Tag Archives: Joy

Why I Write

I started reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott yesterday and it got me thinking about why I write.

She mentions a few other authors answering that question with “Because I want to” and “Because I’m good at at”. I write a lot so I guess I want to. And I’ve been told I’m good at it (albeit, mostly by my mother). But those answers don’t quite grasp why I write.

After thinking about it, I realized that I write simply because I like it.

It’s true that sometimes my writing confidence falters and I doubt myself. Sometimes I feel like I’m not very full of stories at all. But I am. They’re just not all brimming at the surface. It’s just the matter of whether I want to do the hard, time-consuming work of digging down to them or just hang out and wait for them to float to the top.

Mostly I have fun writing. I enjoy writing different formats at different times, in different places, about different things. I like writing novels and blog-posts and journal entries and lists and short stories and sometimes even poetry. I enjoy writing deep things. And I enjoy writing silly things that pretty much amount to nothing at all. I usually don’t worry very much about it being very good, at least not a first — I just trust my voice.

I would like to make money from my writing — by being published, for example — but it’s not why I write. So I realized it doesn’t fit for me to sit on my stories, hoarding them because they may not be copyrighted and I feel like I won’t get my just due for them unless/until I get them properly published. Like, “This is my work, I should be paid for it!” Because really I feel like, “This is my writing, I want people to read it!”

I write because I have stories to tell, stories to share. So write and share I will. Because I want to. Because I’m good at it. Because I like it.

There’s More Than One Way to Be Happy

Sometimes, I think, we get an idea in our heads and we lock onto it as the way to make us happy, despite being somewhat arbitrary. It could be owning a certain thing, accomplishing a certain goal, being with a certain person, or having a certain job. But from what I’ve experienced so far in my life, there are infinite ways to be happy.

I’ve had my eye on a beautiful floral muslin throw blanket for months, but haven’t bought it because it’s a bit expensive. Maybe buying that blanket will make me happy — I do find looking at pictures of it beautiful and pleasing — but maybe I’ll be just as happy without it. Or maybe I’ll be happier. Maybe loving that blanket so much will make me upset if something gets spilled on it or if the cat scratches a hole in it.

I was extremely happy with my MacBook for the 11 years I used it. I was so happy with the computer that I thought when it needed replacing, I would just replace it with the same yet newer model. It didn’t work out that way, but I am still really happy with my Chromebook. And it doesn’t feel like a different kind of happiness either. I was happy with what my MacBook could do and I’m happy with what my Chromebook can do. I’m just happy. Maybe I got lucky. Maybe I just made myself easy to please.

The movie “La La Land” is a good example of this, I think. SPOILER ALERT. The first time I saw the movie, I enjoyed it very much, but hated the ending. Why couldn’t they be together? I wanted them to be together! Why tell us their story if they don’t end up together? Years of perfect cinematic bliss have conditioned me to want the story arc with the predictable ending. But life is unpredictable. That doesn’t mean we still can’t end up happy. Just like the characters in “La La Land”. They went separate ways, despite agreeing they would both still love each other, and they were still happy.

Is it just that we think we are so wise we could absolutely know what was best for us to make us happy? I mean, there are infinite possibilities in this world. How could we possibly know what will make us happy? Why would we limit it to just one or very few things?

What if being happy was just a choice we made. No matter how things were going in our lives — what we owned, who we were with, the work we did — we just decided to be happy anyway. Or found a way to be happy with what we had. Gratitude, I believe, is a big part of this. And also giving up a bit of control. Giving up trying to control every aspect of our lives and instead focusing on controlling how we react. Letting stress go in favor of trusting in the universe to give us what we need (not necessarily what we think we want) and figuring out how to be happy no matter what we’re dealt.

I’ve heard stories of it happening. People who have had real shit cards dealt in their lives, but who are happy, warm, kind, and generous anyway. Maybe we can all try this, no matter how (seemingly) small the circumstance. Instead of driving ourselves crazy to get to that 1 holy grail of happiness we picked out, let’s be happy with all the little pebbles that cross our paths.

Or let’s just try to accept that there is more than one way to be happy. Reminding ourselves of that is sure to help us get over disappointments more quickly than if the stakes are always high. A little prompt that’s more concrete than indistinct optimism: There is more than one way to be happy.

