Joy Is Not Made To Be A Crumb
Bring Joy To Your Life: Happiness Hacks November 2017
November FLEW by – one minute I’m sneaking Halloween candy, and the next I’m boxing up cornucopias and hanging outdoor Christmas lights! Despite the speed with which I flipped my Hay House affirmation calendar pages, November definitely was a month that brought joy to my life! Surrounded by new adventures, old friends, and loving family, I found joy from California to Washington D.C., and I do wish that my November happiness hacks bring a little joy to your life, too.
Happiness Hacks For November 2017: Time To Travel
I love traveling. I hate airplane flights – especially ones over water. This has been my discomfort spot for as long as I can remember, and definitely where I need to put growth mindset into action.
This November, I took trips to Carmel, California, Washington D.C. and St. Louis, MO. One of my happiness hacks, when I travel, is to take something from home that makes my day start on the right note: coffee. I travel with either a plastic pour over drip coffee filter or a portable French-press in a travel mug. All I need is a baggie of my favorite ground coffee, some hot water and I’m starting my day off just like at home! Note to self: check hotel cups carefully before heating water in hotel microwave. I nearly evacuated the 24th floor in St. Louis after smoking out my microwave at 6 am – who knew there were metal bands around PAPER coffee cups?
Happiness Hacks For November 2017: Happy At Home
It’s my daughter’s senior year in college, and so far I’ve been able to get her home for every Thanksgiving. Having her live far away has had its challenges, for sure – but the blessing of devoted family time when she comes home definitely takes a bit of the sting out. Besides our daughter coming home, we filled our house with special aunts and uncles and cousins and dogs…nothing fancy or elaborate, just time together to laugh and share the small moments of life since we were last together. One thing I’ve learned is not to sweat the details about family gatherings, and to accept all the help that is lovingly offered. There is plenty of time during the year when we are lost in our daily routine, and to just relax into the comfort of loved ones is an easy happiness hack to accomplish.
Happiness Hacks For November 2017: A Bit Of Reading Time
I met my Goodreads goal of completing 37 books in 2017! Making reading for pleasure a priority has brought so much simple joy into my life-it’s like channeling all those comforting childhood moments when I would find a space to read and immerse myself in imagination. This month I completed Cowboys Are My Weakness by Pam Houston and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I’ve got several of Pam Houston’s novels on my shelves and considering she’s a local UC Davis author, I jumped in. Her realistic fictional short stories about love and life in and out of complicated relationships were easy to read, and just the right size to complete one or two in a sitting. And don’t worry if you’re not a cowboy fan – the emotions are relatable despite any longing for campfires and horseback rides! The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is one of those books that has been recommended by so many people that I was getting embarrassed to say I haven’t read it. Like so many, I whipped through her tale of two French sisters battling during WW2 in vastly different ways. I can’t say that the writing itself was anything too breathtaking, but Hannah manages to carry the reader along an expansive track of the WW2 timeline without losing interest or momentum.I’m currently reading: Homestead: Modern Pioneers Pursuing the Edge of Possibility by Jane Kirkpatrick (love her pioneer stories) and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (must read her latest, too!) – with a dash of Wonder by R.J. Palacio ( I so need to read more YA lit!=) just to mix it up. I’ll finish these three by the end of 2017 just so I get to an even 40!
Happiness Hacks For November 2017: Wise Words
I want to introduce you to one of my favorite bloggers/writers – Katrina Kenison. She writes her blog, A Gift of An Ordinary Day, at www.katrinakenison.com. I’ve read all of her books, and absolutely absorb every word she writes. This month her post, “A Blessing For Deeper Knowing”, really made me stop and think deeply about who I am and how I integrate into the world around me. She writes, “This work of knowing begins anew each day, with our own quiet recommitment to the truth of the present moment. And truth, of course, begins with me: the truth of who I really am, the truth of what I say and do, the truth of the consequences of every choice I make. So it is for each of us.” Definitely, check out her words-I just know you’ll feel inspired.
Happiness Hacks For November 2017: Teacher Hacks
Along with a month of travel, November was a month of presentations – for my district on Inquiry Learning, for the Teachers for Global Classrooms cohort on Using Hyperdocs, and for the National Council For Teachers of English on Recapturing The Love of Teaching Through Blogging and Social Media. You can see my presentations here:
I’m loving working with teachers and districts lately – if you’re interested in having me come to your area, please contact me.
I hope these happiness hacks help you add a bit more joy to your month – have a happy holiday season, and I’ll be back with more in December!
**A little background on my Happiness Hacks series:
Years ago I started a gratitude journal – just a daily addition to my morning pages that documented the ordinary things that I was grateful for – simple things that made me happy.
During this time I read Gretchen Rubin‘s book, The Happiness Project – Gretchen’s writing and podcasts inspired me to create what I hope are monthly lists of ‘happiness hacks’ – small, simple acts or moments in life that bring me happiness and maybe they’ll rub off on you, too. You can read my essay inspired by Gretchen’s other book, Happier At Home here.
In June 2017 I started with my first set of ‘happiness hacks’, and loved the responses I received on the post and on social media. Turns out, you do things to make yourselves happy, too.
You can read my past monthly “happiness hacks” posts below:
“Above all else, my son and daughter, don’t trade your life for the trinkets your culture tries to sell as treasure. It’s a sham, a lie, a massive con game. Joy is everywhere, real work is available, and life is your birthright. You didn’t choose it and you don’t need to earn it. Simply – and I do mean simply – enjoy it.”
from The Wheel Will Turn: Reflections On A Quietist Revolution by William Martin
I first read William Martin after hearing him quoted at my daughter’s college convocation. His quote from The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents moved me to tears, it so perfectly captured how I was feeling about having my firstborn move away. Subsequently, I used his words in one of my most popular blog posts to date, “Extraordinary in the Ordinary”.
