When my oldest son was young, he worked in our local grocery store. The town we lived in had a high population of seniors and most of them preferred to shop at this old-fashioned little corner store, as they didn’t have to drive and the level of service was high.
One day I was in there to get milk. It was the peak of the lunch rush and both registers were going a mile a minute. The lines, full of little old men and women, stretched to the back of the store. My son didn’t know I was there and I watched him deal with one elderly person after another, unfailingly polite and helpful. I was glowing with pride. Because each of these people was making some demand in a quivery little voice. Double bag my groceries. Oh, don’t squash my strawberries! Put this on my tab. I thought this soup was on sale. Is this bread fresh? And finally, do you have any happiness today?
Uh oh. Dementia.
I watched my son look under the counter and reply, “No, it looks like we’re all out.” “Wow”, I thought, “he really goes above and beyond!” “Hey Heather” he called to the other cashier, “Do you have any happiness over there?” Heather looked. “No, I’m all out.” “Try again tomorrow”, Ryan said to the little old lady. She thanked him and went on her shaky little way. “Holy cow!” I thought. “Mr. Brown has them so well trained that they will go to any length to humor these poor old people.”
When I got up to the counter I had tears in my eyes. “Ryan, I am so proud of you that you were so nice to that poor demented old lady looking for ‘happiness’, that you humored her so nicely, even looking for ‘happiness’ under the counter.”
He paused for a minute and then rolled his eyes. “Happiness is a magazine, Mom.”
Well, he was still very polite.
I have had a dearth of happiness in my life in the past few years, stressed out as I have been by one disaster after another. Even though my life has crashed and is burning, I know that true happiness is a state of mind and a choice. So I have been working on being consciously happy, without being simple minded about it.
I got a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I have to say, the author makes some very good points about choosing happiness and deliberately living in a way that limits negativity. She has some very good ideas. But I can only read it in small increments because there is a persistent tone of ‘I am so wonderful and let me tell you how wonderful I am’ that gets on my nerves after about 15 minutes. Although I will fully acknowledge, that could just be me and I am Happiness Teflon. I also could just be jealous of the fact that she is young, successful, lives in a fabulous Manhattan apartment with a fabulous husband, fabulous children, with fabulous in-laws around the corner and, apparently, is fabulously happy.
One of the things I decided to do early in reading the book was to make a “Happiness Quilt” for myself. I got a pattern for a small lap quilt that just called for six quarter yards cut creatively. Yellow is my favorite color. So I went to fabric store and grabbed a combination of pre-cut yellow and blue quarters. Now, because I have a limited time that I can be on my feet, I didn’t have as much time to peruse the fabric selection as I would have wanted. So I ended up settling before I keeled over.
The quilt came out nice and it made me somewhat Happy, but not Happy enough.
|Happiness Quilt I|
I found what I wanted on line. Gorgeous, flower splashed cotton in all shades of yellows. I bought a few extra quarter yards to make the quilt a little bigger. And I picked a great cabbage rose fabric for the backing. For someone like me, who craves symmetry and order in my sewing, this cacophony was a leap. But I was sooo happy with the results after I pieced the top together. My sewing machine cannot handle quilting, it doesn’t have the capacity. So instead of hand tying it, I decided to hand quilt it and then wrap the binding fabric around and hand sew that as well.
It took me longer, but it was worth it. The quilt has a myriad of flaws, it is really really hard to squeeze the right amount of cuts from a reluctant quarter yard. But I love it for its imperfections too. It is big enough to cuddle under to read or nap or just contemplate the process of Happiness.
|Happiness Quilt II|
I now have the Happiness Quilt I wanted. Next to acquire the Happiness itself.
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