, declutter and sometimes almost live in a sterile environment that is then supposed to breed comfort, bliss, success, and simplicity.

Gretchen says that she violates the standard happiness advice in these ways: she and her husband got a bigger TV in their bedroom; she never has dates nights with her husband; whenever possible she reads when she eats; she refuses to try meditation; and she listens to all-news radio all night long. We are often told not to have a TV in our bedrooms and if we do, it should be small; we are chastised for not finding specific “couple time”; we are told to eat our meals deliberately with no outside influences; meditation is the be-all and end-all for relaxation; and news is supposed to steal our bliss.

I too like to read when I eat (when I am alone); watch the news; and I find meditation stressful. I like Gretchen’s honesty, and that she breaks the rules to create her own kind of happiness.

Do you break the standard happiness rules to find your bliss?

Day 3 ~ What Bliss Is Not

The beauty we see, is the magic we feel, the u...

The beauty we see, is the magic we feel Photo credit: || UggBoy♥UggGirl ||

“You don’t know what you’re going to get into when you follow your bliss.” ~ James Hillman

 James Hillman was a psychologist, born 12 April 1926. He died 27 October 2011. Between those two sentences was a life. I am not going to give you a rundown of this brilliant man’s life–but his simple remark that “You don’t know what you’re getting into when you follow your bliss” is not contextualized here, but if you Google him, you will find a man who found his bliss. Seriously, if you have not heard of him, he is worthy of your time. I just did a cursory search, found his obituary, and was impressed with how this man used his life.

In finding my bliss, I want to use my life. I think that the thing that keeps me, and most people going, is to use the gifts we have been given and not squander them. I have been guilty of wasting time and energy on things that I know now were not part of the reason I was put on earth. But I think in doing those things, I discovered, by process of elimination what I was not meant to do. All those things that we do contextualize our lives and give it meaning.

Bliss is not a dead end. It is not just getting by. It is noticing all those things that make us vibrant human beings. It is that first cup of coffee in the morning (excuse me while I go get mine); reading the paper and discussing it with your spouse; delighting in the good news of others; watching a favourite program (my latest obsession, Downton Abbey comes to mind); eating a particularly good meal; expecting company. It takes so many forms, small and big. Don’t get me wrong, I am trying to find the big bliss things too, but I recognize when magic happens–and when I win that big lottery, or publish my first book I will be ready.

I think Hillman had a good point: you have to be ready for bliss, you have to recognize it~or it will elude you. Though his statement sounds like a warning, I would like to take it as his way of saying bliss is a delight we need to embrace. I think he is daring us to find our bliss.

Are you afraid to find your bliss?

Published in: on January 3, 2013 at 10:50 am  Comments (36)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Gifts ~ Is It the Thought that Counts?

Pile of gorgeous gifts

Pile of gifts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Care to appear happy…..” ~ Saint Therese

Do you ever buy yourself Christmas presents? I do. One of my presents to myself this year is Gretchen Rubin’s book “Happier at Home”. I loved her first book, “The Happiness Project” so thought I would get this sequel of sorts.

In the December chapter of her book, she gives two particularly good pieces of advice. The first is taken from her favourite “obsession”, Saint Therese of Lisieux, whose philosophy entailed taking “care to appear happy and especially to be so.” (p. 116) This  quote from the Saint who died young of tuberculosis, tells me that being happy is something we can conjure up, something that is within our control, no matter how we feel. We can be happy (or at least appear so) if we set our mind to it for the sake of others.

The other piece of advice Gretchen provides in this chapter is extremely timely.  She says that Saint Therese emphasizes “the importance of accepting gifts in the spirit in which they are offered, instead of responding to the gift itself,” which is just another way to “care to appear happy.”

This takes us out of the equation and puts the emphasis on the person who chose the gift for us and the thought and trouble that went into the choice. I love this! I have been guilty in the past of just looking at how I will use a gift, or what I will wear it with, or whether I can keep it alive, or any number of other things, rather than the fact that the gift is an offering of love, thoughtfulness, kind-heartedness and consideration.

So, this holiday season, I am determined to take the time to respond to the spirit in which the gift is given rather than the gift itself.

Gretchen does draw the line at passive-aggressive gifts though. She says that sometimes the spirit in which a gift is given is not all that kind—for example, when someone is gifted running clothes, a certificate to a spinning class and an electronic calorie counter—a none too subtle message is being sent.

I myself would be very unhappy to receive gifts that emphasize “organizing your life”—I am afraid I would have trouble accepting them in the spirit they are given—since that spirit would be a little annoying. I do not need a “teaching moment” gift. (Pearls would be nice though–a single black pearl on a silver chain in particular if anyone is wondering–this is useless as my husband does not read my blog. It is something that he is going to get around to some day. That day has not yet come.)

Have you ever received a gift that you had to remember the spirit in which it was given, because otherwise you would wonder what the heck the person was thinking?

 

~Wise Words from John Lennon’s Mother~

John Lennon

John Lennon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I saw a quote on another *blog this morning and just had to have it on mine. I absolutely love it and it is the essence of all I believe in. John Lennon’s mother was truly a wise woman, and he was truly a wise man for taking her at her word.

He said: “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”  

It seems that we are forever striving for this illusive thing called happiness. It is not a trivial pursuit or it would not be in the American Declaration of Independence. It says that along with life and liberty, the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right. If that doesn’t make it important, I don’t know what would–we need something like that in Canada’s Constitution (maybe we do–I will have to look into this.)

Yesterday my post was a bit self-serving—I was feeling sorry for myself, and not looking beyond a minor transgression. Today is a new day. Today I am going to grow up and be what John Lennon said he wanted to be when he grew up: Happy.

I know it does not happen just because I want it to happen (or does it?) but it is a much better way to live than the alternative. Stuff happens, I know this—but I have decided to start to be Pollyanna-ish. If you reread her books, you will find that she was not so much an optimist as a pragmatist—the girl was really pretty logical. And it is only logical to me to want to be happy.

This post is as much for me as it is for you. We all need to pursue this thing called happiness, as much as we pursue success, money, careers, and whatever else we desire.

My definition of happiness takes in the usual suspects: joy, contentment, and pleasure. But even when those things seem to be missing, I look forward to the next time “something unexpectedly pleasant happens”. It is these times that make our rather haphazard roller coaster ride on this terra firma we call earth, worthwhile.

I am ready to be happy—how about you?

*www.jumpforjoyphotoproject.com

 

Published in: on October 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm  Comments (50)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 630 other followers