If yesterday didn’t present me with an obvious happy or spectacular moment today already has. For the past fourteen years we’ve provided care for a young woman with autism spectrum disorder. She is lovely and provides me with many insights and lessons on communication and human nature too. She lives in our suite and has complete access to the whole house; having her own suite just makes sense for all of us. Though I do all the cooking and cleaning, having her own place gives her a semblance of independence and also gives her privacy and time alone. Each morning she phones to ask what’s for breakfast and today she stuck to routine and called as usual. When my cell phone rang, I was writing in my journal a Happy Father’s Day message and how we miss our son Jason on days like this. So when I answered, I asked her if she would like to wish a happy Father’s Day. She giggled and asked what she should say; just what ever she might write in a birthday card I told her. She began to sing a song to the tune of “we wish you a Merry Christmas”. And it began like this, “we wish you a happy Father’s Day” and ended like this “…..and a happy new year”. Her voice is sweet and high and hearing her made us laugh out loud with absolute pleasure. A Happy Father’s Day for my man and happiness for me to see him have such pleasure.
There is a school of thought that dictates writing must have a healthy dose of adversity to be interesting. Writing happy stories with happy endings is not what many readers want. Readers want the blood and guts of life, the challenges faced every day when waking up, they want the exposed and raw under belly, they want to know the writer has a more interesting and sad and miserable life than they do. Is it human nature to lean toward the negative to want to hear the gory details? During my 100 Happy Days project, it has truly been a challenge to document the one event or picture or comment or insight that represents another moment, during the day, that I can call happiness. Each night I go to bed unsure if I will find a happy moment the next day.
And then each day I manage to find it, that spot of sheer joy. Except today I didn’t, today is a day that is just mediocre; so far nothing has happened to make me feel utterly glad. I did stand in a lineup to sign a two year contract to own a cell phone. My phone was free with the signing, that’s something to feel happy about. I did this so I might have text communication and FaceTime communication with a grandchild. But getting the phone was a kind of pay it forward happy time. In other words the phone has the potential to give me a happy moment if I get a text reply or a chat on FaceTime! It is no guarantee I will experience a pleasurable moment or a spot of happiness associated with the hoped for contact from another. It is just another little bit of technology, another little piece of connectedness that in the end guarantees not a word. And as i have said before, “there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way”. So what inspirational picture can I offer today? Here it is….a gateway to the preverbal, greener pasture.
Do you have a sister? I do, in fact I have a few more than one. I am the youngest and truly at times I feel ancient compared to any of them on any given day. Very busy women are my sisters. Today one sis took time out of her busy schedule to entertain me and my dog. She took us for a walk through the neighbourhoods and along the alley ways, of the west side of Vancouver. We took our time and had a peek at the many lane way houses that are popping up all along the way. We wended our way back to her place and as usual she served up a yummy vegetarian lunch. Her culinary expertise is well know; add to this, her intrinsic way of making the dishes she rolls out taste even more delectable with the attention she pays to the presentation of the meal; she did not disappoint today. A well set table, beautiful looking colourful food and good company. Even the dog was happy.
When Jason was sick my husband threw himself into making a garden. Then Jason died and his garden became Jason’s memorial. After work each day he finds comfort there in among his vegetables; this year he replaced a chain link fence with a cedar picket one. This new fence acts as a frame for the completed picture. I do a bit of gardening myself there each day. When I was on my way there this morning light didn’t quite reach the garden and there, tucked into the quiet shadow the garden and all it means to my husband filled me with love, my heart began to open and find the warmth it seeks each day as I looked around and saw the fruits of his grief and all he has accomplished in the name of Jason our only child, our only son.
Finally it has arrived and I woke up happy! It is my birthday and I’m prompted to say “this is my best day yet” this month. And my best birthday since before Jason died. I woke up totally energized, happy and full of good thoughts, just like Ebenezer Scrooge. I wanted to run out into the streets and shout good cheer to everyone. In honour of Jason and in honour of myself I will carry a torch of shear delight all this day. Happy birthday to me:) …..my photo today is a page right out of my journal.
