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November 2007

What I'm Grateful For (11/29)

Sick_tired_moi A day at the dentist is never a Good Day. Although it could be worse. Today, I'm grateful:

      1. That I don't have to have a root canal.
      2. That I have the $1500 it's going to cost me for a second cleaning (since I waited a year and a half between them) and the new crown I need for my cracked tooth.
      3. That everything else in my mouth is actually in great shape.
      4. That a couple of ibuprofen will take care of the ache in my jaw.
      5. That I'm not going to see the sadistic dentist I used to have when I was a kid. My current one is a very nice man who will actually give me anesthetics when I need them.

What I'm Grateful For (11/27)

Teadoll Woken up at 8 AM by the guys repointing the bricks on the wall of my bedroom. Since I'm seven stories up, I'm grateful . . .

      1. That they're doing it and not me. Standing on a rickety scaffold in a high wind (gusts to 30 mph today) is not my cup of tea. Especially not wielding a mini jackhammer or a stone saw. Whatever they're being paid, it's not enough.
      2. For the folks in the paper department at New York Central Art Supply. They not only really know their stuff, they always make me laugh. They've all worked together for a long time and tease one another mercilessly so the banter is really fun to listen to. On top of that, they're nice and helpful: unusual qualities in NYC salespeople.
      3. For the pumpkin pie I made yesterday. It's the best I've ever eaten, even though it was made from canned pumpkin. I think it's the lemon zest in it that makes it so scrumptious. All kudos to Simply Recipes for the recipe.
      4. That Jimi Hendrix lived long enough to record Voodoo Child, All Along the Watchtower, Crosstown Traffic, Hey Joe, and Little Wing. He would have been 65 today, and that's just boggling. RIP, Jimi, and thanks.
      5. For teeny, purse sized cameras that I can take with me, so I can occasionally get a good picture like the one below. (which has, I admit, been fiddled with in Photoshop, but only to bring out the details of the Chrysler Building).


What I'm Grateful For (11/26)

TeadollA cool, rainy day today that thwarted my plans to go buy paper. Nevertheless, I'm grateful for:

      1. Rainy days. I like waking up to it in the morning and just lying in bed listening to it. It's especially nice when I don't have to go out in it. They always make me sleepy.
      2. The enormous number of things people have found to stick one thing to another. The vellum tape I bought turns out to be repositionable and won't work for Carlos's book, but the Zig glue pens I bought are perfect and are barely visible.
      3. Streaming music services like Pandora, for those times when commercial radio sucks. With some decent speakers for my computer and enough memory, I may eventually chuck my stereo system entirely. What a great paper rack that cabinet will make!
      4. Mail deliveries. I live for the mail and always have. It's a surprise every day, even when it's bills. You never know what might arrive.
      5. E-bay. Where else would I find letterpress blocks, vintage microscope slides, discounted Calphalon, cheap art supplies, tools, and other obscure crap, er, stuff I need? It's like a giant garage sale with a search engine.

What I'm Grateful For (11/25)


Today, I'm grateful:

      1. That I'm back to keeping my own hours again. I've never been a morning person so the 9-5 gig is really hard on me. It's taken me almost a year to start shaking the bed-at-midnight-up-at-8 routine and go back to falling asleep when I feel like it and getting up around 9. I feel better rested when I don't get up to an alarm clock, either.
      2. For that first hit of tea in the morning. Especially good tea, like Twinnings or Jane's Tea Assam. Even PG Tips makes me happy if I haven't brewed it too long.
      3. For comics and cartoons in general and the Sunday funnies in particular. People dismiss these too lightly. There's a lot of Zen-like wisdom to be had from the panels of a cartoon. Kristin and I were talking yesterday about Roz Chast (her favorite) and Nicole Hollander (mine) last night. Also not to be missed if you're a liberal is Dykes to Watch Out For, and if you're a girl, Girl Genius.
      4. For that mad impulse I have that makes me say to Internet friends,  "Hey! You're going to be in New York?  Let's go have drinks or something!" Not always wise, I know; I've been burned this way once before, but that applies to people I haven't met on the Internet too, so go figure. This weekend, I got to meet someone from Germany that I'd been corresponding with for a long time, who's also a quite brilliant writer, and a highly talented dollmaker, seamstress, and songwriter. She's also a lovely person, both smart and funny, and I hope we'll see more of each other.
      5. For jeans with spandex. No, really.

What I'm Grateful For (11/24)

Teadoll Lessee, today I'm grateful:

      1. That I've learned to be a good enough person that people want to keep in touch with me, by & large. This prompted by a call from Kristin Abkemeier, whom I last saw back in the spring when she was having a tough time. She called today to let me know she's thriving now, in a job she really loves, which is great. And it was sweet of her to update me.
      2. That I know so many smart, talented, and creative people. It makes my life very rich in so many ways.
      3. That I have time right now to do things I really love—making books and writing.
      4. That I'm finally starting to unwind. It's only taken me, what? Almost a year? But I'm sleeping really well again, and enjoying it.
      5. That Carlos's book is starting to really come together. Pics tomorrow!

