Outrageous Happiness

Outrageous Happiness #1: The Kick-Off

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Everybody’s doing it. Consciously or not ~ we’re all trying to be happy. 

Joy. Delight. Contentment. Love, peace and harmony. It’s a basic urge, in varying degrees of intensity depending on our genetic makeup, manifesting in different ways, but it’s there. Elusive. Sneaky. Not completely reliable.

So, this is a test. I’m calling it the “Outrageous Happiness Experiment”.

It started after a friend gave me a book. (Ah, the power of the written word in action, yet again!) It’s the true and rather amazing account of the extraordinary life of Tracy Evans*, a physician’s assistant who decides to follow God wherever He leads. Tracy calls it “radical faith”.

Towards the end of this adventurous read, feeling both uplifted and somewhat inadequate, I had an inspiration; something I could apply to my own life: why not radical happiness? Kind of like positive thinking on steroids. Because at the root of positive thought lies a certain amount of faith, and trust, and hope. And if you know anything about me by now (whether you know me personally, or have read my posts for a while), it’s that I’m a staunch optimist and a huge, huge, believer in the power of thought to shape both ourselves and our world.

Being a staunch optimist doesn’t necessarily mean wearing rose-colored glasses – I readily admit to the stray string of curses when a driver cuts someone off, or the random rage about the digitally over-stimulated age we live in. I also confess that after watching half an hour of the news, the cynic in me comes roaring to the surface, feeling helplessly disturbed by the nature of the human beast ~ or more to the point, the ones that make headlines. Just the mention of it, my blood can start to boil – with nowhere to flow to.

So I go back, as I always must do, to what I can do in my world, and what each of us can do for our little corners of the planet, period. If everyone paid attention to honoring positive values by living them, what a better place the world would be. (Reminiscent of my 52 Weeks of Peace message.) In the face of the madness of the world at large, throwing bucketloads of good stuff at it seems the only sane route ~ not to mention, a pretty potent force.

So that’s where I go. I bring out the pen, the paper, or play a tune on the piano to bring the boiling blood back to normal temps. Tend some flowers. Slow down. Do something nice for a stranger. Practice what I preach. Watch my thoughts. Bend my mind to the sun, open my heart to light and more light.

And yet, even with the best of intentions, challenges to our happiness quotient, our “positive thinking” efforts and our spiritual well-being, can pop up like militant weeds after a spring rain, threatening to overrun our mind’s well-tended garden. The usual culprits like setbacks with money and health can hit you right between the eyes without an ounce of compassion. Just making air-travel plans these days can launch an onset of anxiety. And yep, other people, even (or especially) those we love, can take our mood on a quick virtual trip to an emotional amusement park ride.

No one said life would be easy.

It’s also curious, this life business. Just when you think you’ve got more character than you thought possible, along comes more character-building opportunity! …. And so it goes, and keeps on going, and we keep living and learning and growing and changing until our proverbial time is up.

And since I figure I have a long time before my number is called, I want to live it well! I also figure a lot of that is up to me. It suppose it could be in the stars. It might already be planned out, pre-destined. Heck, it could be luck of the draw. But on the chance I have some say in all this, I might as well take the reins in whatever way I feel I can.

So who’s in? For a year, I’m gonna give it my best shot, and invite you to do the same. I’m going to give my positive thinking practice a hefty dose of adrenalin, each and every morning. Supplements throughout the day as needed. The key here is going overboard. Crazy optimism. Being outrageously positive.

An aside: Just this morning I was put to the test. You know, kinda like when your happy place plummets from a 9 to a 2 in under a minute. I thought, oh the hell with it. Who am I kidding with this “Outrageous Happiness” idea. Isn’t it enough just managing daily life sometimes? How will I sustain a radical level of positivity?

Then I thought, well this is just perfect, isn’t it? Any time is perfect. And at any time we might trip up. It’s (of course) what we do with that stumble. The point isn’t to walk around with a smile plastered to your face or pretend bad things don’t happen, or that as a human being, you don’t have ups and downs and a whole array of complex emotions at any given time. The point is to observe, and find a point of light to move forward from.

Personally, this has been a very weird year so far. Lots of transition, some dramatic shifting going on. The best way I can sum it up is to say that at some points I feel absolutely certain I’m supposed to toss up my hands and say, “Okay Universe, have at it. Whatever it is you have planned for me here, I’ll try to get out of the way so you can do your wonderful thing.”

Can’t say I know how it’ll play out, but approaching it with a ridiculously happy intention seems like a good idea. It’ll be interesting to look back a year from now, and see where the experiment has led ~ or if it’s really not in my hands at all.

The world is a mess. What better time to shake things up with some unexpected happy? If you want to try an “outrageous happiness” commitment in your life, too, I’d love to have you join me. Let’s get this party started! How amazing can we be?!

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Stay tuned. Positive, possibly outrageous, updates to follow.

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Outrageous Happiness #2: Super Powers

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As if on cue, life decided to throw some curve balls ~ or, because it’s not uncommon for life to do that, maybe I’m just aware of them in a slightly different way. That doesn’t make them any more fun, but now that I’m consciously armed with an unrelenting turn-lemons-into-lemonade approach, I’m thinking I might be handling them with less angst. And less angst = more happy.