I’m at a different place now. My oldest has been out of the house for a year and a half. I’ve shifted my perspective about parenting just a bit as I’m realizing the days I have with my 16-year-old are short, and the moments with my daughter (when she’s home) are fleeting. These realizations, as well as my turning 50 last month, have me doing the internal reflection, not just about me as a mother, but as a wife and a worker and a woman.
I hope this quote from William’s newest publication brought you a bit of thoughtfulness today – it certainly helped me to think about how to find joy right here, right now.
The heat slapped us in the face as we enter, shaking off the drizzle from our sweaters. The air, not as unpleasant as I expected, had that institutional smell, a mixture of leftover lunch, sickness and aging. I smiled at my son as he awkwardly drifted to the chair in the back of the waiting room, festive green Christmas tree glasses perched crookedly on his nose. We’re a motley crew, come together as strangers and friends to bring a little joy to the world today.
“Remember, keep it upbeat. Keep it lively. We’ll skip any scary verses or references to Satan. Most people only know the first two verses anyways. Some of those carols can be scary, you know,” Cathy deftly commands. “I’ll lead us. The goal is not just singing – it’s connection. That’s why we’re here.”
I grab Cameron’s hand as the group breaks into a disjointed “Frosty the Snowman”, feeling his hesitancy. As we shuffle down the hall, a grizzled man in a cream-colored, patched down jacket smiles. “‘Joy To The World,’he shouts out. “Sing that one. That’s the only one I know.”
Cathy doesn’t hear, and rolls right into “Rudolph”. The beige walls glare at me as I walk by, darkened rooms with open doors and closed curtains beg for me to peer in. Feeling intrusive, I focus on the next song. “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” rolls out, and I notice the man behind me. His down coat covers a hospital gown, and his right hand clutches a urine bag. “I just got here yesterday,” he tells me. “And look what I get today.”
I smile through my uneasiness, wondering if he’s ok to shuffle along with the group. No one seems to be watching him. I’m trying to concentrate on the song, but my mind wanders. Why is he here? Is he dying? Does anyone know that he’s spending Christmas alone?
“Silent night, Holy night/Son of God, love’s pure light/Radiant beams from thy holy face/With the dawn of redeeming grace…”
I find myself paused next to another man, his dark brown hair barely tinged with grey, yet his face shows his experience. Dark eyes gaze straight ahead, unwavering. I smile, and he stares.
“Silent night, Holy night/Shepherds quake, at the sight…”
Who does he belong to? Who loves him? My mind searches for his story, for some clue of who he was before, but I get nothing.
Across the hall I catch eyes with a brown haired woman sitting up in her bed. Her youthfulness surprises me; her hands come together in joy as she sees me sing to her, her eyes reaching out as her arms wish they could. I consider walking in, but pause at the sign barring my entry to her room.
Scanning the hall for Cam, I notice he’s disappeared into the crowd. We enter what looks like a common, room. “Keep it jazzy – think Perry Como,” Cathy reminds us.
“Have yourself a merry little Christmas/ Let your heart be light/ From now on, our troubles will be out of sight”
We struggle with the tempo; maybe the lyrics are getting to us. The man in front of me grips the dark green tablecloth, bunching it in his fists. His head is dipped slightly; I stare, straining to see if his hands match the rhythm.
“Mom, I was out in the hallway with this lady. I think she was crying.” Cam whispers in my ear. He’s quietly come in behind me, and puts his hand on my shoulder. I’m afraid to turn, for him to see the tears in my own eyes. I know which lady he’s talking about. I feel her eyes reach me through the wall.
The man in the cream coat, still with us, sits down next to a mute woman in a wheelchair. He smiles at her. “I just got here yesterday,” he says, “and look what I got today.” Her closely cropped silver hair is neatly styled, her head bobbing as we sing. The woman next to her rocks gently, as if remembering days gone by. She must be someone’s mother, I think.
“He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders and wonders of His love”
Cameron’s voice is deeper than I remember. Time passes quickly, these moments together so fleeting. “Sometimes when I’m in places like this, son, I try to remember that they could be yours – your great grandparents, your grandparents, your people. You would hope someone would sing to them, bring a little joy to their world,” I whisper to him, and to myself.
“The great teachings unanimously emphasize that all the peace, wisdom and joy in the universe are already within us; we don’t have to gain, develop, or attain them. We’re like a child standing in a beautiful park with his eyes shut tight, there’s no need to imagine trees, flowers, deer, birds, and sky; we merely need to open our eyes and realize what is already here, who we already are – as soon as we stop pretending we’re small or unholy.”
This quote reminds me of the scene from ‘The Wizard of Oz‘, when Dorothy, having survived the tornado of her life, wakes up and sees all that she has around her. Things she previously worried about, people she loved, and those she feared had swirled together in her mind to create the most unimaginable drama, but when it came down to it, there was no place like home.
Many times throughout my teaching day I find myself cheering on my students, telling them, “You are better than this. You are better than these grades.” I think about how they must feel, lost in a world that judges them by accomplishment rather than individualism. I wonder how I can teach them to close their eyes, to look inside, and realize that they, like Dorothy, have all they need in life. They just need to figure out how to harness it, how to jump on the power and energy and wonderfulness that life has to offer them, and soar above anything they have ever imagined.
I think if we can teach teenagers this – to stop pretending they are ‘small or unholy’ – that they not only have a huge future ahead of them, and that they have all they need to get there – if we can help them see the joy of life, we can create hope that somewhere over the rainbow really is right in their own backyard.
image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net