When to Be Serious and Silly

I gave birth to my baby 3 1/2 weeks early. There were some complications. He, nicknamed Dozer, was swept away from Andrew and me to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) within 30 minutes of being born. We had never experienced anything like this before and were inundated with emotions.

We were shocked – he had arrived and left so quickly. We were upset – we didn’t know very much, only that something was wrong. We were nervous – could it get worse? We were happy – he was alive! We were confused – what exactly was happening? We were relieved – they could take care of him and make him better. And I was in pain, but okay.

Our new baby’s condition was a serious thing, but we had each other.

Once we found out more, we knew that Dozer would be okay, it would just take some time – about a week in the NICU. We did not like this… well, we did because it meant that he was getting the care he needed by capable and caring doctors and nurses, but our instincts were telling us otherwise. It should only be a week… but at the same time, it’s a whole week!

We knew he needed to be incubated with tubes in his noses and throat and wires stuck all over and IVs in his veins, but our instincts were telling us to hold him skin-to-skin, smell him, feed him, hug and kiss him, love him, take him home. Our other two sons still haven’t meant their new baby brother. We want the family together. But we must be patient, stay calm, and do what we know is best.

Andrew and I are taking our baby’s health seriously. We listen to the hospital staff and follow rules. We participate in whatever care we can. We even go home without him to eat and shower and spend time with Wingnut and Pigpen because we need that self-care and our other children still need our time and attention. We do what we can, when we can, even if it never feels like enough.

And we joke while we do it.

We keep ourselves occupied instead of needlessly worrying – watching a movie, playing games, reading, talking. We make silly comments. We laugh when Dozer farts. We make fun of his squishy faces. We make fun of each other. We connect with each other and other people. They are there to help us. We are helping each other – supporting each other – being silly to keep each other sane.

Being serious and silly are equally important, and most times should be practiced simultaneously.

Do what needs to be done… with a light heart.
Accept things as they are… while doing whatever you can to make it better.
Be wise… by finding a way to laugh.
Trust… and brighten when possible.

Be serious… and silly.

Andrew and I are bummed we need to wait to bring our baby home and our family together. But we are so, so happy that he is here at all and getting stronger every day. We are able to get through this difficult and serious time with slight sillies – by lightening the situation up for each other so it’s never too heavy for either of us to bear.

Making Every Day a Good Day with My 5 “Daily Do’s”

I first heard of a strategy like this used by someone who deals with anxiety as part of their daily self-care routine. I don’t struggle with anxiety in any clinical sense, but I do sometimes struggle with the demands of my everyday life, causing the care of myself to get pushed aside.

I spend a lot of time taking care of other people. I love those people very much, but I also love myself, and it can put me in a very bad mood when I’m unable to take care of myself. Furthermore, when I am unable to give myself the proper self-care I need, I am less able to take good care of the ones I love and am responsible for by providing for them all they need. Self-care is not selfish because making it a priority makes me better able to serve those around me. And I’m just more pleasant to be around.

There are a few things that I do everyday or not, depending on the day and what I actually need. For example, I am not the type of person who needs to shower everyday. I can be perfectly happy showering every 2 or 3 days. Another example is that I like to read, but don’t need to do it everyday to feel properly relaxed or that I’ve had my sufficient “me” time.

There are also other things that I’ve already ingrained so deep into my daily routine that it’s not an issue. These things are non-negotiable now, and my family knows it, so it’s easy for me to do. Some examples of this are my 11 o’clock bedtime (unless there is a special reason for which I choose to stay up) and eating 3 meals (and possibly 1 snack) per day at consistent times.

But there were other things that I wanted to do that I either wasn’t doing or wasn’t doing consistently, even though I really thought that fitting them into my day would… maybe not make me happier, per say, but would lift my mood up no matter what else was happening in my life. Like, if I could do those things, I could consider it a good, productive day even if everything else went to shit.

I put a lot of thought into what I wanted my “Daily Do’s” (i.e. things to be done daily) to be. I didn’t want them to be too difficult, too time-consuming, or to have too many. I wanted to make it easy for myself to have a good day. I wanted to make it enjoyable, not a chore. I wanted to set myself up for success. So I came up with this list of just 5 Daily Do’s:

  1. outside
  2. move
  3. write
  4. gratitude
  5. zen

Go outside. This is pretty self-explanatory. I want to go outside and get fresh air every day. Even if it’s raining. Even if it’s really hot. Even if it’s really cold. Even if I have tons of stuff to get done inside. There is no time requirement, but I don’t really count walking from the house to the car, from the car to another building. Ideally, I like to include my children in this time outside as well.

