Tag Archives: happiness

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 30: Happiness Now & Driving with Thing 1

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This is it! Today is the last day of my 30-day blog series based on Judith Hanson Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

June 17 — Only you can give yourself permission to be happy. We grow up when we realize that no one is going to tap us on the shoulder and say, “Now you have done enough so you can be happy.” Take a deep breath and make the decision that you will connect with your own happiness for the next five minutes. At the end of this time, make the commitment for the next five minutes and then the next. Know that your ability to be happy lies within you, only you, and is not dependent on your circumstances.

FIVE MINUTES?!?! IS SHE OFF HER ROCKER?!

Sheesh. Let’s try for fifteen seconds. I don’t mean to sound crass, but let’s be honest.

how much do I love Roz Chast? Um ... a lot. (c) Roz Chast, The New Yorker

how much do I love Roz Chast? Um … a lot. (c) Roz Chast, The New Yorker, Conde Nast Publications.

The other day I let my oldest, who is now 16 and change, drive my massive SUV up the driveway. The only thing he’s ever driven has been his little red car when he was a toddler and then a go-kart every summer in Connecticut. So I pulled the car in front of the house and I said, “You take the wheel and pull it in the driveway.”

He doesn’t have his learner’s permit yet, but he was going to drive all of 30 feet and we live on a private street and it’s August and no one is in town and the squirrels are hiding and there was nothing alive within 400 feet of the car. I thought, “What’s the damage he can do?” (Hit the basketball hoop pole, run over his brother, use the wrong pedal, steer the wrong way, go too fast… they were all possibilities and he’s still teenage knees and elbows, but I surmised that the screw-up potential of this situation was pretty low.)

So before he inserted the key, we had a quick chat about the pedals and the steering wheel and the fact that my Toyota Sequoia is a 2.5-ton killing machine. He strapped in and turned the key. The engine roared. I showed him the tachometer and how its needle responded to the rev of the engine. He revved the engine and thought that was pretty cool because the vehicle raised a little in response. We went over the brake pedal and the turn of the steering wheel. I showed him the gears and that “P” does not mean “passing” and that “D” means “drive” not “down.”  He was ready.

“The gears won’t change until you put your foot on the brake, so remember that.” I said.

“Ok, Mom.”

“Put it in drive,” I said.

He did. Three gears shifted effortlessly.

“Let your foot gently lift from the brake pedal.” He lifted his LEFT FOOT OFF THE BRAKE.

“STOP! STOP! STOP!” I said. “Press the brake. Put it back in Park.”

“WHAT? Why?” he asked, almost in a squeak.

“It’s my fault. You only use one foot to drive, use your right foot, or you will forever drive like Grandma Mimi,” and he laughed. My mother drove so badly that it’s verbally indescribable. You need to ride in the car with me for my rendition.

“Right foot only? Got it.” He tucked his left foot below his right knee in the footwell. “Shift to Drive?”

“Yes. Go ahead. Shift to Drive and release the brake very slowly. The car will roll, you don’t have to TOUCH THE GASSSSSSS… Take your foot off the gas!!!”

“WHAT?!”

“Honey, it’s a V8. I know this likely means nothing, but it’s a very powerful engine. When you first start this engine, it’s all about revving itself, so it’s high tuned at the start. When you shift into Drive, the engine goes down a bit, but it’s still ready to rock… Put it back into Park.”

He was ready to kill me. Matricide was not out of the question. He huffed and put the gearshift back into Park.

I sat and went through any possible scenarios… I repeated just about everything we’d already gone over and I felt at this point we were close.

“Shift it back into Drive.”

Clunk clunk clunk…

“What’s L2?” he asked.

“Never mind that. It’s for hills and snow.”

“Oh, so it’s for Pennsylvania,” he said, smiling at me as his dimples deepened. His eyes twinkled.

“Yes. Pennsylvania. Sorry. I’m tense. I’ll be fine. You’re great. Let’s try this again. Gentle pressure off the brake as you move your right foot to the gas pedal. Then when you feel the car is slowing down, gently press on the gas… you’ll get a sense of it.”

And off we went. A full fifty feet from the front of our house up our driveway. He did alright, until it came to the brakes.

We lurched forward when he pressed the first time.

“AGH! Why did it DO THAT?!” he moaned, mad at himself.

