The Happiness Formula

laid to rest 80,000 obstructing spirits (north)--detailWhat makes me happy?  What gives me joy?

Here is today’s list:

Writing (of course).

Today’s polka-dotted weather.  Sun.  Cloud.  Hail.  Rain.  Sun.  Thunder.  Wind.  Repeat.  A smorgasbord.  I am leaving my studio lights on, even when it is the sun’s turn, because in five minutes the clouds will be sailing in and taking over.

Jazz, piano and violin playing off each other, a conversation, harmony and counterpoint.

Raisin bran and milk and demerara sugar for breakfast in my Blue Willow cereal bowl.  Raisins sweet and chewy.  Milk cold.  Flakes getting progressively soggier as I go.  I eat them, when they are soggy, only to get to the raisins.

My pen with its sky blue ink.

Water from our well, poured into my Shrek the Third glass.  Hard water with a lot of minerals and iron in it.  I think of the cartoon I watched as a child.  Popeye the Sailor who ate his spinach to get strong.  All I do is drink my water.

Reading a new novel.  Death in Florence by Marco Vichi.  Chief Inspector Bordelli who drives a noisy Volkswagen Beetle and smokes too much.

Discovering a new-to-me author who’s writing I love.  Thank you, Marco Vichi, for offering me a new treasure chest of words and ideas and story.  All translated from Italian.

Yes, a satisfying list.  Perfect things that happen every day for me.  That give me happiness and joy.

A few months ago I watched a documentary about happiness.  Someone had come up with a Happiness Formula.  My happiness equals my brain’s happiness set point (didn’t know I had one), plus my life conditions, plus my choices.  According to this formula, my life conditions only make up 7 to 12 percent of my happiness.  My choices make up 40 to 50 percent.

There is the key.  What am I choosing?  And what am I choosing to notice?  Where am I placing my attention?

Well, today my attention is on writing, weather, music, the raisins in my cereal, sky blue ink, cold water, the novel I started reading at breakfast, and appreciating the author I have discovered.

My life contains so much every-day happiness.  All I need do is be here, right now, present to the gifts I am being offered.  Choosing to notice.  Choosing to let the cereal in my bowl catch my attention, the taste of water from my well, the colour of the ink on this piece of paper.  Things on today’s happiness list.  This is my Happiness Formula.

____________________

In this post:

Death in Florence by Marco Vichi, published by Hodder and Stoughton, 2013.  http://www.marcovichi.it/

The Happiness Formula  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/leadership_b_3379150.html

 

Lions and tigers and writer’s block

The Wizard Of Oz - original movie poster 1939
The Wizard Of Oz – original movie poster 1939

Think The Wizard of Oz. The 1939 movie with Judy Garland as Dorothy.

Dorothy and Scarecrow and Tin Man are walking through a forest. It is creepy.  The light is dim. They start talking about what might be hiding. Lions. Tigers. Bears. Oh no! They manage to scare themselves silly by the end of the scene, even though there are no lions or tigers or bears. The Cowardly Lion, who they eventually meet, is nowhere near scary.

This is what I have been doing the last two months. Scaring myself silly. Imagining lions and tigers and bears. Blocking the writing on my book.

I’ve been doing other things instead of my book. Useful good things, I tell myself. Yes, true, they are. But it is odd how I do those useful good things first, plan to get to my book writing second, and somehow never get there.

I’m watching this happen. Two months of watching and not doing. I can’t seem to break the pattern. I’m not choosing to. What is stopping me?

Over my years of creating, I have run myself into blocks and scared myself a lot. I see what’s happening and I find my way through. Every time. Except now.

I could blame it on the fact that this is my first experience writing the second draft of a book. I don’t know what to expect, don’t yet know my process for this kind of creating, or how long it might take me. I do know this long at not-writing is too long.

Continue reading “Lions and tigers and writer’s block”

This is not a test

 rainbow.alexiscreek

Start here. This is not a test.

I discovered a few days ago that I live my life as if it’s a test I have to pass. Something in me decided this, a long time ago.

The test never ends. I never know if I have aced it or failed it. I don’t know who the tester is, or if there are more than one. I don’t know what the questions are and whether I’ve been asked one, and if I answered correctly or not.