And yet, when staring down a sidetrack that clearly did not feed my happiness quotient, I almost went off course. I felt somehow responsible, put myself down, and got a little stuck there. But I rallied. It was yet another lesson learned (gotta love those lessons…) In fact, just this morning, I felt my super powers kicking in. (You have them too. It’s where you’re strongest, and truest. You’re lifted up.)

Here’s the thing though, before they kicked in, I sat down and had a serious conversation with the Universe. And I made sure to not just talk, but listen.

You might talk to God, you might talk to Divine Intelligence, or to your Higher Self, your Spirit Guides, your Mother or Father, sister or brother, a trusted friend. Guidance is available in many forms, and none of us, no matter how wise or experienced or content, is outside the realm of needing some now and then. In the process it’s key that you listen; you have to hear not only what you’re saying and thinking, but what you’re hearing in reply. Then listen to your heart and find what’s true.

And then, don your cape.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #3: O-Bla-Di, O-Bla-Da

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It’s been days. I can’t get this song out of my head. Granted, I haven’t given it a big shove, but thought that by now it’d at least be quieter. But no. Not so. So I’m going with it.

The point could be, after all, that if you want some fun, say o bla di bla da. The point is that life goes on. The point is that when things feel too heavy, you just might need to lighten up. Maybe even veer towards the silly. Maybe, just maybe, head towards outrageous happiness. And there you have it.

But there could even be a little more to it.

I went for a bike ride this morning. It’s been a few years, I will admit – the reason being that each year I found that my tires were flat, and with the best of intentions I’d get the bike a tune-up, but then I’d opt for a swim or a run or a game of tennis. I don’t know why; I used to bike all day long when I was a kid. And sure, I’m not a kid anymore, but the truth is I probably wasn’t as interested as I once was. But this year, I was determined.

You see, I’d fractured my spine last November (right, not fun) and it took several months before I even felt ready to get back to my lap swims. Now that it’s summer, I want to run. I see others running and I think, “I’ll go for a run, too!” But something tells me that would be a huge mistake… same for tennis. So (mini lightbulb moment) I brought out the bike, got a tune-up and rode it. And I’ll ride again. You can’t keep a good girl down, or something like that.

So I’m pedaling along, enjoying the sun, the summer breeze, feeling the burn (having not ridden in a while!), when all of a sudden, I’m aware of the song playing merrily in my head – yet again.  “Happy ever after in the market place, Desmond lets the children lend a hand…” Seriously? You’re still here?

But I thought, you know, this is good. It’s reminding me that you do what you can. I can’t run but I can bike. I can do that swervy thing with the handle bars and wheels, and I can coast down a hill, and go off road. I could even sing at the top of my lungs if I wanted to, all at the same time….la la how the life goes on.

Outrageous? Not quite. But sometimes we all need a little ob-la-di ob-la-da. Some simple. Some silly. A little bit of hey I can do this, so I will! That’s all I’m saying. And I hope you enjoy some for yourself, because, well … la la how the life goes on. ♫♪♩

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #4: Being Fabulous

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No, really. Isn’t it great?

While there’s the guy who thinks he’s in a bat mobile, weaving at top speed in and out of cars on the highway, or the smart-alec kid on roller blades who knocks you off your feet, or the dog that pees on the rug ~ isn’t it good to remember how fabulous you are?

Your friends are busy, it’s rained for ten days, the afghan you made is lopsided, your kids think you’re a moron, the clerk at the grocery store is rude. That person who thinks everyone wants to hear the music in their car from 5 blocks away? That neighbor who practices dixieland songs on a trumpet at 10PM? Loud and clear, roger that.

Your car won’t start. Your phone battery dies. Politicians sap your faith in humankind. Your head hurts. You’re out of milk. Your toast burned. Your clients are late to pay. Ketchup spills on your white shirt. You get all the red lights. Your flight is cancelled. You had a shitty day.

But YOU are fabulous!

To quote the marvelous Dr. Seuss: “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”

Go with it. Embrace your inner fabulousness. Somebody ought to, after all.

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my favorite keychain

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #5: Not Getting it Done

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For argument’s sake, let’s just agree that multi-tasking is overrated. Oh sure, it’s one thing to fold laundry while talking on the phone, but it’s another to reply to emails while talking on the phone. (And, by the way, I’ll know if you’re doing the latter, so don’t even try it!) It’s one thing to sing while driving; another to text. It’s great to “kill two birds with one stone”, but you won’t get any birds if you’re over there juggling nineteen plates. You get my point. It’s about focus.

And sometimes that means something doesn’t get done. (GASP!) Or it doesn’t get done at the prescribed time. Or it gets done, but falls short of the mark (commonly referred to in some circles as doing a half – a_ _ed job).

Like right now. I’m up to my eyeballs in stuff that needs to get done. Being a “doer” my tendency is to do whatever it takes to keep my commitment to x, y and z. Often to my own detriment – lack of sleep, feelings of frustration, anger, “what was I thinking?” syndrome. Definitely not the peace of mind one might expect from accomplishment.

But what if…. what if, I only got to x and y. What if I only got to x? I’ll tell you what won’t happen – the world won’t fall apart at the seams as a result of my failing to meet all three.