“Because you pressed really hard. You saw the bushes getting closer and you stood on the brake. If you weren’t wearing your seat belt, you’d probably bump into the steering wheel a bit…” I said.

“So this car, this giant thing is like the ultimate training tool for life… ” he said.

I wasn’t sure where this was going.

“It’s like a pound-for-pound reflection of everything I do. If I steer the wrong way, the car goes the wrong way. If I press too hard on the gas, the car goes too fast. If I slam on the brakes, the car knocks my face into the windshield…”

“Yeah, something like that. It’s the ultimate truth-teller: it does everything you tell it to do. It’s trying out a new babysitter. The house might be quiet and tidy, and the kids might be in bed when you get home, but you’ll hear all about how the babysitter was when everyone wakes up and talks about it at breakfast,” I said.

I didn’t go into the fact that some cars, most notably Toyotas and GMs (and the old Audi 5000s and the ironical and aptly named Pontiac Fieros of my teenage years) accelerate on their own or catch fire all by themselves, but he seemed to get the point, that if something goes wrong when you’re driving, it’s very likely your fault.

“It’s frustrating. You can’t lie to a car. There is no easy way… It’s not very easy to do. No wonder they don’t want us texting and playing with the radio. I could barely get it into Reverse without wanting to scream.” (He had lots of frustration trying to just shift one tick from Park to Reverse. I won’t even go into manual transmissions with him yet…)

“No. You can’t lie to a car. They are like small children: they will do whatever you tell them to do and so you have to be really smart about what you tell them to do,” I said.

What does this story have to do with the quote?

Not a damned thing. I just felt like telling that story. It’s hard to share my life in 500 words or less. There’s lots going on these days.

Relative to the quote: Yeah. It’s totally liberating when we realize that:

1) we are not responsible for anyone else’s emotions or reactions — EVER! EVER! EVER! (please, if you read just this post, please please get that into your head),

2) stuff doesn’t make you happy.

3) you make you happy.

4) five minutes of happy really builds on itself and when that happens, you get very protective of your happy; you don’t want to be around people who bring you down… that’s another great sign that you’re in alignment with your happiness (I prefer “contentment”).

Thank you. Thank you for following this series or reading this post or subscribing to my blog or taking a momentary interest in what I have to say. I don’t do giveaways because I’m not that clever, but I do appreciate your being here. I like to think that my giveaway to you is perhaps a loving scrap of insight into your better Self.

Letter to Thing 3

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Dear Thing 3,

It never fails. On the days we walk to school and I wish I had my camera, I never do.

Today was such a treat to be with you. Do you remember? The sun, in its autumnal slant, so surgical and bright, like a laser, but weaker than in summer was still strong as there were no clouds. Frost had cured on the grass blades and the top cover of the fallen leaves we encountered on our walk out to school today and you asked me, “Where does the frost come from? It’s so sparkly.”

“It’s like a billion diamonds on the ground.” I said.

“Just for us,” you said.

“It’s from the moisture in the air; the dew. It freezes on the leaves and in the morning, we get diamonds.”

“They don’t last long, these diamonds. There are so many of them! It’s like a field of them!” you said and then fell silent. We stopped to look at a few. We moved our heads around to see more sparkles.

You will be 10 tomorrow.

It seems like every milestone is a new milestone in your life. That doesn’t make sense. I guess I just mean that it’s all so much. You’re the last one.

10.

Ten.

Two complete hands. The end of the two hands.

Before we left, I considered my camera / phone. I decided to leave it at home, amidst the breakfast smells of pancake and coffee. I prefer to be present, free of it. As much as you see me tinkering with it, T3, I really am better off without it.

“How many days are in a year? 365? I thought that there were only 364 days,” you asked as I helped you with your pilled black knit gloves today, the ones I bought in bulk at the Amish auction all those years ago with our friend, “RICK!”

“Well, the going rate these days, is 365. I believe leap year makes it 366, but I will admit my facts on that are loose, so I’m not entirely sure although I do believe 365 is the predominant number. Ready?” I asked, holding open the door, but thinking to myself back at my own childhood and remembering the 364/365 proposition more than 365/366.

“Can I have lemon cake and chocolate frosting?” you asked.

“Why? And WHAT?! Who eats that?! Only goofballs…” I said.

“This goofball wants that,” you said.