As I get older more and more people begin to die. First my friend Don Jacobson died of lung cancer on my birthday, then my dad died of heart failure, then Don’s wife, Jean died almost because she couldn’t go on without Don and willed herself to die too. Shortly after Jean, my aunt Yvonne died of lung cancer then my mum died of cancer of the esophagus. Jason, my son died August 30, 2011 of colon cancer. At very sad times a little sing song phrase has rattled around inside my head, a phrase that I worry will bring on more deaths of those I love….”death surrounds me”. But I know death surrounds all of us, it’s common to hear about a death from cancer or heart failure. We are meant to die, it’s our destiny, there is no escape. And it doesn’t matter, really, how we die. What does matter is how we live. And thinking these thoughts today led to my happy moment. There I sat on my adirondack chair overlooking the world I see, watching over Jason’s memorial tree, feeling the sun on my face and the wind swirling my long greying hair around. Knowing my dog is near, she won’t leave my side for long as her need arises to periodically go off to investigate. My husband too, wanders out to see me, bringing pillows and mats to lay on so I could get a tan if I wish….In that moment I knew this was the life for me, a life and activity that brings me pleasure. To just sit and contemplate the life that is unfolding for me while I am in the here and now, by living more in the moment there is time to see and explore and know my inner self. My happy self…
Jason is glad when he is spoken of, I know this because before he died he specifically asked I always speak of him, and encourage others to casually mention him for the rest of my life. And that’s all I have left now, that’s all I can give to him, my words, my memories, my daily chats. Today I was taken to lunch, an annual birthday lunch and we mentioned him and his early beginnings. My high school friend and I do this for each other during our birthday months and again at Christmas. She is steadfast and true, always remembering. Each time we meet we go for a meal followed by a shop and we each buy a matching knickknack as a memento of our time together. Today we bought matching small vintage look vases held in a little aluminium baskets. Very special, very dear. She and I were friends when Jason was born. Her mum, June, gave me what would be the only baby shower I had. The only people in my life at that time that seemed happy for me and supportive of my choice. Always warm and welcoming was her mum, June. And for all these years to follow I weep when I think of her and all she did for me in that one small gesture. It is the gratitude and the wonder of her easy kindness that still fills me with humility. She had faith in me which made me want to live up to that faith and be someone she would always welcome. And so seeing her daughter, my friend, and recalling the long ago kindness, I found today’s Happiness.
For the past two days I’ve been scrubbing the house. Making it all clean and shiny so when a realtor comes tomorrow they’ll say “oh wow this house shines”! And then they will tell me it is worth far more than I ever thought and our retirement will be settled. My yard work and cleaning has left me sore and stiff. Gardening, washing floors, vacuuming, hauling trash and moving furniture all take a toll on this body. My work almost complete I sat down out on the deck to read a few pages of a book, have a coffee and put my feet up. Immediately I note there is a presence in the yard, the stealthy movement through the perennial garden has captured the attention of my dog, Cozy. She is making soft whimpering sounds while she tracks the slow, smooth, shape that sashays through the growth. We both know what is there but wait for Tibble the cat, to languidly make his way out into the open. There he rolls and lays stretching out in the sun; looking up to tease the dog on the deck above, from the safety of the ground below. This is what I love. A day in the sun laughing at my helpless Cozy as she lays crying in frustration on the deck or racing along the railing, watching every movement all the while wanting to give that cat a chase. Laughing out loud I put my book down, fold my hands around the warmth of the coffee cup, lift my face to the sun and just enjoy the moment. To look for the happy moment of the day and then to find it too; This is the life!
There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way…
Have you heard of the Happiness challenge, “100 Happy Days”? One of my Facebook friends posts a picture every day, an up lifting, joyful picture often featuring her kids or her kids and small animals. And at first I mistook these renderings as the result of a guide for parents on how to provide good fun for their children during summer. Not so, this is a social media challenge. How great is that, all this time I’ve been seeking the good and watching for ways to be happy, reasons to be happy and some smart guru has coined a phrase “100 Happy Days” and stuck it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the other social media buttons out there? This is an inspirational idea; who hasn’t been influenced by attitudes such as, anger, discontentment, bitterness? By staying in the moment and being focused I could influence others by finding joy, and happiness, sharing it, expressing it and rubbing it off on to others! Shouting it to the world, “I’M HAPPY”! My picture for this day, flowers from my garden…
Well here I am again, I couldn’t not blog and I do have a new project to share. Recently while at a friends home I casually admired two chairs in her living room. She is a bit like me and doesn’t get attached to “stuff ” so she said she’d sell them to me. A short negotiation ensued and now they are mine to do with as I please. When she offered to help lift them into the car I realized they were heavier than wood. They are lovely though and have great potential to become very glamorous…. A little different than painted art cards, this project will keep me creatively occupied and mindfully in the moment as I work away. My tendency is to hurry through when I’m working on a piece of furniture. This time I’ll try moving slowly, taking pleasure in and paying attention to each step. Watch this spot!