So, being the rather smart girl that I am, I’m getting ahead of the game and deciding that it’s okay. What gets done will get done, what doesn’t, won’t, and so be it. As long as I’m not hurting anyone or causing hardship, I think it’s safe to say that my own welfare counts in all this. Sanity is good.

Really showing off my smarts, (hold on to your hats), I know that to make this work I need to prioritize. This way, if y and z fall by the wayside this week, I won’t beat myself up. Which I rather like.

So here’s to not getting it done. What an outrageously liberating thought.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #6: Get Soaked

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Get wet. And I don’t mean dip your toe in a puddle, I mean jump in the puddle.

Dance, yes, dance in the rain. Float down a river. Wallow in a stream. Sail on a lake and slide yourself overboard. Get yourself to the sea ~ smell the sea, watch the sea, dip into the sea and drench yourself in its salty passion. Sponge in those marvelously charged ions! Be a mermaid (or merman). Swim. Swim. Swim. (If you don’t know how, learn. This is not up for discussion.) Do handstands in the pool; do cannonballs off the side.

When was the last time you ran through a water sprinkler? Go on ~ do it ~ get soaked!

Water is essential to life. It sustains us. It also softens hard edges and dislodges stuck bits. It cleanses. It reminds us to flow and move and refresh and renew. It allows us to wash away troubles we really don’t need and bathe in rejuvenation.

So don’t just sit there, plunge in and splash around. Let it baptize you, stir you, bless you! Submerge, immerse, get yourself a good sopping wet, head to toe.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #7: If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out

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Raise your hand if you have enough time.   …. Anyone? Well, I can probably think of a few people with way too much time on their hands, but I’m certainly not one of them and I don’t personally know anyone who would honestly raise their hand.

So if we’re all pressed for time, squeezed, squished and otherwise finding ourselves on the short end of the time stick by the end of the day, how the heck do we make more time? How do we fit in those things we want to do around all the things we have to do or feel compelled or honor-bound to do?

Until we have (or make) that honest-to-goodness good-sized chunk of time, the answer lies in moments. And a bit of compromise. And a willingness to surrender.

Like tonight. Busy moving from one thing onto the next, I passed by my piano. My poor, beautiful, neglected piano. This time, instead of more longing and neglect, I decided to sit down and play. Just a few melodies, even just a few notes if that’s what it took ~ but I would run my fingers across the keys and fall in, devoted only to the music for that moment in time. Pure presence.

I might have played longer, but ~ there wasn’t time ~ so I made the proverbial “most of it”. In those 5 minutes I found new songs and songs found me and by the end there was a smile on my face and calm in my bones. Maybe only temporary, just a quick spiritual snack; but hours later I still feel the lift.

It was all in the surrender. A nice shot of happy with lingering ramifications.

And that’s what makes stealing moments worthwhile. Sometimes we just need to grab ’em. Because if we don’t do things that feed our spirit, we’ll be quite the opposite of outrageously happy. So take 5, surrender and sing out!

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Take 5 to:

Play an instrument

Sing

Meditate / Yoga

Listen to the birds

Have some ice cream :  )

Dance

Ride a bike

Take a walk

Laugh out loud

Write something sloppy in your journal

Have an appreciation rampage

Drop off cookies to a friend

I’m sure you can think of something!

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #8: Angelic Intervention?

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Here’s a little tale. So. I was running late. It was my birthday weekend ~ I’d recently dropped my daughter at college, so it was the first in 18 years without her by my side ( 😦 ) ~ and I wanted to take full advantage of plans to spend a relaxing weekend with two dear friends. But, there I was, crunched for time, exceedingly ornery and frustrated that I couldn’t seem to pull it together.

Then, of course, like penance for being late, as I finally get on the road I realize the car needs gas.

I pull up to the gas pump. A young station attendant comes to the window. “How are you today?” he asks. “Okay, I guess. But I’m late.” My tone is less charming. “Can you fill with regular, please?”

And then, without skipping a beat, he turns my day completely around.

“You’re not late”, he says (me looking at him incredulously, because I am, indeed, nearly two hours behind schedule). He’s got a big, genuine smile. The contagious kind. “Nope, you’re not late. You’re the life of the party! Nothing’s gonna happen til you get there. So you see you’re really not late, you’re right on time.”

Maybe it’s his tone. Maybe the gentle conviction. His reminder that there’s always peace in the middle of the storm. Whatever it is, he’s got me. The shift is immediate. I feel myself smiling. I think: what a fabulous attitude.

As he hands me my receipt I tell him: “You know, you really, truly made my day. I feel so much better – thank you!” “That’s my job”, he says. “To leave you with a full tank of gas, clean windows and a smile on your face.” (wow! how often do you hear that?)

Mission accomplished, young man. Well done!

So outrageously well done, in fact, with such dramatic effect, that halfway down the road with my new-found smile, full tank and clean windows, I wonder if, just maybe, he’d been an angel in disguise. For reasons I may never know ~ he really did work a little magic.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #9: Behaving Badly

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I had a pretty happy childhood. Excluding my brothers’ taunts, of course, about my report cards and the shape of my feet. Although, these latter attacks were counteracted: “Indian feet” my Uncle Paul told me, with arches so high and feet slightly pigeon-toed, he said it made me walk soundlessly and properly, the way an Indian would. Being the eternal optimist I chose to believe my Uncle’s version.

