Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happiness

It is a constant pursuit.

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.”

Oh.

Well, he was still very polite.

Happiness Magazine

______________

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
Quilt back
Close Up


I now have the Happiness Quilt I wanted. Next to acquire the Happiness itself.


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10 comments:

Pricilla said...

You know and I know you know life just sucks sometimes. You get handed a package you didn't want and you can't send it back. It's full of pain and aggravation and loss. And it will only get worse as time goes on.

You have two choices: wallow and suffer or chin up and carry on. Both suck.

So all you can do is find those moments that do make you happy no matter how small and fleeting and revel in them.

You know I understand...

Marie said...

You so get it.

Why on earth did you have to leave New Jersey?!?! How fun would it be to hang out over a cup of tea? xoxo

Muffie said...

Marie, I won't read the book, because I'm tired of hearing people who are so fortunate and in need of nothing go on about how they achieve happiness. (That also goes for people whose MS is benign, and they preach about the healing aspects of climbing mountains!) I'd rather read authors such as you, whose truthfulness provides me with more meaning. I recently listened to a lecture about the difference between being happy and being joyful. (I thought they were synonyms!) Seems as though the joy part comes in spiritual doses. Perhaps, I just wasn't in the proper mindset to listen.
Peace,
Muff

Dana said...

Looking at your quilt pics has made me happy. At least know you are spreading happiness.

Marie said...

Muffie - To be fair, she does have some good points. One thing I like is her list of Twelve Commandments, her principles for being happy, and they make total sense. Such as "Act the way I want to feel", "Lighten up" and "Let it go", which are all huge stumbling blocks for me.

A lot of it is pure behavior modification and I will be the first to admit I need to modify my behavior. lol

It definitely is hard, though, when you are bombarded with one thing after another and when just getting out of bed is a major undertaking. :(

Dana: Thanks for your sweet comment! If you are looking for gorgeous fabric, and a money pit, lol, check out www.shabbyfabrics.com.

cardiogirl said...

I LOVE quilting! I have to get back to it again (got three kids now so that activity has fallen to the wayside) and I love the idea of a Happiness Quilt.

We can all use a tangible reminder of happiness and I really like the idea of wrapping myself up (literally) in happiness. Great idea!

Patrick said...

What a great cashier story!!

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick

Jen said...

I love the story about your son and the magazine!

Your quilts are gorgeous, and both make me happy.

As for choosing happiness... we all get dealt a hand and some are worse than others, or at least it appears that way. You can choose to be happy, but sometimes it can be incredibly annoying to be chipper in the face of pain and fear. I prefer to make fun of my fears, sadness and pain and sometimes it helps to make fun of other people so I feel better at their expense. All behind their back of course.

Of course you know I am kidding but having a sense of humor (and you have a marvelous one) helps a lot. It's great to see the bright side of things, the silver lining and all that other bs but sometimes it really feels good to have a good cry, throw something and scream a little. In today's world we aren't allowed to be angry at our lot in life and I think that is mistake. Whenever I read about someone who was recently diagnosed with cancer and they say it is a blessing I just want to strangle them. That has to cause them more stress (pretending to be thankful for something so horrible) than the actual disease. You might learn something from a horrible disease but I bet anyone would prefer not to have it and not learn the lesson.

Katherine said...

Amazing post... put tears in my eyes. Right now I am NOT in a happy place... I might get that book. The quilt is LOVELY!

Marie said...

Wow, thanks for all the thoughtful comments everyone!

Cardiogirl - that 'wrapping' myself in happiness is exactly the concept. I do believe sometimes you have to talk yourself into something and having tangible props are helpful and comforting.

It is SO hard to sew (or do any other hobby for that matter) when the kids are little. If you can carve out any time for yourself, though, it is so worth it. For one thing, you deserve it. And you will be so much happier for it. :)

Patrick - Isn't that a funny story? Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your comment. It is always good to see you. :)

Jen - the primary way I irritate my mother is by acting cheerful all the time (even if I feel like crap). She is so doom-and-gloom it drives her mad. The madder she gets, the more I ramp it up, so eventually I am like Shirley Temple, practically singing and dancing. lol I am so mean and it is so much fun. Now THAT makes me happy!

Thanks for all your kind words.{{hugs}} I'm glad you like the quilts. :)

Our culture is ridiculous in the way it denies painful realities. People who extol the virtues of their diseases make me nuts. The MS Society is big for that, what I call the happy-humble-cripple routine. Deny, deny, deny true feelings of grief and loss. Ok, one shouldn't wallow as I do, but come on, a little authenticity won't kill you.


Katherine - thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment! I am truly sorry you are not in a good place right now. I am sending prayers and good thoughts your way. The book is definitely has some helpful ideas. I'm glad you like the quilt!