Sunday, October 28, 2012

Keys to Happiness

I've been a very busy girl.

I'm sure you've already guessed this (especially since I haven't posted since October 5!). You probably thought I'd dropped off the face of the planet, but, no, it's pretty much the opposite. I've been so busy that by the time I get home at the end of the day, I'm too tired to think or do anything productive.

While I can't say I love everything I'm doing each day, I have to admit I love almost all of it. Most of all, what I'm doing makes me very happy. I'm as happy as I've been in years, and I'm likely to stay that way for quite a while. Then again, even during my not-so-happy stages, I've still found I'm happier than most people.

I'm not going to give advice about how YOU can be happy. I honestly have no idea what makes you happy. Many people are unhappy for years and don't even know it. Others have made it a point to be unhappy. Some choose the angst-ridden poet, or the angry misanthrope, or the grumbling hermit. And that gives them kicks, so I'll let them go on with that. Some have a good reason to be unhappy, but they play it to the hilt, ignoring all the things that might help lift their mood a little. If that is the case with you, and you do all you can to resist happiness, go now and read someone else's blog.

When I am drifting towards unhappiness, it's usually because I've forgotten one of these habits:

[Note: Remember, I said this stuff worked for me. If it doesn't work for you, well, that's not my fault. Make your own damn list. That's what the comments are for, after all.]

1. Live in the moment. Who cares what you're planning for dinner tomorrow? That's tomorrow. So what if somebody said something snide to you yesterday? That's yesterday. Only live somewhere else if you're in a boring meeting--or if you're grading papers. Better yet, live in that moment, and actively work to make the bad task take less time, or make it more fun. Put on tango music when you're sweeping the house. Sing while you do the dishes. Plan your halloween costume out while you help your kids with their homework. I listen to Baroque music while I grade -- I find it goes much faster.

2. Do something selfish. That doesn't mean steal candy from the kids, or eat all the dinner yourself. It means take some time each day to do something you TRULY want to do. Yesterday I worked all day on editing, and while I do love editing, I don't love it as much as painting. So this afternoon I'm painting. I even have it on my list: 1-4 p.m.: PAINT. If you love reading, but don't have time for it, check out a CD book at the library, and listen to it on your commute. Make the kids go watch cartoons while you have your morning coffee. Take a nap. Take a day off.

3. Do something unselfish. When I especially need to feel better, I do something to help somebody else. And I don't expect a thank-you card for it. That's just stupid. Yes, it's polite to send thank-you cards, but most people don't, and if you're only doing it for the thank-you, your motives are selfish. Give a gift to somebody for no reason. Help serve meals to the homeless. Serve your family a lovely dinner, complete with candle light. Clean up the kids' rooms while they're at school. Volunteer at the library. But don't do anything that makes you resentful, or makes you think everybody in the world except you is lazy. You're not better than everybody else. Volunteering is a way for you to show that, to show that you love people and are willing to help them, not a way for you to feel superior.

4. Get your work DONE. This is absolutely necessary to my happiness. I can paint all I want, but if the laundry is stacked up and nobody has any clean underwear for Monday, I ain't gonna be happy. And doing a load of undies isn't going to solve that, either. If it seems like a pain, set it up in steps. Sort the laundry the night before, so it's ready for the morning. Then just attack it one load at a time. And be sure and mark off the task with a big, thick cross-out when you're done. I'm always amazed at how much better I feel when I can cross stuff off my list. Just remember to put fun stuff on your list, too. That's the best chance you'll have to make it a part of your day, too, along with the have-to's.

That's my list. Now I'm off to start laundry. Got anything to add?

Friday, October 5, 2012


Friday has really become my day to let everything go.

Weekends are like the rest of my work week. I'd make Sunday my day of rest, but I am too busy gearing up for the coming week to do that. So I'm left with Friday.

And today has an added bonus: the kids have fall break. So we're off to a state park today, braving the overcast skies and potential rain. We might not get to do paddle boating, but we'll still have fun, I bet. I'll take some pictures and post them on my Travel Tuesday this week (hopefully).

We're also taking the kids to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tonight. It'll be the first time they've seen it live, and I can't wait to see it again! If you don't know anything about it, it's by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the creator of The Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ Superstar (and a bunch of other musicals, too).

What are your fun plans for today--or for the weekend? Any relaxing on the schedule? No? Well, why not?

At least pull out a puzzle or something. Think through... what is it you really like to do that you haven't done in FAR TOO LONG?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Greatest FEAR = Greatest CHALLENGE

I am FINALLY getting back to my music!

I sang a solo in church yesterday, mainly because only two baritones were going to be in the choir, making it impossible for us to sing a full choir piece--but the reasons are unimportant.

Funny how singing is the one thing in the world that makes me nervous. Even weirder that my main reaction to being nervous is that I lose my breath. Worse case scenario--and it has happened before--is that I open my mouth and nothing comes out. Yup, it has happened. And I was singing a solo when it did. And it was awful. And even after I'd recovered, and finished the song, it was months before I would consider singing anything in front of anyone again. In fact, it was at least five years before I performed another solo.

But I did get over it. Believe it or not, church was actually what did it. My choir director said, "It's about time you sang a solo."

I just shook my head.

"No, you can do it," she insisted. "You'll sing this one."

Yes, I knew I could do it in the choir room, with a bunch of sweet choir members listening. But in front of a 350-member congregation? I could feel my chest tighten. I would lose my voice, I just knew it.

I practiced, but the feeling didn't lessen... I was going to crack, and it was going to be awful.

But then the morning of my solo came, and another soprano turned to me before we walked in. "Just sing to Jesus, honey." She showed me a stained-glass window at the other end of the church. "He's right there, and he doesn't care if you're perfect."

I didn't look at anyone that morning. Not the congregation, not the hubby, not anybody except that little stained-glass depiction of Jesus. And I didn't crack. I didn't lose my voice. I managed to make it out okay.

I realized something else, too. Jesus wasn't the only one who was pulling for me. That whole group of people wanted me to do well. Okay, perhaps there was a competitive soprano out there who wanted me to stink so that she could get the next solo. But wasn't that the case in any audition I'd had for musical theatre, when other people wanted the same role I was singing for? Of course it was!

But most people wanted me to do well. Even better, most people in the congregation wouldn't have a clue if I slipped up. I could have gone up there and sung crappy karaoke and they wouldn't have known it was crappy. Knowing this helps, too.

The support, though, has meant I can sing. Without losing my voice--it's been about 20 years since I did that--and without refusing to sing at all. I am still more nervous singing a solo than doing ANYTHING ELSE, even after years of practice. I might never get over it, not even when I'm 80. But I'll keep working at it, and the fear will lessen with every attempt.

Now you know my big fear. What's yours? Do you avoid it, or challenge it? I'd love to hear your own story of this. If you've already written it on another blog, just let me know where...