(But I jest, brothers… for the record, you’ve been just right.)

In any event, back to the childhood. I have many fond memories, but one that randomly popped out today is laughing in church with my Aunt Gina. (no relation to Uncle Paul, in case you were wondering.) What made this such a wonderful experience is that a.) my Aunt was one of the sweetest people ever to walk this earth, with never an unkind word and always erring to the polite and “right” thing to do and b.) this was not the “right” thing to do.

I have no recollection as to what set us off, except that I’m positive it was a particularly somber, serious moment, which made it all so wrong when I felt my shoulders bob with stifled giggles, only to glance over at my Aunt who was clearly tight-lipped trying to contain her own, and then she looked at me looking at her and it took every, I mean, every, ounce of restraint from each of us not to snort and cackle for the whole crowd to hear. Which, naturally, made our giggles exponentially worse. (No doubt many of you have had a similar experience.) I was sure the bench was shaking. Oh the dread! An out and out laughing fit right then and there. In church. Completely inappropriate. Devilishly fun. I can still laugh thinking of it. Shared joy in our behaving badly.

What this is all leading me to, though, is not memory lane as much as the idea of breaking rules. The whole “life is short” scenario. Making sure to have some fun along the way, which sometimes involves rule-bending. (of course, never, ever, involving harm to others.)

Maybe it’s a food fight. Maybe it’s the hot fudge sundaes my daughter and I sometimes have for breakfast on Sunday (makes sense to me!). Maybe it’s taking a sick day to go fishing or rock climbing or to sit and read a book on the beach. It’s the spontaneous trip to Arizona that lasts two seasons. It’s jumping in the pool with your clothes on. Off the high dive. Taking a left turn instead of a right. Owning a convertible at least once in your life. Staying up late, getting up early, sleeping in the afternoon. Eating the damn cupcake just because you want to. Being the first one on the dance floor. Laughing in church with someone you love.

Be just a little outrageous. Break a rule or two while you’re here; for happiness’ sake.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #10: Traffic Magic

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Sitting out in the sunshine this past weekend, with a book, a cup of tea, taking in the joy of late-September’s gloriousness, looking up at the first real sparks of color in the changing leaves against a clear cobalt sky, I think to myself: I sure am glad I’m not sitting in traffic right now. Why traffic would pop into my mind at a moment like this, I cannot say. Of course, yes, I also think how beautiful it all is. I’m glad I’m here. Not in traffic. And I’m reminded of the time…

My daughter and I were driving back from a wedding. Cruising the 8 hour stretch from Ohio across the Pennsylvania heartland. We may have been singing “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” to pass the time. 

We were super tired. Anxious to be off the road, home and near our pillows, when an hour and a half before “home” we come to a grinding halt. Cars lined up for miles. You know the drill. No where to go, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, you’re just there. I begin to fume. Steam shoots from my ears. Shrill words come from my mouth. Hand bangs against the steering wheel.  My daughter chimes in. We sit. And we sit. The car doesn’t move more than a foot at a time. We’re miserable humans stuck at the tail-end of the Pennsylvania Turnpike with a bunch of other miserable humans. 

It was then that a touch of insanity arrived. I snapped. “You know what, sweetie? This is great. No, I mean this is SO great. This is so great I can hardly believe it! This is exactly where we’re supposed to be, and sitting here, trapped on this highway, is absolutely WONDERFUL! This is FANTASTIC!”

Utterance from the back seat: “Mom, are you okay?”

“YESSSS!”, I shout with delight. “I’m GREAT!”

“Mom?”

“No, really. This is perfect. Don’t you see? This is the best place we could possibly be right now. Sitting here. In our car. Miles from home in a super-sized traffic jam. It’s perfect! I’m so happy we’re here. Aren’t you? I mean, who knows why, but this is where we’re meant to be, so why not embrace that? It’s crazy but it’s true! I’m loving it. Loving the traffic. Loving the road! Loving the other cars with all the other miserable humans inside feeling their miserable thoughts! If only they knew. This is so awesome, hun!”

“O-kaaaay…?”

“Really. It’s more than okay. And pretty soon, the traffic is gonna move and we’re gonna move and then we’ll be on our way and before you know it, we’ll be home near our pillows. We’re gonna travel safely and smoothly. Everyone here’s gonna travel smoothly and safely! The traffic’s gonna move, just you watch. It’ll move exactly at the right time. I can feel it. I just know it. It’s all so right. This is GREAT!!! Smoothly and safely. It’s all gonna move. It’s all good. It’s just as it’s mean to be. And pretty soon….”

And don’t you know, the traffic started to move. Smoothly and safely.

Coincidence, sure …. but it had me convinced that magic had indeed transpired. Nor would it be the first nor the last time that “traffic magic” cast a good spell.

Ah well. Wizardry or not, it was still pretty fine to be enjoying the cloudless sky and shimmering color and warmth of the sun on my skin, instead of aimlessly burning fossil fuel on a highway somewhere.  And all these little joys shone through… The last ripe pepper on the vine, the fully-pumped tires on my bike, butterflies dining on zinnia’s. A cup of tea, a good book. And right then, that was exactly where I was meant to be.

