Friday, July 07, 2017

the little things

(Waiting on the lawnmower people to move a bit so I can water my research plots, and am also earnestly hoping they haven't gone in the enclosure)

The other day, Kelly wrote about "choosing happiness" and he argued that the people who tell us "happiness is a choice" oversimplify it.

I completely agree. I am fundamentally, most of the time, content (I prefer that word to "happy" - to me, "happy" connotes the kind of six-year-old-on-Christmas-morning-getting-the-toy-you-wanted-most feeling: something that is probably short-lived and largely external).

And yes, I do tend to be too influenced by "externals" - a compliment from someone can make my week, knowing someone I care about is suffering bugs me like a toothache, feeling I've failed at something ruins my entire day. But at my best, I can be mostly content.

I think part of it is noticing. Noticing the good stuff in life and trying to be thankful for it.

I did laundry yesterday afternoon and evening.  Pulling a load out of the dryer (I am lazy; I do not use a basket, I just grab it up in my arms and dump it on my bed and then fold/put on hangers from there) I noticed the good smell of clean laundry (And I don't even use scented detergent). And the feeling of knowing I have clean underwear for the next 14 days or so.

And this morning, heading over here - for the first time this summer I spied a hummingbird (probably a female, almost certainly a ruby-throat) visiting my Turk's Cap hibiscus. And that just makes me happy. I like most birds but there is something special about hummingbirds.

And I think sometimes happiness, for me, requires breaking out of the "one inch picture frame" my mind tends to inhabit, where I get hung up on things like class prep/grading/research/interactions with students and I get my head into my work too much and forget there's a big world out there that has things in it that have nothing to do with whatever is giving me woe at the moment - and it's probably good for me, once in a while, as possible, to get out into it. (Though not right now; we're supposed to have a heat index today of about 104). I KNOW I feel better coming back from field labs with my students and I think part of that is just being outdoors and away from campus, though part of it may be the possibility of seeing something unexpected (one spring we found dozens of toadlets that had just emerged from their natal pond, and we stopped to watch them. Or we find an uncommon plant species for the area. Or I teach them some little trick of the trade of plant identification and they find it interesting or amusing*)

(*I do not know why "sedges have edges" should be funny, but I've had students laugh over it. The saying I learned is "rushes are round, sedges have edges" as a way of separating the two big groups of aquatic/shoreline plants. Some sedges are also common in grasslands, and grasses tend to be more round in cross-section, so the mnemonic more or less still works)

I think that's also why piecing tops, in particular, works for me - it's more active. There's cutting and ironing and planning and measuring and it seems to occupy the anxious part of my brain. Sitting and knitting or hand-quilting, unless I have an entertaining movie on or someone to talk to, I tend to brood a little bit. (Aha. That may be why I've been knitting less....)

(That also tells me: I need to re-institute my Friday night (or Sunday night, though often that's taken up with Father Brown) re-watching of something soothing - either one of the Miyazake movies, or one of the Edwardian-era British mysteries (either Campion or Poirot) or some other movie - I have enough on hand now, and enough that hold up well upon re-watching - that I could do that weekly without becoming bored with them. No, I don't have Netflix and unless I actually decide to "cut the cord" I probably won't, because while I can justify paying for Amazon Prime because of the free shipping (and I could use their streaming more), I can't quite justify paying for Netflix/Hulu/whatever on top of cable. And I kind of need cable right now, for local news - people in my county have lost their everloving minds and I have to keep an eye out for what types of crime to try to avoid being a victim of next. And I need it for the weather).


Maybe tonight I watch "My Neighbor Totoro" again.

Another thing that occupies the anxious part of my brain is driving, at least when traffic is low and I don't have to worry about people doing foolish things (this has become increasingly a problem of late). But also, getting out and being Away From Here is a feature.

I'm still planning something for tomorrow. I don't think I have the energy to go allllll the way to Whitesboro, and I do have a Yarnexpedition planned for later this month when I meet up with Laura. But I think I might go to Denison and go to Kaboodles (Yeah, I still don't love the K-for-C substitution, and "Kaboodles" or "caboodles" makes me think of that weird old episode of Chowder with the "Shaboodles!" guy in it) and to the little quilt/gift shop there.

In fact, if Home a la Mode has a particular fabric in stock, I might buy some - last time I was there, I bought a couple charm packs of "modern style" fabric - there was a cat theme to some of the prints (I don't remember the name of the line, now). And then I got two other packs from different lines, later on, that coordinate in color and style - so that's enough squares for a sizable quilt top, but I'd really like to get a bit of yardage of one of the fabrics in the cat charm pack for borders, just to finish the thing off.

And that's another thing, I think, with happiness: having something good to look forward to. So I have plans to go to a nice small shop with friendly people tomorrow, and then plans in a couple weeks to meet up with Laura and have a day of fun and shopping. And that makes the daily slog a little easier.

But I still am not sure I agree with those people who say "happiness is a choice" because that seems to make awfully light of the fact that some folks have real, serious challenges in their life, and the idea that we ALL have times where, either because of circumstances or because of some quirk of our internal wiring, being happy is HARD and maybe even more effort than we can go to at that point.

(And I would also argue: if we were happy *all the time* we wouldn't recognize it as happiness; I think it's only by contrast with the sad/angry/"meh" times that the happy ones are thrown into focus and we recognize them as such. I think with no "lows" we don't recognize the "highs." And it also does take a certain amount of fortitude - and I think parents do well to help their kids develop it - to recognize that "when you're going through Hell, keep going" and that "maybe tomorrow things will be better.")

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