I looked at you funny, pretending to be offended by the mention and I could see your smile fade. You were a little crestfallen. The joke had gone too far. You asked me, “Mom… can’t I have a lemon cake with chocolate frosting?”

“Absolutely you can.” I said and your smile returned.

On the way down the street you asked me, “What’s attachment? What did they mean about ‘not getting attached’ to that otter in the video?”

You were talking about “Otter 501,” the story about a stray newborn otter in Monterey, California.

“It means no eye contact between the trainers and the otter; that’s why they wore those welder’s masks and ponchos, so the otter couldn’t see their eyes. Did you notice they didn’t talk to her either? She could learn their voices and prefer one trainer over another trainer. In animals, it’s called ‘imprinting’ but in humans, because we believe we’re so different than animals, we call it ‘attachment.’ It’s basically falling in love with the otter, which could get in the way with her ability to go back to the ocean.”

“I would be attached anyway to that otter,” you said. “Helmet or not. I love her from my tv.”

Speaking of attachment, we didn’t take your dog with us today. He wasn’t ready to go. When I returned, he seemed fine with the temporary abandonment.

10.

It all goes too fast. Way too fast. I want it to slow down.

I was so compelled by the frost on the leaves, and my urge to remember this moment, that when I came home I picked up my camera and went back out to try to capture some of the sparkle but suspecting all the time that it would be the inverse of what we hear about supernatural phenomena: that it’s not viewable to the naked eye, or in this instance the iPhone. I suspect that I will need my big, actual camera to take proper pictures of the sparkly leaves. But here are a few unsparkly leaves…

there is no sparkle, but there is beauty in it; look at those crystals! "They're free! They don't cost anything!" you said when you saw them.

there is no sparkle, but there is beauty in it; look at those crystals! “They’re free! They don’t cost anything!” you said when you saw them.

Here’s another cool frosty leaf:

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I want you to live life beautifully, T3. I want you to ask questions, always.

Do you remember overhearing me and Dad talking about “the silent treatment” this morning? You asked me, “What is the silent treatment?” and I told you. Then you asked me why I was talking about it and I told you. You asked me, “Why would anyone do that? Why not just talk about your feelings? We don’t all have to agree…” and we talked about that. Then you came to a conclusion all by yourself when you said, “Well, giving the silent treatment is cruel.”? My heart swelled when you said that. “It’s easier said than done, to not give the silent treatment, bud…” and you didn’t agree.

Life has miracles and wondrous moments happening right in front of us every day, all the time! There is no reason to think it is boring, we just have to be willing to open our eyes. You’re pretty good at that already; it’s just that as we age, we tend to forget those things. I hope you never do.

As I ascended the hill on my second walk back home this morning:

This is a very nice way to start your day...

This is a very nice way to start your day…

I saw this. I was so glad I went back out to try to take some sparkle pics.

the leaf blowing…

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it all seems so ordinary… no big deal…

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but it’s like a dance to me. the leaves fly up and then they waft down. they fly up and roll and curl and flip. sure, it’s a man working a leaf blower, but the LEAVES, T3… watching them. that.

Watching the leaves billow and plume … it could do it all day. It seems weird, I guess, to be so enraptured by such an everyday thing, leaf blowing… your mom’s eccentric views, but to me it’s like a ballet between the gardener and the leaves. It’s poetry in motion.

The leaf-blowing man must’ve thought I was with the NSA or something. I hope I didn’t worry him.

When I came back home, the house was warm and expectant. It still smelled of maple syrup, coffee and pancakes. The dishwasher was still running and the lights were on under the cabinets. Laundry, as usual, was waiting to be folded or put away. I came to the conclusion yesterday, T3, that smells tell me how busy I’ve been. If I smell laundry in the dryer, pumpkin bread in the oven and tea in my mug, I’ve had a busy day. These are the smells of progress.

I didn’t want to waste a moment, I had these thoughts fresh on my mind. I find that it’s hard for me to concentrate these days; I’m still so sad about Mimi. So I wanted to get these words off to you as soon as I walked in.

