happiness, journals, projects, et al. ~

happiness, journals, projects, et al. ~

I made a commitment more than a year ago — 89 weeks, but who’s counting? — to keep a daily journal. Morning pages, as Julia Cameron calls them in several of her books, most recently It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again. Verrry quickly they became daily pages, and then more like weekly pages. Nothing like a move halfway across the country to upend your routines!

But I’ve kept up, in a too-desultory-but-still-trying way, the habit. Because it’s good for me. Not only as a writer (obviously), but as a person trying to make sense of an increasingly complicated world. This next year, however, I’m trading in my. beautiful pink leather-bound journal for a hardbound best-seller: 52 Lists for Happiness. There are several listing journals out, but this one drew my attention: who doesn’t want to be happier??

I know happiness requires practice. One of the perks of aging, and being a  Buddhist is that you realise you can create happiness. A big part of it, research shows, is gratitude. Acknowledging the happiness we already have. As someone who spent a LOT of her life where water didn’t run hot (or sometimes at all!), where there wasn’t reliable heat or air, where mod cons, as the British call modern conveniences, were often completely missing, I never forget how nice it to have hot water, dishwashers, dryers.I’m grateful for holidays w/ family, for farmer’s markets, for cats & tea & chocolate & fresh flowers, too.  I’m also enormously grateful for my 2nd generation: my 2 wonderful sons, my amazing daughter-in-law, my nieces & nephews. And of course what would my life be w/out the grandsons we moved to be closer to?? AND my funny, loving, slightly crazy, & enormously loving sisters! Not to mention my far better half — my best beloved.

So this seems a logical extension of writing I already do in small gratitude journals I’ve been filling for a few years now. This new year, however, I thought I’d use my found spare time (nothing like having almost no local friends to free up hours!!) to reflect in a structured fashion. Hence the happiness journal. Good way to augment Buddhist practice, too, right? Live in the now of my happiness?

There are other new projects I’ll be starting, sharing here as the year unfolds. Most of them involve a kind of journaling, coincidentally (or not, for a writer!). There’s some research to enable me to do a lengthy poetry project, some spiritual meditation focused on visual cues, some gardening. I’m teaching a class, and figuring out another one for next fall. Each will require exploring, brainstormiong, something I do best while writing. To paraphrase Forster, how do I know what I think until I see what I write?

What new projects are you planning for the new year?  Nothing as elaborate as ‘resolutions’; just what you hope to explore! Want to share…?

‘beginnings are such tenuous things…’

‘beginnings are such tenuous things…’

It’s an act of extreme hubris to begin a blog — it says that the writer believes that what s/he think, feels, does in a perhaps unexceptional life is worth noting. And of course it is, to those who love us.

But I’ve felt for some time that there isn’t enough of this kind of attention — attention to the lives of others, from the perspective of at least a distant family member. We don’t really care what people think, it seems like lately. We just want them to know how we feel.

This blog is partly about that — how I feel. But it’s also, hopefully, a place where others can share what they think and feel. And do so with the idea that we often love people whom we have nothing in common with. A dear friend is married to the nicest man — he’s a wonderful father, a walking ad for perfect son, a rare friend and he loves her deeply. Politically and in terms of his religious views? We have very little in common. And I suspect if we met today — without her love for both of us as a bridge — we wouldn’t bother to get to know each other.

via wikimedia

via wikimedia

We need more bridges. We need them built over a river of tea — like a table set spanning a thin ribbon of water, where we can talk and share great food and learn more about each other.

I told another friend yesterday that we need a year free from politics and religion to get to know each other:

I think if we could just get to know each other — the way we grew up w/ our families — we could talk out our problems, I said.

A whole year? he replied.

Don’t you think it would take that long? For us to get beyond I’m a liberal/ I’m a conservative. I’m a Southern Baptist/ I’m a Unitarian…?

He didn’t think we could make it. But each of us breathes the air all of us — forever, since there has been air to breathe — has breathed. We are connected by the filling & emptying of our lungs’ alveoli, by each almost sacred breath. We are far more the same than different. Aren’t we?cropped-2010-10-20-tea-2.jpg

So I still have hopes. This blog is about those hopes. I’m going to bring tea talk, pictures of great food (virtual tea tables :), poetry, thoughts on how we can practice more kindness & compassion towards each other, and whatever else we might visit about as we get to know more about each other.

I hope you’ll join me.