What I'm Grateful For (11/23)

Doll_3Hey! Look! It actually might make you happier to make a list of things you're grateful for. And somebody beat me to the idea of the Happiness Project, too. Great minds think alike.

So here's what I'm grateful for today, in more detail than the first post, because it does seem not enough to just make a list. Gratitude requires an explanation.

  1. Cooler weather (good for sleeping and hot flashes). I like bundling up because it makes me feel cozy, and I like sweaters and scarves and cold weather clothes.
  2. Telephones and my compulsion to answer them, which helps keep me from being a total hermit.
  3. My cousin Carole, who calls to make sure I'm still alive, now and then. I don't have a lot of family left and she's made more effort than anyone to keep in touch.
  4. Beautiful paper and the stores that carry it, which, for me, are like toy stores to a kid. They're a feast of color and texture.
  5. My steadily declining interest in consumerism. It's a relief not to want to own things the way I once did, to be able to just look at them in the store and think, "that's cute!" or "wow, that's really beautiful" and take the memory away with me without wanting the thing. It almost always looks better displayed in the store, anyway.

DIY Happiness

BluegirlofhappinessRob and I were yakking the other night on the phone about my upcoming visit. As is usual with our conversations these days, it came round to how utterly happy he is in Maine. Every time I talk to him, he says how much he loves it there: the people are cool, what art he can find (and he's got an uncanny nose for it) is cool; the food's great; even the weather is good by him. He loves his apartment; he'll be looking for a house, soon. He likes his colleagues a lot and adores his students. I haven't ever heard him this happy with where he is and what he's doing; I think the closest might have his job with the Archdiocese in Detroit, but even that wasn't what he really wanted to do, which was teach. Now, the concatenation of place and work is making him as bubbly as a freshly popped bottle of champagne.

And that makes me happy too. I remember being that happy about finally living in New York when I first moved here, once I got used to life in a really big city. There are still days  when I look around and think "Damn! I live in the GREATEST PLACE ON THE PLANET!" though after 21 years, I'm not nearly as enamored of it as I once was. Not that I hate it or anything, or even dislike it, but it's a bit too familiar now, too sanitized, and some of the edge I really loved is gone. I can, as I've said before, now imagine living elsewhere, as I once could not. When the time is right, I'll leave feeling like it was a great adventure that's come to an end, as all adventures do.

This is not to say that it's been easy. I've had some really hard years here, hard enough to change and shape me into someone I probably would not have been without them. Rob has too. We both picked up and went to live somewhere people thought we were crazy for going to and had experiences that our friends and family can only imagine. But even when conditions have been less than ideal, both of us have somehow managed to be happy. As Rob said, it's a choice to look at your circumstances and decide whether you'll be happy or not.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this, like clinical depression, and it's pretty damn hard to be happy in the middle of a war or disaster. But in the everyday circumstances of life, I think most of us can decide whether we're going to roll with the punches or look at every little thing that happens as a personal affront or an obstacle. I have a couple of friends who do this, and it's a little wearing after a while. I know that sometimes it's not the big things that crush you, it's the accumulation of little balls of crap. But there's a way to keep from being buried in them and that's to keep going forward and let them roll off you. You might be knee-deep in crap then, but from that position, it's possible to bag it and sell it. It won't smell any better, but at least you'll get something out of it.

The thing is, it never stops coming, so you might as well learn how to deal with it. I have two philosophers whose words I frequently repeat to myself: Masahide and Mick Jagger. From the former comes the haiku "Barn's burnt down/now I can see/the moon"; from the latter, "You can't always get what you want/ but if you try sometimes,/you just might find,/you get what you need."

The last four years have been full of big changes for me, and the next few years are looking fairly uncertain at this point. My conversation with Rob last night reminded me that being happy isn't a passive activity. It doesn't just happen to you. Like anything worth having, you have to work at it. In that spirit, I'm taking a leaf from Lea Goode-Harris and her Tales From the Labyrinth. Every night, Lea writes down five things she's thankful for: "Are you ready for a change?" she says. "If the answer is yes, try this and see what happens. Just five words each night before you go to sleep."

So I'm going to try it and post them here. I thought I'd call this the Happiness Project. Here's the first five:

  1. Music
  2. Tea
  3. Rob
  4. New York City
  5. my new work table

If anybody wants to join in, send me a link. If there's such a thing as a critical mass of happiness, maybe we can generate it.