After I took off my hat and gloves and put my coat away, I turned my way into my office / guest room and Gandalf, that massive gray barn cat of ours leapt off the bed and scurried out the door; I could hear his back claws grab whatever they could of the carpeting to ensure a speedy getaway as he careened and serpentined out of the room. It was like he was saying, “Oh crap! Busted!” (Because I can’t stand them when they’re on our beds.) He and his sister are irritated with me: they are both as big as watermelons and I’ve cut back their kibble rations to half of what they’re used to. Lean times ahead for the kitties, I’m afraid. I know they’re not ballooning up from us; it’s all the chipmunks they’ve hunted.

Well, even though tomorrow is your 10th birthday, I’ll tell you a secret that your auntie T told me one day when I turned 45: it’s not really your 10th birthday. It’s the first day of your 11th year. When you were born, that was the first day of your first year. The last day of your first year was the day before your first birthday. You’d been “1” all along. When you turned 1, it was the first day of your second year… and so it goes. So today… is the last day of your tenth year.

I love you, Thing 3. Happy birthday.

Mom

30 Days of Jung — Day 27: #Happiness #Balance #Humility #Survival #Thrive #Costco

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I can’t help it. This quote makes me smile and think we’re all gonna be alright after all, like the theme song of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Welcome to Day 27 of “30 Days of Jung,” my series, wherein (soon, I will start repeating myself, like now) I take a famous quote of Carl G. Jung‘s and try to make sense or refute or invert or disembowel it or where I turn into a heaping pile of mush because of it in 1,000 words or less.

If you don’t know who Jung is, he formulated the theories of introverted and extroverted personalities, the stages of individuation, the basis of the “Meyers-Briggs” personality (INFJ / ESFJ, etc.) tests. He’s the “father” of modern-day psychoanalysis. In short, he’s a badass. But he’s dead, so he can’t be with us today.

Here is today’s:

“There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”

― C.G. Jung

I am very late with today’s post; a good 12 hours late. It’s OK though because real life has taken over in a big way and as much as I’ve been enjoying this little “therapy retreat” as one of my favorite readers called it, all good things must end and soon, we will be at our end here with this Jungian journey.

My, what a ride is has been though, huh? I will have no choice but to write a retrospective when all is said and done in a few days. Then I’m off to begin phase 1 of my yoga training; I sense that my brain is the perfect amount of mush now and is ready to take in even more woo-woo, as Kelly DeBie and Lillian Connelly and I call it.

I love the quote.

I often hear from my children (about whom I’ve not written much lately, sorry boys) from one to the other sounds of mirth or rage or defiance or jocularity or surprise or wonder and even, dare I venture: support. Sometimes, though, I just like the silence.

The silence means they’re busy. Maybe even reading and so it is often that I marvel over the silence and am equally thankful for the noise, because as Jung said, there is always a balance, and were it not for the balance we’d have no way of appreciating anything.

How would we know noise if we didn’t know silence?

How would we know joy if we didn’t know pain?

How would we know right if we didn’t know wrong?

I could go on and on… one more? Ok…

How could we know bad cereal if we didn’t have the goodness of Cap’n Crunch? (It has been too long without a Cap’n reference; I couldn’t help myself.)

But where do we strike the balance? Or do we strike the balance? We can be excessive. For instance, today I was at Costco. (I could just stop there….) I had this moment of quandary: how do I strike the Jungian balance of being a part of the world, but also maintain my selfness, my autonomy and my need for progress when the world seems to want to just stand there? And how do I get to stand still and just be, try to grasp what little I can of the time that fleets before me when the zeitgeist of the world moves too quickly for my taste?

Balance. Karma. Give. Take. Cheese. Combo.

I needed to order a pizza to bring home for lunch. Two registers were open, but the twenty or so people standing in the mob-blob in front of the registers were sort of mooing, bleating and clucking to themselves; there was no order, and it wasn’t as though they were a group trying to choose from the great vastness of the menu: plain or pepperoni, sandwich or a hot dog? Vanilla or chocolate? If they were standing in front of the soda machines, I could understand it, but not where they were.

One of the cashiers was trying to get the tall peoples’ attention, anything… he was waving enthusiastically, he said, “This register is open! I can take your order!” and the answer was more mooing and croaking.

Finally, an adroit member of the Costco cashier team said loudly, her hands cupped against her laugh lines (they’re always laugh lines on this cashier): “Two. Lanes. Are. O-PEN. Form! Two! Lines!” and her arms spread out with each index finger pointing at a beige IBM terminal, their green LED screens flashing, “Costco Food Court.” The mooing and clucking became “ohhh”-ing and “agh”-ing and it was as if Moses himself had divided the red sea.