Isn’t it the truth; sometimes the simplest things are the most outrageously uplifting.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #11: The Goofy Quotient

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I was recently marveling at the architecture in an old city in northern New York. “Oooooh! Look at that one! Just look, oh, the detail! And that one, oh my goodness, it looks like something from Harry Potter. And that one. And over there, that’s a beauty! And just imagine, people built these! Who were they? What were their lives like? How long did it take? Did they take pride in their work? They must have. And who designed them? Aren’t they amazing?”

With a knowing smile in her voice, my daughter says,”Mom, you’re such a nerd.”

“Yes, I am,” I reply.  “And I embrace that!”

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So, yep, I enjoy old architecture. But in truth, I’m mostly a word nerd. Granted, I suppose it’s not so “inner” since it doesn’t take long before people know this about me. Like how much I like Scrabble. Or how almost any word game will do ~ on a board, on paper, in the car, at the table. “Twenty Questions” anyone? Maybe a good round of the Geography game to pass the time on a long drive?

Yes, I love words. How they sound, how they form sentences, the infinite varieties of written expression. Some people like old comic books, or maybe they’re all about shoes. Maybe they’re into astronomy or Egyptian hieroglyphics. Maybe football and nachos. I like words and tea. (And hot fudge sauce.)  A bit geeky, but being cool is not the goal, being happy is. (And, true, a nice pair of boots doesn’t hurt…)

Goofy is also good. Not all the time – but the well-placed goofy quotient can really turn things around; in fact, my first love may have stolen my heart that way. He was a pretty big deal, handsome, smart, athletic. And on one of our first few tennis-playing dates, I wore these silly flag socks. Not sure why; it could have been that’s all that was clean, but more likely because they were fun, and somewhat out of character. In any event, my boyfriend seemed to mock me. I acted like it didn’t matter, but it felt hurtful, like an “oh brother, what a weirdo” sort of vibe. So the next time we played tennis, I was sure to wear the plain variety  ~ and he showed up in the same flag socks as mine, grinning from ear to ear. Strangely unromantic as it sounds, I do believe that was that was the tipping point for me.

The moral of the story being that your inner nerd likes to be heard. It wants to play. And I for one think it’s a necessary ingredient to personal happiness, worthy of indulgence now and then!

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #12: Love What You Do

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Do what you love. Every day.

Sure, we’re all up to our eyeballs in to-do’s. I know I am. But try. Whether it’s half an hour or two full hours, give it your best shot each day, wherever you are, to do something that you love.

If you really truly can not do that something each and every day, make it once a week. But that’s as much rope as I’ll give you. It’s critical for a healthy spirit, and a healthy spirit is critical for a healthy everything else.

It doesn’t have to be “the big thing”. You don’t have to compose the next Big Symphony or write the Great American Novel or paint the masterpiece that’ll get you a show at the MOMA. It doesn’t have to be the discovery of little orange beings on Mars. But while waiting for that bigger chunk of time, or the financial backing, or this or that issue to resolve, you can be taking steps in the directions that feed your spirit. Even teeny ones. Bits and pieces. Forward momentum.

Whatever it is that your mind, body and spirit say a big unified “yes!” to, whatever makes hours pass like minutes, whatever makes your heart sing ~ do something about it. Do what you love and love what you do. Give it a nod. Bring it into the light. Make yourself happy. And guess what? Happiness is a little bit contagious, so if you’re happy, there’s that much more happiness in the world to ignite a potential blaze of happiness worldwide. An avalanche of joy. A cosmic reaction. Into the universe. And beyond!

Alright, got a tad carried away. But still. Do. What. You. Love.

(I mean look at these guys. Loving what they do. That’s what I’m talking’ about. More like these at distractify.)

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Hunter S. Thompson, writing at Big Sur, California

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Jim Henson and crew working on Sesame Street

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Nat King Cole and his piano

Monty Python crew partaking in tomfoolery

Monty Python crew partaking in tomfoolery

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Johnny Cash performing at Folsom Prison

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #13: Bless Everything!

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That’s right. Bless everything. Every beautiful, craggy, uplifting, hurtful, thoughtful, ugly, sweet or sour thing. All of it.

What I’m saying is, don’t bless just the warm, fuzzy stuff and the openly good-hearted souls. Don’t reserve blessings only for the downtrodden. Shower them with blessings, yes! ~ but also send blessings to the grouchy, the crotchety, the rude, the ignorant. Don’t hold back.

Send a silent blessing to everyone you meet and every experience you encounter. Bless your broken down car. Bless your burnt toast. Bless your ex. Bless the ornery waitress, the loud neighbor, the nasty driver. Bless the hole in your socks. Bless the rainy day. Bless the mess. Bless each one.

Sure, sure, you may need to let off steam, (putting it mildly?) but don’t stoke the flames of anger with more anger. Remove yourself, become the observer and fuel the situation with blessings. Pour ’em on. Like a heavy rain. Like a rushing stream to thirsty horses. Like syrup on your pancakes or milk on your cereal. Shoot those invisible waves of light right out like arrows from a tight bow. Like a lighthouse beacon. Like pie in your face. Hammer to a nail. Straight on.

Just bless it.

