We get it wrong when we think happiness comes from extraordinary things happening in our lives.What is Happiness?
“Lately I have been going to bed feeling much closer to my goal, but today, I see and feel that I’m in the same place I have been. That light at the end of the tunnel even seems a little dimmer,” Sylvia laments.
Erma, not the optimist but the realist today, hears something in her friend’s voice that she hasn’t heard in a while – despair. It is a slippery slope that she has seen her friend travel down more than once, so fortunately she knows that it is temporary. She also is well aware though that Sylvia needs a jolt to snap out of the looming funk fast.
Thinking back on some of their past antics, Erma recounts the story of the penny pony that has only recently become a favorite memory for both of them. She tells the story attempting to conjure up the image and the feelings that Sylvia experienced that summer afternoon. “It was totally impromptu, remember? We were walking the mall, complaining about how grumpy and miserable society had become. And then, there she appeared, Sandy, the penny pony, strategically placed near the restrooms on the way to the exit.”
“That was funny. Silly and immature, but fun. Do you remember the passersby with their eye-rolling and judgmental comments?”
“Oh yes, but what I remember most is the pure joy in your eyes. The completely carefree look of freedom as Sandy rocked back and forth for those all-too-quick twenty seconds. Awesome.”
“Too short. Fleeting. And look, that ride didn’t take me anywhere,” Sylvia said dampening Erma’s mood.
Erma, sadly annoyed by her friend’s complaining, decides it is time for the stir, the jolt, the wake-up. “Syl, stop. Take a roll of pennies and go to the mall. Lose yourself in a trashy novel. Make brownies and eat the entire batch. Pour yourself a cuppa and have a daydream. For God’s sake, those won’t get you anywhere in life either, but they will hold your place in line – and you might even have a little fun and find a little happy. I know you will.”
Sylvia, lifts herself from the chair, and rides into the very next moment with a smile and a little more hope, enough to finish today’s ride.
There is no straight way to a destination. So enjoy the ride even when you get lost.
Sylvia is sitting watching the seagulls forage and beg for scraps. She too finds herself begging for scraps this last Saturday in August. Just one more minute. A second even. She doesn’t want to turn back the clock; she simply wants another tick or two, a second during which she can walk into his room, say his name, and see him light up. And then maybe another second or two to watch her finish the crossword while her fourth cup of coffee grows cold. Those momentary looks of contentment and satisfaction that she remembers on both of their faces, yes, those are the scraps she desires right now to fill the emptiness, the perfect ointment to salve the wounds of self-doubt, longing, and melancholy.
The seagulls in the distance appear to be fighting over something they have come upon, and Sylvia wonders, “Are they truly hungry or do they just want more?” There is a difference she realizes. Knowing the difference at this very moment somehow assuages the useless and often crippling feelings she harbors of not having done enough or been enough.
“See, Sylvia. Sometimes wanting more makes you feel you are less. Be grateful for what you’ve had. It must be enough or contentment and peace will forever elude you.”
“I don’t know if I told you enough, loved you enough, did enough of anything to show you how important you were to the world – my world. I was never ready to let you go, and I think you knew it.”
Dad and Mom, scraps will have to do. I’ll piece them together and wrap myself in them until I’m whole again. I am so relieved that you are not here to witness the chaos, the meanness, and the intolerance of this time. But then again, knowing both of you, you’d find light and hope and contentment as you would watch the waves lap upon the shore, sitting on the seawall drinking your Dunkin after checking on the parks.
Weekend wisdom : Even foragers must know when they have enough to sustain themselves.
As she crossed the bridge, she removed all of the fluff, all of the extra. She got rid of the fillers. The sugar-coating melted away. She stripped down and began to bare her soul.
“Now, you are ready to begin, my friend.”
And with that, what she considered both friendly recommendation and cautious admonition, she noticed the view from the bridge. Wider. Vaster. She looked ahead not down.
Definitely worth another read before the weekend!
The start to summer has Sylvia and Erma discussing the joys and ravages of basking in the sun, literally and figuratively.
Sylvia: Sun on my face. Sand between my toes. Fresh ocean air.
Erma: Sweat dripping from my brow. Sand in my car. The lingering taste of salt in my mouth.
Sylvia: Long walks enjoying plush, verdant paths. Sun-kissed cheeks. Evening cocktails on the patio.
Erma: Bees and bug bites. Crow’s feet and weathered skin. Sugary spills and the ensuing march of ants.
“Well, aren’t you the definition of a curmudgeon? A true crank,” remarks Sylvia.
Erma, tongue-in-cheek and with her signature sarcastic tone, lobs back, “Yep, that’s me. Ageless and timeless, my dear.”
“What? Ageless? Timeless? Those choice words are used to describe a woman’s looks,” Sylvia counters.
Erma, ever the teacher and always poised to debunk her younger friend’s perceptions, staves off any further…
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Thursday thought: If someone else draws it well, writes it better, or captures the essence of what you are striving to explain, let that person help you lift your voice. And then, give her or him a nod, credit because it is due, and a big thank-you.