Move my body. Exercise, but not so formal. Just get up and move. Do something. Standing still and washing the dishes doesn’t count, but something like vacuuming the house would. Do some yoga, walk around the block. Just make sure I’m not sedentary all day, even if I’m exhausted or my pregnancy is making me all stiff and uncomfortable.

Write. I don’t want to be an “aspiring” writer. I want to be a writer. And to do that, I need to write. Every. Day. It can be part of a novel, a short story, a blog post, a letter, or some journaling. A grocery list or an overly simple diary entry don’t count. Ideally, I want it to be creative writing to exercise my imagination, but anything to keep the words flowing and my voice fresh will do.

Be grateful. I’ve been pretty good at doing this consistently for about a year again now, but I want to make sure I do it every day. I make a simple list at the end of the day of whatever I was grateful for that day. I need at least one, but I usually end up with no less than 3. Repeats are totally acceptable. No long explanations needed. Writing them down just makes me conscious of them — thinking about them, noting them — and recognizing that gratitude makes me appreciate my life a lot more than if I only let what went wrong buzz around my head.

Practice some zen spiritualism. I am not a religious person, but I have found that I need to tend to some of my spirituality to feel like I am an important part of this world and universe. It’s a big place and it can be easy for me to feel small and insignificant. I’ve done some soul-searching, as it were, in the past, but lately I’ve felt I’ve wanted some guidance without strict rules or obligations. A stroke of serendipity brought me to the book The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim, a Zen Buddhist monk. It’s generally about how to stay calm in a busy world. I’ve already read it through once and am now continuing with it by re-reading 2-3 pages per night as a part of my Daily Do’s.

I’ve also created an easy way to track that I am keeping up with my Do’s on the Daily. I intentionally designed my simple list with one-word descriptions, each with unique first letters, to be easy to remember. (I didn’t make an acronym because I didn’t feel like being corny or trying too hard.) So every day, as I do these things, I write the corresponding letter along the bottom of the day’s block in my Bullet Journal calendar. Quick, simple, effective.

It doesn’t take up too much time or space to track, and if I see that I’m missing something near the end of the day, my requirements are so undemanding it’s still pretty easy for me to accomplish all five.

O M W G Z — that means a good day for me.

Life Is A Series of Unfortunate Events, But It Can Still Be Enjoyed

Back in college, I read Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events for the first time. They are aptly named. Unfair things happen, people make bad decisions, there is a lot of disagreement. It is sad and depressing and, well, just all around unfortunate.

From the description, these books really don’t sound like my cup of tea. I usually like light-hearted romance and adventure. But while A Series of Unfortunate Events deals with serious issues (like kidnapping, child marriage, murder, identity theft, disability, etc), it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I am able to enjoy reading (and watching) the series because although the general theme throughout is negative, there are plenty of happy surprises along the way. The series is funny — in a somewhat subtle and ridiculously clever way. The main characters learn and grow and support each other and have several small triumphs. And the series is smart — smarter than your average middle-grade book, some might say.

That’s the parallel I draw to life. Life can be tragic and depressing, unfair things happen, and people make bad decisions and disagree with each other all the time. But there are still plenty of things to enjoy about life along the way. Finding the humor in situations, being a good friend, supporting family, and striving for the goodness you believe in can make life so, so enjoyable.

I know some people who won’t read past the first book (The Bad Beginning)in the series. I am definitely not suggesting that the parallel here is that they have lost the will to live their lives — they just don’t want to read about all the strife the three young main characters must deal with. But if the books are read for those small, hilarious, joyous, triumphant moments, I think they can be so much fun to read. Just like life can be so much fun to live, if we focus on the things about it that bring us joy.

Night Out – A Short Story

It was Friday night and Natalie’s husband stayed home with their children while she went out with a couple of her old friends from college. They went to bar on the river with outdoor seating and dancing.

There were four of them all together, but Natalie was the only one yet married. Soon enough, after they all caught up with one another, the others were off talking and dancing with men, and Natalie was left alone.