You’ll feel better, and you never know…. they might too. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. It’s potent stuff.

“A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal and strengthen.” – John O’Donohue

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #14: Declare it

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It’s a new day. Heck, it’s a brand new year. And I challenge you. I challenge you for the next 5 days to declare each day a good day. First thing upon waking, place the thought before you: “Today’s a good day.” (…“by golly” is optional) No ifs ands or buts, just “this is a good day”. Conviction helps, but even if you’re not feeling it, just say it like you might actually mean it. This is your job for the next 5 mornings. That’s it. Pretty simple.

If you want to be a little more outrageous and bold, you can add a few bonus plusses. This takes a little more practice, but it also reaps more rewards.

It’s a good day. It’s a great day! This is one of the best days of my life. The sun is up. Even if I can’t see the sun, I know it’s there, and that’s kinda cool, knowing that that big ball of fire warms our planet every day. And that the moon lights the night and makes waves in the great oceans, and that grass grows every spring, and birds sing and fly. Birds fly over rainbows, did you know? Rainbows are great, aren’t they? Just think of all the beautiful things in this world. Colors and sounds and textures. Art and music and dance. Mountains and trees, lakes and rivers and little trickling streams, all teaming with life! And I’m part of all that. This day, today, I’m part of all that is good. The sky, the earth, the heavens and all its stars, and all the kind and loving souls that share this time and space. There are smart people, helpful people, sincere and positive people all around. I’m smart, helpful, sincere and positive, too ~ and this is a good day! Today, I’m seeing all that is good. I’m attracting all that is good. I am part of all that is good. Angels watch over me and guide my way. Today is a good day.

But if that’s over the top for you, just do the simple version. See how it affects your day. See how it affects your week. See how it changes your attitude. We are what we think. Attitude really does matter.

We may not have control of events and circumstances, but we do have a say in how and what we choose to think. Thoughts are powerful. Consciously or unconsciously, thoughts precede our words and our actions. They define our reality. And over time, they become habitual, for better or worse. The good news is, they’re not fixed ~ we can change out thought patterns, and change the day. And the next, and the next.

Who’s up for the challenge? Ready, set …….. go. Just do it! Declare it so.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #15: Just Because

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Sweeten up! Nothing elevates your day like doing a kindness for someone else. It just feels good to let that person go in front of you at the grocery checkout. It just feels good to pay the toll for the car behind you. It plain and simply feels good to open doors, hold an umbrella, bake a cake, put a surprise gift on someone’s door, tell someone how much they mean to you, tell someone they look nice, they did a great job, they matter.

Doesn’t have to a Big Deal. Doesn’t have to drain your bank account. Doesn’t have to take much time. A little generosity of the heart is sometimes all it takes. (If you can do more, bless you!)  Just be kind. Do a kindness. Unexpected. No hidden agendas. Not for gain. Not for praise. Not for anything but kindness itself. Because “just because” is a terrific two-way happiness breeder.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #16: Purple Doors and Other Beautiful Things

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As the snow rages on here in the northeast, winter stubbornly insisting on showing its power over mortal beings, my discontent (affectionately called cabin fever) is assuaged by firewood and chocolate and beautiful things.

Because beauty, even in the middle of winter, is always within arms reach. The snowfall itself is a thing of beauty; but even then, yes, one gets restless for gardens and seagulls and afternoons on the porch. So I find bits of joy and comfort in things out of reach ~ things I can imagine, or dream of, or plan for. And somehow, just knowing that the purple doors below exist somewhere makes me happy.

Right, right, things, in and of themselves, do not “make us happy”. And what an empty existence it would be if we prized things over love, laughter and companionship. But our hearts can make us happy, and things can touch our hearts. Beautiful things.

Like a gorgeously purple garden gate, detailed by someone’s skilled hand. Like a well-made chest of drawers, or a child’s painting. An exquisite vase, a red cardinal on a branch, the smell of muffins in the oven, a tulip field, a perfectly comfortable chair with a lovely covering. All things of beauty in their way – expressions of love, a medium for experiencing this life with all the senses; to touch and see and hear and feel the endless multitudes of tastes and textures we have the opportunity to know.

What is life if not for diving in to sample its delicious variety. And what magnitude abounds! Even if we can’t see, hear or touch every bit, we can appreciate God’s – the Universe’s – the Great Creator’s – handiwork at every single turn. And the fruits of our own labors, too – the music, the art, the dance, the carefully crafted violin, the windmill, the garden gate.

We can appreciate the lush carpet beneath our feet, whether made of wool or sand or heather.

And when we do that, when we step out of our daily this-or-that, when we unclench our engagement with what’s wrong or what doesn’t feel good or what hurts or what’s bothersome, we elevate our experience. And what can be faulty with that?

We’re only here for an instant. We can believe it’s to struggle and fight, or we can believe it’s to learn and uplift. We can admire and expand, or we can shut down. We can stay small or we can let our spirits breathe large. We can be held captive by the world’s ills, or we can spread more light.

Beauty, and beautiful things, are a physical gift for our human experience. Seek beauty. Surround yourself. And let purple doors and other beautiful things do what they’re meant to do; nurture and inspire.

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purple door

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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PS: I haven’t been able to find the original source for these 2 photos. They are not my own, and I would love to give proper credit if anyone knows.