Today, Sylvia and Erma found the precise words. Thank you, Ms. Angelou.
I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.
#selfacceptance #thursdaythoughts #presence #WritingCommunity
“A perfectionist? I don’t think so. No, not at all. Well, you’ll need to tell me how you see me as it relates to that term, then I’ll comment.”
“When you say comment, you actually mean disagree. That’s okay, too. That is indicative of your perfectionism. You need to find the exact word, even if it’s not your thought or sentence to edit.”
“Wow. Ouch. It is a good thing we are best friends and I can take a hit.”
“Sylvia, oh, you can clearly take a hit – the mark of a true perfectionist – you hit yourself, beat up on yourself, condemn yourself, and submit to your own judgments and self-imposed punishments endlessly.”
“Again, wow. I know I have major work to do, but you must admit, I haven’t given up, so that is something. Don’t you agree?
“Something? It is everything. It’s simply perfect in fact.”
Let’s all agree that perfect does not exist. We are not here to be perfect. We are here to till and toil, plant and cultivate, and do a whole lot of weeding. And just when we think we are done, it is time to dig a bit deeper – if we are lucky.
Can you tell?
She’s digging deep.
Uncovering what she was and discovering who she left behind. Creating herself one day at a time.
Sundays, she tills. With soul. With faith. The tears born from overwhelming grief water the ground beneath her as she turns and digs.
Mondays, she plows. Preparing to cultivate a field of fear and trepidation. With each upending and fold of the ground beneath her, she strews hope.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, she sows. Not always pretty and patterned. Frequently not, in fact. Necessarily scattered.
Ah, Thursdays. Her day perhaps. To rearrange. To tidy. To make sense of the beginning. To anticipate fertile ground.
Fridays. Thank God they are? She thinks so. Tilled, plowed, germinated. She waits. Fearfully yet faithfully.
Another hole to dig. This one deeper than the last.Another field ahead. This one vaster than the last. The tears are more abundant than the week before.
Another stop. Grief and joy intermingled.
Sunday once more. Fertile ground. More fecund. More prolific.
She’s digging deeper.
Can you tell?
Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. overfiftyandfine
Summer, 1926. Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley take refuge from the blazing heat of Paris on a villa in the south of France. They swim and play bridge, and drink gin with abandon.
(Mrs. Hemingway, a novel by Naomi Wood)
Summer, 2021. Taking mid-afternoon refuge on the deck once again. An ocean breeze, a book, and a little Pinot Gris to satisfy the weekend.
To your health, happiness, and good fortune, friends.
“Sometimes we fall, Sylvia. That’s just the way it is,” Erma informs her friend in a calm yet authoritative voice.
“Oh, I’m falling. That I know. I have bumps, bruises, and cuts. I’m worn, weathered, and yet I am becoming more and more curious about this abyss of time in front of me, hanging over me, and likely beyond me and my imagination. Sometimes I actually welcome the path of the abyss – full of meanderings, gulleys, and hidden impediments. At least I know I’m not tripping over my own two feet. There is a quiet comfort in that.”
Erma, never surprised but always somewhat unsteadied by Sylvia’s musings, sighs. She pauses. She is digesting her friend’s perspective.
“Ah, Sylvia, you describe the free-fall perfectly. You never see rock bottom, perhaps because deep down you know that there is no end to the abyss.”
“Could be, Erma. Or maybe I’m just looking up the entire time I’m falling.”
We fall into an abyss and automatically we assume an absence of light. An interminable darkness. After all, that is the definition of abyss, right? A Saturday stroll has Sylvia thinking about how others might view her in this abyss of time. Right here, right now, it is not so bad. She has found a place of light.
“A photograph offers us a glimpse into the abyss of time.”
“You were away for quite awhile, Syl. Are you well-rested?”
“Not at all. I’m exhausted. Two weeks of caregiving and then some self-care of the best kind.”
“I’m happy that you recognize the need to care for yourself. However, wherever, whenever, and with whom you choose to refuel are secondary to the need. Good for you.”
Sylvia took care of an aging family friend and realized the fragility of life. She learned that tough love is still love.
She decompressed on the beach, walked the shore, bid farewell to the days as she watched the sunsets, and slept soundly. She even managed a delicious dream or two.
Meeting with both old and new friends who shared their stories, she became acutely aware of her insecurity but also extremely cognizant of that which set her apart from others. Early morning walks and play with canine companions, adventurous rides on a jet ski enjoying the vastness of Lake Michigan, and sipping wine and swapping stories, Sylvia then shared with Erma the greatest lesson of all – the epiphany she had amidst the sunflowers. “I am deeply rooted in vulnerabilities – we all are – and in them, I’ve found my gifts. I’ll let you decide for yourself what they are, Erma. I know what’s inside.”
There’s something in this world that makes you happy– find it; do it; breathe it in; let it wash over you; simply hold it; stare at it; bask in it; enjoy it; keep it to yourself. Or, share it. It’s the beginning of something – at least another glorious summer’s day. I’m starting to recognize my happy, and I wish the same for you.