what I’m learning about happiness from gardening ~

what I’m learning about happiness from gardening ~

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m working on being happier this year. Not that I wasn’t pretty happy last year. I just want it to be more…conscious this year, I guess. More intentional, since last year’s was in large part the result of non-repeatable actions. Moving 1/2 way across the country, downsizing to a new house… That accounts for a great deal of my excitement last year!

This year, however, we’re living here already. And have more or less ‘settled’ in. We’re (literally!) putting down roots: planting trees & shrubs & flowers and garden beds and swing sets. Well, if digging holes and filling them w/wet cement to ‘plant’ swing set legs counts…

It seems like I’m grownup enough (finally!) to work towards happiness, if necessary. And it appears that’s actually not a bad plan. Last week’s prompt asked me to consider what I do well. And how much of that comes naturally, compared to what I’ve worked to grow better at. And it turns out? There is very little I think I’m ‘naturally’ good at.

This week’s prompt asks me to list ‘what things do you do that take you out of your head?’ Good question! And many of them are the exact things I listed the week before, that required me to study them, practice 🙂them, learn them.

I wonder how many of us still believe the happily-ever-after stories of our childhood. That we would somehow just ‘become’ happy…? That it would descend upon us like a warm sunbeam, and wrap us in light.

Instead, it’s beginning to look as if happiness is more like the garden bed I put in last fall: I had to dig out the execrable red clay (down 10+ inches!), mix peat moss & manure & dirt together, and then put it back in the bed. My beloved had to put in edging to hold the newly raised bed surface in (N.B.: other folks aren’t responsible for our happiness, but they can help!). I had to plant seeds I bought into tiny peat pots, and put them under the lights on the light table, and water them until they were ready to transplant outside. And then I had to mulch the little plants, watering when it was dry weather. But by October? The bed was so lush & lovely no one could believe it! See above. And that was in autumn, when gardens are supposed to be winding down!

Another metaphor (you knooow how I love metaphors): aging is like autumn — full of brilliant light, even when the leaves are falling and the air is chilling. Even on the days when arthritis is a royal pain, and other attendant challenges rear unreasonable heads, I’m grateful to be here.

That too is a part of the whole happiness thing, I’m learning. Gratitude.  Another thing I’ve been practicing, writing regularly in my gratitude journal. With entries that range fom the chickadee on the feeder outside, to my elder grandson telling me you’re the best, GiGi! 

So here’s my prescription for you and your future happiness: practice it. Treat it like a skill that you can learn. Because it is, I promise. And the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it. Honest.

Small things, big differences ~

Small things, big differences ~

Sometimes very small things that other people do ~ a 2-3 minute Google search, that turns up an important fact (at least to you, or, in this case, me) ~ have BIG impact. And yes, I’m thinking of something specific.

I have a background in science as well as writing. In 10th grade, I actually wanted to be a geneticist (seriously), and did my term paper on the science of organ transplants, still very new then. My hypothesis was that if we transplanted ovaries, women would be having the biological child of the transplant-er’s genes.

My teacher told me it was an unseemly topic for a young girl. UGH.

Later, I would weld a seam between my love of biological science & my love of writing, working as my daily newspaper’s medical & science journalist. One of my all-time fave jobs.

These days, I read science-based non-fiction for fun. Every year, my husband used to buy me the Best of Science & Nature Writing anthology for Christmas. Lately, I can’t wait that long, & check it out of the library when it’s released!

So trust me when I say I thought my knowledge of basic genetics was pretty accurate.

Offhandedly, I told my elder son – father of my two adored & adorable grandsons – that I had made my peace w/ the fact that my genes weren’t going forward in his wo boys. My X chromosome is not represented in them; they have their mother’s. And I thought that was fine.

But my sensitive elder son somehow caught on to my hidden sadness, and looked up gender & chromosomal inheritance. Mom, he messaged me, only one of your 26 chromosomes is gendered. You live on in the boys. 

I burst into tears when I read that.

It couldn’t have taken him more than minutes. But I doubt I ever forget that my perfect grandsons really are mine as well as their father’s, mother’s, maternal grandparents, paternal grandfather… The long line of my own beloved family line is there in 25 of their chromosomes. And I’m the richer for having that knowledge, as well as a son who took the time to find it out & let me know. Oh! And his sense that it was important, even when I didn’t know myself.