Wow.

This explains a lot. Why I am keyed up and have to consciously work at relaxing my body and mind. Why I sometimes look at others and feel I can’t stand equal with them. Why I always feel I am being judged. Why I don’t play enough and feel vaguely guilty when I do. Why everything I do has to have a purpose. Why I am frequently not satisfied. Why I pass by my successes, barely giving them and me any acknowledgment. Why I do things, love what I’ve created, then it’s bang—onto the next thing right away because I have no time to waste.

How sad.

I can say, and mean it and know it, that I am happy most of the time in my life. This is true. My heart is open and present and connected and creating. Loving. Joyful. True. I can feel it. Most of the time.

Yet there is this low-level background tension running the other stuff that I listed three paragraphs back. Stuff I have been ignoring, that creeps in between the love and joy and happiness.

Time to let this go.

I choose. There is no test. No Test. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

There is just my life and what I want to create in it. And no test.

I am letting this sink in. This feels GOOD.

My shoulders just dropped two inches. I can breathe. I can enjoy what I am doing. I can play.

Tigger and Totoro--Go Play!
Tigger and Totoro–Go Play!

Yes. I can play. I can wander out of that stuffy Life Classroom I caged myself in, give the door a slam on the way out, and watch the whole place collapse in a heap. Better yet, invite Wile E. Coyote to blow it sky high with one of his Acme missiles. Right on target. Ka-boom! Wile E. takes a bow. The Road Runner and I applaud. Then we all go play. Dibs on the slide!

Yes. Life is not a test. Go play.

Faith and the Mountain

Laid to Rest (north) - detail
Laid to Rest (north) – detail

Faith moves mountains.

I know it does.  My faith has helped me create mountain-sized things in my life.  Many of them.

My faith not only moves mountains.  It is the mountain on which I stand.  From the top I see 360 degrees, full circle.  I see exactly where I am here, now.  See all the possibilities.  I feel into my heart, my passion, while standing here.  What do I love?  And there, yes, way over there, something lights up in the distance.  That’s where I want to go.  There’s my desire, my direction, my creation.

Now I have a creation journey ahead of me to reach what I see shining in the distance.  This journey is easy.  I create it, walking one step at a time.

Easy.

Before I take the first step, I pack up my faith mountain.  Yes, this mountain is very flexible.  I can squash it all up, the whole thing, and fit it into my backpack.  You’d think a mountain compacted to backpack size would not be going anywhere.  But my faith mountain weighs nothing.  This is a floating mountain.  A helium balloon of a mountain.  It carries me.

Say it again.  My faith mountain carries me.

My faith mountain helped me create this blog.

Continue reading “Faith and the Mountain”

Edgar and the Extreme Happiness Part 2

Edgar
Edgar

Edgar, my cat, is teaching me Extreme Happiness.  He’s been on the job for three years, and I am finally getting it.  Yes, I’ve been a slow learner, but that doesn’t bother Edgar.  He keeps showing me the same thing, every day.  Love.  Trust.  Play.  Practice Extreme Happiness.

Our previous cat, Einstein, was a fuzzy grey Buddhist master who channelled Yoda.  He and Edgar spent two summers together.  Einstein passed all his secrets, and the job of caring for our family, to Edgar.  Then he let go of life.  Edgar is doing an excellent job.  I am sure Einstein is proud.

Einstein the Cat was all about being and acting in the present moment.  Einstein knew how to choose his moment.  Edgar is showing me that Extreme Happiness happens in the moment, and it is a choice.

Extreme Happiness has always been part of me.  It is love, trust, joy, play, and it lives in my heart all the time.  Until now, I never knew it existed and didn’t understand I could have it.  I could choose it.  I could give myself permission.

I didn’t know.  So what changed for me?

I learned what Einstein the Cat knew, and what Edgar shows.  I can choose how I react to my life.  More than this, I can create my life.  Find what I love and choose that.  Here.  Now.

Einstein
Einstein

Choosing changes everything.