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Outrageous Happiness #17: Seizing Moments

When something happy/pleasant/cheerful crosses your path, embrace it. Seize that moment! Enjoy it. Savor it. Let it seep in so you really feel it – no ifs, ands or buts! No “if only (fill in the blank) wasn’t going on so I could really enjoy that.” No “and now something’s bound to ruin this.” No “but I can’t stop to appreciate that, I’m too busy.” None of that. No, no, no.

We’re talking simple things (or big things ~ hey, no discrimination here on size of joy!). Maybe it’s noticing a tree with particularly pretty blossoms. Maybe it’s the sunlight through a red leaf. Maybe it’s a compliment received, or a perfectly cooked plate of fresh vegetables. A goldfinch on your bird-feeder. A favorite song on the radio.

Or maybe it’s a picture, like this one of my daughter, which made me smile on a whole bunch of levels and reminded me how much I love paint and the creative spirit and happy, unpredictable messes. I could have given it a quick “oh, I adore this!” and gone back to my at-the-time incredibly heavy workload, but I chose to take it in, let the happy feeling fill my space for a little longer.

And that ~ moments grabbed, even briefly ~ can make a real difference in the bigger picture. They add up. They might even become habit-forming.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #18: Do Stuff

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Accept invitations. Go places. Be spontaneous. Break routine, crack your shell, burst your seams a bit! Say “yes” to adventure. Do stuff you haven’t done before.

For someone whose nose is usually found inches from the grindstone, I do love a good adventure. I’ve been known to “up and go places” (mostly pre-motherhood, I will admit, but that will change…) – occasionally up-and-staying longer than expected. Two weeks in the Greek Islands turned into four. A week in Sedona turned into nearly 6 months. Africa called, I answered; hippos and lions growling in the night, guards with spears outside my door (trusting they knew how to use them), hot-air ballooning over the Maasai Mara, dining on a long red cloth sprawled out on the plains.

Granted, there are some adventures I’ll never take. Climbing Mt. Everest? I’ll gladly leave that to those who like to dangle from high ledges and don’t mind cold-to-the-bone. And while a stone’s throw away, I’ve managed to skip New Year’s Eve in Times Square. (Something about crowds and – yes – cold, again.)

But an outdoor summer concert in the rain, complete with impromptu slip’n slide tarps? Sure! A whirlwind trip to southern California to be part of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday bash? Absolutely! A chance to meet friends I’ve never met? Big yes.

Memories made. Bonds of friendship strengthened. Things to gripe about (after all they’re part of the experience too, like air travel… ) but mostly, Things to rejoice (did I mention the Dalai Lama? 🙂 ). Sharing time with wonderful people; excellent. Making a scene of hugs and laughter and non-stop talking in Santa Monica with friends-I’d-not-yet-met but feel I’ve known for lifetimes; priceless. Gratitude. Gratitude. For the opportunities, the generosity and kindnesses, the fun, the enrichment.

I could have easily not gone. I have too much work; too little time. I have too much responsibility and not enough money. I’m tired. What if this, what if that. But sometimes you really just need to say “yes”. Because what if it’s wonderful?

Caveat: Saying yes to adventure doesn’t have to be Africa or half a year on an unplanned artistic sabbatical, or a good seat for the Dalai Lama. Truth be told, there have been times when a trip to the grocery store felt like an adventure. Reading a fabulous book can be a marvelously grand adventure. Calling someone you haven’t seen in ages; an impromptu outing to a local watering hole; a bike ride with no plan; walking the unbeaten path through the woods; choosing the road less traveled; wearing the purple hat; taking those singing lessons, volunteering at an old folk’s home, reaching out about something you’ve thought of doing but never knew how to start. No matter how large or small, it’s taking steps into the unknown, uncharted, unpredictable.

Adventure is a thing of spirit that beckons us to leap and stretch our wings. It can fill our hearts with gladness, our stomachs with butterflies, our eyes with wonder – or simply shift the mood of a day, a week, a year. It’s an unleashing. A chance to breathe new life into our veins. A chance to feel outrageously happy.

In our busy, overly compressed lives, adventure is throwing caution to the wind for a little while. But even just a little while can be like ripples in a pond, the effects reaching farther and deeper than we imagined. Planned or unplanned, we grow. We won’t be the same. And that’s called living.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #19: Friendship, Magic and Clark Kent

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Whether it makes me lucky or unlucky, strange or strangely interesting, I’m one of those people who can go for days at a time without interacting a whole lot with other people. (Okay, even I think it’s kinda strange sometimes.) Maybe as an artist it simply comes with the territory; where swaths of solitude are a necessity. Who knows. But for whatever reason, I ended up a decent dose of the “I’m okay being by myself” gene. I’m a quality over quantity kind of person, and fairly choosy about how and with whom I spend time. Admittedly, there are times when I wish I were a more social animal; but at some point you just accept how you’re wired.

That all said, people matter. There are people I absolutely treasure. People I’ve known for eons, people I’ve known for just a few years, even some special people I’ve just met. There’s something remarkable that happens when the connectivity ions are in sync. They’re all a little bit different, of course, with varying depths and points of connection, but they matter, tremendously. And because they matter, they deserve nurturing.