The man in the white shirt ahead of me clearly chose the left lane. I stayed behind him. A mass of people moved to the right. I didn’t care or notice who was behind me, but I was definitely always directly behind this man and his white shirt. About four people were ahead of him. Out of the corner of my eye, behind me, definitely behind me, was this little woman and her two grandchildren. She reminded me of a very short Olympia Dukakis, one of my favorite actresses.

Was she in the right lane? Was she in the left lane? Was she aware? Was she accustomed to lanes, to order in Costco, the likes of which our Food Court Moses had manifested?

I could sense my space was being infringed upon.

I didn’t like it.

Normally, I honest to goodness would absolutely let anyone get in front of me who was encumbered by small children; I have been there and I would absolutely would allow a grandparent. Normally.

Yet, I wasn’t sure what she was trying to do. Read the menu? She wouldn’t look at me. But she got closer. Her wee charges pulling one arm one way and another arm the other way. Her salt & pepper hair was wavy and sagacious. One of the children moved directly in front of me; between me and Mr. White Shirt.

I was tired. I was hungry and I was totally aware of my Jungian responsibility to this woman: we are all connected. We are all one people. We are all the same. ‘Cept she wasn’t making eye contact. She started to move in.

The lane to the right was moving along; it was a couple people longer than mine, but it was moving as people were making orders like I would be and not actually need food served at the moment.

She stepped right into my path. She bumped into Mr. White Shirt. He turned to her, she said, “Oh! Sorry,” and she still didn’t look at me.

I cleared my throat as if I had the plague and I said to her, “I’ve been behind him since the lane formed. What do you need? Are you in a line?”

“It’s no beeeg deeeeeal! It’s nooo beeg deeeel!” She said, nodding and smiling.

I had to pee. I also had to find my husband who was still shopping. I was afraid he’d get the wrong 5-gallon tub of mustard. I hate it when he does that. I also had to order a pizza and I was also supremely thirsty.

I was still aware of my connection. “We are all one. We all have sadness and happiness; we all have fears and confidences; we all have wants and aversions…”  I said to myself.

I didn’t care. I mean, I did, so I tempered myself, but I didn’t care.

“It is a big deal; I need to order a pizza and I don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve been behind him. Are you with him? You can get behind me or that other line…” I didn’t growl, but I was firm. I also stood about a foot taller than she did; and I’m just 5’5″.

“It’s no beeeg deeeeeal! It’s nooo beeg deeeel!” She sings, smiles again.

White Shirt turns to look at me. He’s cute; looks like Benjamin Bratt. He looks at her. He turns back around.

She goes over to the other line.

I stand there, unfazed by it all, waiting for my turn to tell them “Pizza please: half-combo, half-plain, two drinks please.” It would be at least two more people ahead of me before I got to do that.

I look over and she’s already done. She’s on her way to the fountain drinks. I laugh to myself. She putters over to a table, I place my order and we go on our ways.

But the whole time internally I’m saying to myself, “Jung would beat me with his dead femur right now if he were here. He just would. I should have given my space to that woman; I should have gestured: you go ahead…” But I reasoned, “I didn’t know what she wanted. She just sort of bobbed in and out. She finished her business way before I did…”

And so I sit here, clearly exceeding my word limit as I explain this to you both, wondering: was that a balance today or was I just a Costco shrew? I try so often to be different from my fellow humans: to be aware (which I was), but to make room, to allow for the randomness and be equanimous (Wayne) with what’s going on. But today I felt as though I were the ignored one, as though she were trying to inch in, flashing her smile, avoiding eye contact and tweeting her “It’s no beeeg deeeeeal! It’s nooo beeg deeeel!” and I didn’t like it. Could’ve been cultural.

Gah! I’m such a shrew! Oh! Forgive me Olympia Dukakis of Costco!

I’ve read a lot over the years about “compassion” and how we can sometimes neglect ourselves for the benefit of others all in the name of compassion. For some reason today, I decided not to do that. Was I feeling a balance?

And she finished before I did. She moved on and I got to be.

“It’s no beeeg deeeeeal! It’s nooo beeg deeeel!”

Ain’t that the truth?

Thank you.