She walked up to the bar and bought a drink. Seltzer with a splash of cranberry and a twist of lime. A man walked up beside her and they started chatting. He was nice and funny, just like Natalie. It wasn’t long before he noticed the ring on the third finger of her left hand. The plain silver band contrasted starkly with her dark skin.

“Oh, you’re married?” He asked.

“Yes,” Natalie said.

He bent his head down gravely, “Is it serious?”

Natalie couldn’t help herself and laughter bubbled up and out. “Would you like to dance?” She asked the man, Dustin.

“Uh… sure,” he said. He put his glass down on the bar and she did the same.

They walked to the open area next to the band. The band played jazz that warmed the cool air off the river, jazz as smooth as the wooden boards beneath their feet, jazz as bubbly as Natalie’s laughter.

They held hands and kicked and twisted. Dustin couldn’t remember the last time he danced with anyone like that. Maybe never.

“You’re good,” he said.

“Hmm?” she looked as him again. Most of the time, her head was lost in the music and the movement.

“Do you like to dance?”

“Oh, I love it,” she said.

“I can tell.”

“Almost as much as I love my husband.”

Dustin’s smile faltered for only a moment. Natalie didn’t see it because she had dipped her head back and around.

They danced a while longer, to a song even faster than the one before.

“Then why are you here dancing with me?” Dustin asked.

Natalie did a move that seemed almost a shrug. “You’re here and you’re fun.”

“Yeah?”

He seemed to be waiting for more.

“That’s it,” she said.

Dustin had never encountered a woman such as this before. She was charming and he was charmed. He had gone out for beers and distraction and stumbled upon magic. He knew that magic and he missed it.

The night couldn’t last forever. Natalie’s friends found her so they could all walk back to their cars together. Natalie laughed at the tales her friends recounted as they took out their keys in the parking garage.

She put her high-heeled shoes on the passenger seat and drove home barefoot. She walked still barefoot up the front path to her house.

Her husband loved tasting the lime on her breath when she got home, the children fast asleep. They danced in the living room, after she left her shoes on the floor by the couch. They danced down the hallway to their bedroom, where they danced some more, the sheets dancing above them.

Dustin had had a few beers, but drove home anyway. He was used to it. He was, however, more focused than even he expected. He parked in the street in front of his house and slipped his wedding ring back on as he walked to the door. He was used to that, too. But he wasn’t used to this feeling of floating.

He floated in the door, kissed his wife who was barely awake on the couch, a magazine open on her chest.

“What was that for?” She asked, suspicious.

“Oh, did you want to sleep on the couch all night?” He asked lightly, with a smile.

“No…” His wife said. She had gotten used to a nudge.

He took her hand and he pulled her close.

“You seem… happy,” she said.

“I am happy.”

“Why?”

“I am happy with you,” he kissed her. “You make me happy. You’ve made me happy for a long time.” He had almost forgotten.

He kissed her again and the heaviness of her sleep lifted away from her. They floated up the stairs, floated into their bedroom, and floated some more, the sheets floating above them.

Heidi, Exploding

After pursuing minimalism for a few years now, I want to shift my attention from focusing on less (stress, clutter, to-do items, goals, appointments, clothes, gadgets, etc.) and start focusing on MORE. Specifically, more joy. I want to celebrate each day with the reckless abandon of a child. To fully live in each day instead of seeing it as a mundane drudgery to get through. To have fun and be silly. To be creative and not worry about what that means.

I am currently listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and am loving it. She is really inspiring me to let myself be inspired. By life, you know? To have fun with my creativity, my writing, without the fear of getting it published or what other people may think. To let the genius work through me. To not stifle myself to conform to what I think I’ve grown up into.

I have been very careful on this blog, trying not to offend anyone. One of the biggest joys in my life has been my journal. I’ve written about it before. It’s had such a huge impact on my life, maybe because the habit of writing about my days put me in the habit of thinking about my days and living my days, instead of my days rushing by or even idly floating by. I wrote about angst and events and interesting thoughts and, what I thought were, insanely witty observations. It was so much fun.

I want to let my inner self explode again. I want to let my creativity flow. I want it to burst. I want to write everyday. And, this time,  I want to share it. Aaaaaaaaaaa!