happiness


This time of year I like to look back at all the wonderful things that have happened and all the things I am thankful for.

I’ll start with my thankfulness for the hardships.

This year, I learned a lot about humanity and also myself. I learned that you can never wholly know another person, no matter how many years you’ve been friends or family. I learned that I will not give up my faith in humanity but at the same time, I will not be surprised nor angry when they disappoint or hurt the very people they profess to love.

I’ve learned that I need some silent alone time so that I can listen to my inner voice and keep an inner peace that passes all understanding.

And as a result of the spiritual awakening, I met the guy I am currently dating when dating was the furthest thing from my mind at the time.

It all started when in the Spring months I lost the Master Chorale of Washington chorale family. Without the choir in my life, I learned that music accounted for much of my happiness. The choir was closed down due to financial hardships. I went through a spiritual upheaval as I realized that singing in the choir had been the piece of my life that had made it possible to cope with everything else — a sort of music therapy for my soul.

Without the choir, I needed to take some time to be retrospective and for spiritual healing and so I went to a monastery for a work week to be silent, pray and only use my voice in singing chants with the Benedictine monks.

It was a life altering event. I plan to go back each year to the monastery for a week of spiritual re-centering.

Now to the people I am thankful for.

To all of my friends, those I see regularly, my coworkers and those I’ve known since way back in the day: thank you for being a part of my life and the making of who I am today.

To the week-night crew, you know who you are: thank you for being some of the best friends I’ve had in a long time. You are a no-bullshi*t, laugh often and love (agape and philos) much bunch of friends among whom I feel freely accepted and free to show my affection.

This year I started participating in a weekly, Sunday night strategic board game group composed of grade-school friends, church friends, random participants and my brother. It has been a great opportunity for some social time without the pressure to be social and perform – other than to kick butt at a game. It has also helped to strengthen my friendship with my brother.

That leads me to my family. It’s been a rough year in some ways but I think we’ve survived in the end mostly unscathed.  Thank you to God for helping us hold it together and heal and I pray that I am able to forgive even more as time passes.

Tomorrow, I and my wonderful boyfriend, Ernie, will spend half a day with my family and half a day with his. It will be the first time I’ve shared my Christmas day with a boyfriends’ family.  I am both pensive and excited about the idea.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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A lot has changed in me since I returned from the monastery.  Yet in some ways I’ve fallen back into old patterns only to realize this and struggle to figure out how to break free. The true test of my ability to find time for solitude will come in the next two months.

For as much as I was determined to keep from adding logs to the fire and leave more space for solitude and spiritual reflection/worship, it seems I had a lot of commitments for the month of September and October lined up before I went to Mepkin Abbey and other duties seem to have piled on since then. Most of my obligations are ones I gladly take on, I should note, and are for humanitarian causes that I am especially dedicated to working toward.

Yet today, looking forward at my calendar and at my to-do list, I find myself with a growing urge to gasp for air. My body feels wound up inside, my neck hurts again and my thoughts are in a jumble.

From the weekend of September 12 until October 18 I have one free weekend. And by free I mean I haven’t yet decided among three possible options:  1. visit my Grandma, uncle and friend in Northern California. 2. spend it locked up in my house with my dog and out in nature with my phone turned off.  3. wait until that weekend to decide what I need to do, because there’s bound to be some urgent thing.

If I am not careful, I will become so frenzied by my busy schedule that I will again accidentally block out my worship/spiritual growth time and solitude time, which can be one and the same.  If any of you pray and feel the urge to do so tonight,  I would welcome a sentence thrown in for my minor concern and a request that God will strengthen me.

Tonight I think I’m going to go home, take the dog for a long walk and pull out my bible and some other books and read in silence (no music, no computer, no movies). Maybe I’ll take a long bath.

I can feel my body thirsting for solitude and quiet it as if I’ve run a marathon and I see the bottle of water held out by a volunteer just a few feet ahead. Only in my case the bottle of water is time at home, and the few feet ahead is a metro and bus ride.  I just pray that my apartment is not full of noise from people that live nearby tonight.

“You see, it has never been very easy for me to live, though I am always very happy–maybe because I want so much to be happy. I like so much to live and I hate the idea of dying one day. And then I am awfully greedy. I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books and to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish. . . . You see, it is difficult to get all which I want.” – Simone de Beauvoir

This letter de Beauvoir wrote to a friend describes me pretty well except that unlike her, I want to make a difference in this world yet to be indulgent.  I want to be in the muck of politics without loosing my journalistic ability to set my opinions aside.

I am a firm Christian yet I find truth and beauty in the writings and thoughts of agnostics, atheists and many other great authors (Walt Whitman, for example).

I want to have many friends yet I crave bonds with those who are brave enough to hug and love, those who value loyalty and who share their souls and struggles so that I may be brave enough to be honest about mine. I am boisterous in public yet I rarely let someone into my head.

I fear loosing control yet I crave finding someone brave enough to just go for it in the matters of romance and the heart–factors be damned.

What about you? What things about you are in conflict and could be “greedy” in the way described by de Beauvoir?

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he told the child. “It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, hatefulness and lies. The other wolf is joy, peace, love, hope, humbleness, kindness, friendship, generosity, faith and truth.”

“This same fight is going on inside of you, and inside every other person, too,” said the chief.

The boy thought about it for a minute. Then he asked. “Which wolf will win?”

“The one you feed,” answered the Cherokee.

 

Today I feed the wolf of happiness by listing some things I am grateful for.

I am grateful for…

 

  • How wonderful it feels to take a hot bath/shower after a night of dancing or a day cleaning the house.
  • For having a bus stop a couple houses away
  • For working only blocks from museums where I can go to sit on a bench and become rejuvinated by my favorite works of art during lunch breaks or after work. It sure saves me a lot of money trying to save up to buy such kinds of things.
  • For having a talented friend who helps me get my “art buying” fix by letting me commission a piece of original art at a price within my budget. I value her work above that of any museum collection because it is mine, because I can enjoy it daily and because her creations make me smile and relax and because the pieces remind me of her.
  • For getting to lie on the floor in a music practice room Friday night and listen to my friends play paino and french horn duets. For the way the music enveloped me in a rich and soft cloud of sound.
  • For being able to relive my childhood through my goddaughter. Who else can I get to color in a coloring book with me, or play Mr. Potato head, or pretend to do my hair?
  • For Amber making me feel sooo very loved by always wanting to sit on my lap, show me her new outfit and for the times she runs up for a hug while hollering my name in glee. yay.
  • For 4th year birthdays, ice cream cookie sundaes and birthday crowns.
  • And last but not least, I am grateful for having a most excellent life. My heart overflows with hapiness and joy.

Hapiness does not create a greateful heart, a greatful heart creates hapiness.

What are you grateful for?