Not a big thing in the schema of his day. But huge in mine. It really is the small things that make big differences. 💖

grandsons, & the big rocks ~

grandsons, & the big rocks ~

“I might be too smart for GG. Because I know all her secrets. They are all she loves me. “

Welcome to the world of the besotted grandparent. This is a quote from my 4-year-old grandson that my wonderful son passed on to me today. I can think of nothing I’ve enjoyed more than this child, my first grandchild. Firstborn of my own firstborn son, he dominates my life, in the best of all possible ways. His ‘little brother’ is gaining on him, but right now? At 2 months old, Little Brother is definitely at a loss for words. 😉

Today I sent off a CV for an adjuncting position at the local university. I miss teaching, and we certainly could use the $$ — as we juggle 2 mortgage payments! But as much as I have always adored teaching, I am ambivalent beyond expectation about anything that impinges (however minimally) on time w/ this rapidly growing boychild.

Right now, my beloved & I pick him up 3 days a week from preschool. We usually have him at least one evening a week, when we ply him w/Happy Meals or pizza, his two great loves. I researched healthy popsicles on the Internet, and the freezer is full of crushed blueberry & fresh orange juice homemade popsicles. My beloved spent the last 2 months putting together a park-quality swing set, complete w/ captain’s wheel & propeller swing. I bought 3 Curious George anthologies to have here at our place to read to him. And bubble liquid is a staple these days.

Did I mention besotted?

Aging has the advantage of knowing (if you pay attention, and how can you not?) that time is short. Only a very little bit ago it was my own two sons asking about lizards Will they like me? Will they get lost in the garden? Can we look for one? And measuring love w/two out-stretched arms Do you love me this much?

I’m sure you’re familiar w/ the story of the rocks, pebbles, & sand in a jar. If you put the sand in first, there’s not room for many rocks. Same if you start w/ the pebbles. But if you put your priorities first — the big things in your life, two rapidly growing grandsons, for instance — you really can have it all. Or at least verrry close to all. Even when you know just how lightening quick time runs away.

And Trin — my grandson — was absolutely right: he knows my secrets. And right now? They are, indeed, that I love him. Besottedly.

Grandsons, & Upādāna ~

Grandsons, & Upādāna ~

My grandson is teaching me non-attachment. At three, he has weathered the ‘terrible twos’ w/aplomb: there were almost no tantrums, and ‘NO’ wasn’t his favourite word. Nor was it ours, really.

But like his father before him, he has slammed into three w/a vengeance. Not only is he in the midst of ‘terrible threes’: he also is deep into attachment to consistency. In this case, having his parents at his immediate beck & call, & doing things a certain way. Which means a lot of I don’t want YOU when I try to help him do pretty much anything. On a family vacation, where I had hoped to be useful, this is at best highly inconvenient. The other night, the child who begged for me to put him to sleep a year ago, howled like a wolf cub when I tried to read him a bed story. I want my mommy! I want my daddy! I DON’T WANT YOU! 

Sigh.

Alexander Milov

Alexander Milov

It’s hard not to take that personally, I confess. But I’m breathing through it, trying to remember who’s the adult here. This sculpture by Alexander Milov is a perfect metaphor for the child Trin is, and the inner fragile child we each hold within the cages of our visible selves. Trin is deeply attached — Upādāna, the Buddhist word is: ‘attachment, clinging, grasping.’ Me too, Trin. But inside your howling wolf cub, and my howling grandmother wolf, are these two children who only want to be heard. Acknowledged. Loved.

An important detail: non-attachment is not unattachment. Unattachment has the idea of breaking attachment, which implies a negative. That’s not the case with non-attachment, which says — you can love deeply & profoundly. Just don’t cling & grasp. That’s not really (grown-up) love.

Trin’s too young to get this, of course! But I’m not. He’s teaching me how to do this, as I try to breathe through the whole I don’t want you!! The Buddha reminded us that we are all Buddhas — linked by our Buddha nature — and that we should bring this to mind when we greet each other. In other words? It’s not about hurt feelings (or won’t be eventually…). It’s all about learning. My own 3-year-old Buddha is teaching me.