We ‘ve all probably experienced friendships where we may not see or speak to one another for years, yet when we finally do, the years dissolve and the connection is as real and true as ever. And those are pretty darn great. But it’s not enough to count on that. For one thing, pardon the morbid truth, they may not be there any more. For another, different people love us and teach us and learn from us and help us grow in all sorts of ways. Their value is often immeasurable. (And vice versa.) But most of the time none of these happen of their own accord. You have to cultivate them, feed them, water them. Pay attention. Be present. Write the note. Make the call.

And sometimes, when you nurture, when you do your part, you even find magic. And magical = happiness. Magical lights you up. The air feels electric, your energy is high, the weights of the world are somehow lifted for a time.

I was blessed to experience this twice in the last month. Once with a beautiful family who came to visit from Austin, Texas. It involved a serendipitous introduction by a mutual friend, a little girl who loves fairies, and a very real feeling of being surrounded by angels. Another was just the other day, with a few friends whose paths didn’t cross until years after having been, unknowingly, in the same place. It was like we’d known each other forever. (And there I am, looking a little like Lois Lane with Clark Kent. How fun is that?)

Both instances were joyful, and pure, and magical. Both also came about because along the way, other friendships were nurtured. And both gave me a sense of deep happiness, because it feels pretty wonderful to know those connections exist in this life.

And they exist because we take the time to give them some of our heart.

People matter. (Even for those who might prefer a night in with their paints and pencils to a night out.) And a lot of the time, they’re even responsible for some pretty outrageous happiness.

Nurture, my friends, nurture. Nurture the people who matter to you.

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #20: Happiness vs. Bill-Paying

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This morning I came across a wonderfully written, though somewhat sarcastic (if not scathing), article about the apparently very American pursuit of “being happy”. Of course I felt immediately stung, almost guilt-ridden for not only participating in that pursuit but dedicating a whole section on my blog to “Outrageous Happiness”. Indeed, in my sensitivity, I felt the finger pointing. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the piece, filled as it was with sharp wit.

It was written by a Brit, who proudly claims to possess a certain genetic cynicism – which, whether by nature or my own DNA steeped in British realms, I really do “get”. Even as a born optimist, my inner cynic is very much alive at times – except I like to think of it as healthy skepticism rather than gloom (which seems an appropriate opposite of happiness), and it definitely doesn’t include a distaste for happiness, nor for anyone’s interest in attaining that lovely state of being. Because it is lovely.

Have you ever met someone who exudes a kind of contented joy just for being alive? That person who knows how to not take things too seriously, who, without effort, seems to embody an easy, uplifting attitude? In truth, I think these individuals are quite rare, but what a gift they are. They don’t intrude or demand, they just, very simply, brighten life. Whether a stranger or someone you know, that they exist at all is an inspiring thing.

The Dalai Lama is, to me, one of those people. And his mantra – that we’re here to experience joy – is a pretty exciting concept. Impossible and possible. Makes perfect sense and makes no sense. But it feels really, really good to consider, and terribly worthwhile to at least try to infuse joy into our own lives.

And yes, it must be said that there are times when happiness has nothing to do with anything. Your car breaks down, you can get mad all you want but in the end you get under the hood and fix it. Or a baby’s diaper needs changing. Or a light bulb. It’s not whether you’re happy or unhappy about it, it’s just something to be done. There are also people for whom the whole idea of happiness feels completely out reach, and many of us have experienced periods or events in our lives when a heartfelt “look at the bright side!” just. does. not. work (and may raise your shackles quite a bit more than your spirits). Even for those who have been blessed with a happy disposition, it’s not a 24/7 deal. It just isn’t.

Point being – for the record – that no one should feel in any way at fault, less than, or stressed out if they aren’t feeling the glow of positive vibes all day every day. In fact that would be pretty strange, especially when you consider how volatile life can be – from a pot boiling over in your kitchen to, please, any number of things out there in the big wide uncontrollable world. Our equilibrium can shift in an instant through no fault of our own.

And all that said, I can see where the author of the article concluded that our pursuit of happiness was creating more anxiety. But it doesn’t have to. It’s a matter of perspective.

“Happiness” is not, and never should be, a test you pass or fail. It’s something that’s very hard to measure – some days we fly, some days we fall, some days we want to stay in pjs all day, other days we want to conquer a mountain. Sometimes life is just hard. But I hope we never give up, because it sure beats the whole “pay bills and die” outlook, and for that alone, happiness is absolutely worth pursuing.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #21: Kaleidoscopes, Crayons and Rainbows

The world is mad, life is hard. Color is fun.

And right now, nature’s on full, gorgeous, dynamic display. Bursts of color sing all around, challenging our impulse to be dreary in the face of all that madness and hardness. So – notice. Drink it up. Revel in it. Let your mind splash around in it, your spirit bathe in it. Walk in it. Wear it. Paint it. Have fun with it.

True enough, rainbows don’t last and kaleidoscopes change. Crayons wear down, paints run out. Bright orange leaves turn brown and crumbly. A sky that’s blue can quickly turn gray. But there’s the beauty – everything recycles, refreshes and reboots. It always does. And we can, too.

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“If you’re feeling blue try painting yourself a different color.”
– Hannah Cheatem, age 8

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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