Edgar chooses to love.  He chooses love first.  He shows love and gives love.  Right here.  Right now.  He doesn’t hesitate.  He doesn’t stop and think, should I, shouldn’t I, maybe it won’t work, maybe it’s too scary.  No.  Edgar doesn’t try to figure it out by thinking.  He figures it out by acting.  He walks right up, and loves.  This is what I am learning to do.

Edgar is a good teacher.  He shows everyone he meets Extreme Happiness, whether he knows them or not.  This is trust in himself and them.  This is playing joyfully in the Universe.  This is knowing love is always the action and the answer.

Love.  Trust.  Play.  Practice Extreme Happiness.  I choose this.  Edgar approves.  Prrrrrrrrr.

Edgar and the Extreme Happiness

Edgar and Friends
Edgar and Friends

‘Edgar is extremely happy.’  This is what my son tells me in our phone conversation yesterday.

Edgar is our family cat.  He is living with our son Bryan right now.  Edgar thinks he belongs not only with our family, but with everyone.  We call him the Love Kitty.

This is why.

Edgar loves everyone he meets, and he is sure that everyone loves him.  He is so certain of this that it becomes true.  He walks up to people he does not know, stares at them, unblinking, and purrs.  It works.  They stop, bend down, pet him.  The Love Kitty in action.  This is his job in the world.  Spread Love and Extreme Happiness.

I have had seven cats in my life, beginning when I was a teenager.  We have shared love back and forth.  Each love has been unique, and each of my cats has taught me something about life.

This big, white-and-black fuzz muffin teaches Love and Extreme Happiness.  He radiates it, all the time.

I have never had a cat quite like Edgar.  Each time I pick him up, he goes boneless.  Limp.  A floppy feather pillow that purrs, loud.  He looks up at me.  Round, pale, jade green eyes.  He is telling me in this moment I am the love of his life, and there is nothing better than my arms holding him against my heart.

This is Edgar’s Extreme Happiness:  know my arms always support him; know I always love him; know that home and care and kindness are always my gifts to him.

His trust is complete.  Edgar knows the Universe is a friendly place.  His open heart calls to mine.  Come and play with me and the Universe.  Play.  Trust in Extreme Happiness.  Relax into Love.

Relax into Love.  Edgar is a master at this.  He gifts his Extreme Happiness to all who hold him.  It is true that emotions are contagious.  Edgar’s Extreme Happiness always rubs off on me.  My body relaxes.  My heart opens.  I am happy, extremely.  I know the Universe always supports and loves me.  I know home and care and kindness are always mine.

Thank you Edgar, for teaching me Extreme Happiness.  You are a treasure.

Postcard #6 – Revising

5 Crows Silver, 6 Crows Gold
5 Crows Silver, 6 Crows Gold

I had this idea I could whip through creating the second draft of my book.  I’ve got a month.  The first draft is pretty good.  No problem.  I can do this.

Hmmmm.

I am revising my idea of revising.  Like, I maybe should expect that this second draft will take me as long as writing the first draft.  The first three weeks of April have shown me this.

I admit it.  I am a virgin when it comes to second drafts.  I mean, I was a virgin.  Can’t claim, and blame, that any longer.

I am in the messy midst of second draft, and I am enjoying it.  A different process than first draft.  I am pickier.  Rather than ‘let’s get this down’, it is ‘let’s get this right.’  I am playing with words in a different way.  I am studying them, drop by drop, rather than pouring out a whole bucketful of water onto the page and moving quickly to the next page to pour another bucketful.

First draft was falling in love with a crowd.  Second draft is loving the individual beauty of a word, phrase, sentence, and hearing how they link and don’t link to those beside them.  Second draft is choosing the particular beauty I want my book to be, and matching all to this.

I still love the parts that don’t link up, that don’t match this single beauty.  I see their different beauty, and know they will fit somewhere else, some other time.  I put them aside.

I’ve had to adjust my word goal for Camp Nanowrimo.  Downwards.  Make it smaller.  Doable.  That is alright.  I am learning a new writing process, my revision process, and this is exciting.

So, a toast.  Raise your coffee mugs, tea cups, wineglasses, and all.  Here’s to a longer revision process.  Here’s to getting it right, and to particular beauty.  Here’s to second drafts and being a writer.

________________________

Mentioned in this post:

Camp Nanowrimo     http://campnanowrimo.org