My thirty days of painting art cards has come to an end, I succeeded in following through with a daily regime that offered no money or other obvious pay off. I’ve felt pride in painting the minis and feel pride in writing about them daily on my blog. For some this may be standard practice; for me this has been living outside my lifelong norm. The number one lesson I’ve learned this month is, employing a daily creative practice is like a soothing salve for my burning grief. I’ve learned living in the moment isn’t as easy as just doing it and Ive learned living in the moment takes mindfulness and practice. I’ve learned that creativity happens in the moment; creating too, happens in the moment. I’ve learned each day lived in the mindful moment will bring a new surprise, something I did not know about or know how to do or a new way of seeing the same old thing. I learned I can follow through, my motivation is still somewhat illusive but I do follow through. I’ve learned by limiting my options to ones insuring success, actually guarantees success and I’ve learned allowing myself to succeed brings no harm. To celebrate a successful culmination of thirty days of blogging about my meditative mini masterpieces it seems appropriate today’s featured card is a bouquet of flowers.
Each day when I write in my journal I make a “to do” list of minor things to accomplish for that day which if followed, effectively fends off slothfulness. My commitment of an art card a day for thirty days was made in part as a way to get me back into the world of the living; guiding me back into light hearted creative, mindful occupation of my days. In fact having a project to do each day has propelled me toward a busyness I never would have imagined. The daily propulsion necessary to write in my journal, paint and write a blog post a day too is beginning to take away from the enjoyment of each step because there are now too many…Relishing the idea of my own productivity now prompts the question “Have I become a person who has to fill all my time with productivity”? Even if I’m reading a book or meditating I am still doing “something”. The art of sitting still to be silent and to listen to an inner philosophical meandering or to watch nature for long periods has been lost to me. Has guided meditation to music, replaced quiet reflection. Or does quiet reflection have a new name – meditation. Either way my “to do list” will include more quiet reflection in the days to come. Looking backwards to the early days of this month, pleasure was found in the small tasks I gave myself because I was marvelling in the moment. My tasks as the days have past this month have grown; now I look ahead to the next task failing to realize the moment.
With my thirty day commitment almost at an end I wonder “what have I learned or accomplished”? When I began this project I envisioned moving forward to this point on the calendar where I’d be arriving at enlightenment, of a sort. That my mini masterpieces would be inspirational in themselves, they would be startlingly beautiful with new and imaginative subjects. Not so, I’ve not reached that point. What has happened though is I’ve reached a point of wanting to make mini commitments to myself for myself, making me stronger, healthier, more dependable, self reliant, somehow more complete a package. A person I can feel proud to be, a person who follows through, meeting deadlines. It has been a struggle gathering myself up each day to write a blog from a new perspective, trying to sound interesting and interested. In the end I’m satisfied with both; my mini masterpiece art trading cards and with the effort it has taken to agree to making a commitment at all. One thing I have learned about myself is, if I say I’m going to do something, I do…. My word is gold. The issue has always been, even saying I’ll do “something”. To me the word commitment is just another word for promise. And a promise, is a debt unpaid.
The kale 4 sale art trading card I painted yesterday inspired me so much I could not wait to paint this next card. Taking my little dog in to meditate with me I knew I’d emerge exhilarated, full of creative ideas. I emerged relaxed and restful, without desire or inspiration. And then as I sat ready to just paint anything, there lay beside me a newspaper ad featuring a man out standing in his field! This man is not who some may think it is… He is just a man in the ad. But more than that he is my first human, the first I’ve used in an art card.
Some days I want to retire from my life in the here and now to my future life for just a day ;in another house, in another location. Where we are at peace with a lot less….. No phone, no tv, no car, technology close by, short walk to all services, friends, an ocean, a beach to walk on. A life of creative pursuits, gardens to grow, books to read, paths to walk, blogs to write, friends to invite… A life without all the clutter and stuff….a life without complication, a life of peaceful joy. In my minds eye the cottage below lends itself to just such an opportunity…a creative outlet… a fixer upper, swathing pathways through flora and fauna to garden patchwork beyond with benchs to sit upon for reading or sketching or tea with friends. This is the place my meditative painting took me today …A mini master”place” just waiting for me to arrive.
I attend a support group for parents who have lost a child and usually come away with an insight. Mainly women attend and occasionally newly bereaved parents are there with the rawness of new loss. The meetings are held in a respectful way and each person is allowed uninterrupted time to share thoughts, memories of their relationship with their child, the events that led to the death of their child , and their anger and other feelings and tears too. The group is solemn during this sharing time and then much more light hearted during the open floor period. This week as I mentally debrief I wonder about my own reaction to the grief of others which almost always elicits my own tears of support and compassion. My own path through this myriad trail of loss is to consciously be in the pursuit of healing my grief through joy, happiness and insight. Early on I recognized in myself the ease with which I could become addicted to the pain of grief. I asked myself what would my child, Jason, want for me. The answer was easy, I chose happiness as an addiction instead.
My card today is a true reflection of the joy and light heartedness I felt as I painted it.