Monthly Archives: December 2010

My Year of Living Joyfully: 365 Days of Reflection on What it Means to “Get Happy”

Let’s face it: the world kinda sucks right now.

The economy, war, terrorism, the division within our own country, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. The general lack of stability about not knowing whether tomorrow is the day you or a loved one will be fired. Will China take all our jobs? Will there even be a world for our children to grow up in?

And then there’s the personal level of suckiness. For members of the Adoption/Loss/Infertility community, loss is an often ever fixed mark, and personally, it feels that I will never be able to minimize my own feeling of loss from my own two miscarriages. But even people who are “lucky” will eventually have loss happen to them, too. Eventually, our parents will die. Friends will be lost in terrible accidents, to disease, eventually to old age. I may succumb to an early grave, leaving my husband to marry some hot, mean woman who will send my children to ye olde thyme workhouse so she can have his Mr. Darcy-ness all to herself. (It’s a recurring nightmare. My husband is attractively haughty and rude, so my parents refer to him as Mr. Darcy.) Loss is, unfortunately, a part of the human condition.

I know that loved ones and friends are tired of me being down. They want me to “get happy!”  The common prescriptions for getting happy? Exercise! Change your diet! Relax! Organize! Stop stressing! Take a trip! Lose weight! Buy expensive shoes! Eat chocolate! Drink wine!

I have tried all of these things and none of them have worked, at least not on a long-term basis. In fact, I wonder if by building up these remedies in our brains as the solutions to unhappiness, we actually do more harm than good.

My dad once spoke to the author of the book “The City of Joy”, Dominique Lapierre. Lapierre told him a story (apologies if it is in the book, I read it a long time ago), that my father often retells to me. He interviewed a young girl whose family chore was to chase a train in Calcutta for pieces of coal, which her family would then use for cooking meager quantities of rice, which was their daily diet. You would think that this girl would not enjoy chasing the train, catching burning hot pieces of coal. But every day she would leave for her “job” with a smile. Why? Because often flowers grew on the train tracks and she would have the opportunity to pick them.

I may be accused at this point of being a spoiled Westerner, putting a smile on the face of horrible poverty and suffering, and I’m sorry if that’s what it seems. Maybe the girl in the story was internally miserable and sad. But there appears to be a nugget of truth in there about how we all could process the world.

I think a real way to “get happy” is to capture the little joys. (Which I plan to do weekly with Lori’s Perfect Moments, which is just a wonderful place.) But I’d also like to meditate each day on what joy and happiness is, over history, in different cultures. And not in a superficial woman’s magazine kind of way.

Ground Rules:

I will try not to discuss “shopping”, “dieting”, or “exercising”.  There will be no mention of “Eat, Pray, Love” or Oprah. Or shoes. Or boots. I’d also like to try to avoid being sappy if at all possible.

So (gulp!) every day in 2011 I will write about Joy. I think by writing about it, I can maybe feel it. And my greatest hope is maybe others may read this and also come away feeling some joy. And I hope maybe others will also share their own ideas of how to “get happy”.

Endnote: I know the song “Get Happy” refers to Judgement Day, which is not really very joyful, but I like the phrase 🙂

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Filed under Discovering joy, Fear, Infertility, Miscarriage, Perfect Moment

Perfect Moment: I AM a Very Stylish Girl

Hepburn-afternoon

Photo credit: Public domain, from Wikimedia Commons

So I wrote a blog post about wanting to capture joy when it occurs, somewhat like trapping a firefly in a glass jar. Because I am an over thinker, I decided to figure out what brought me joy in the past so I would be able to recognize it now. Because I fear I have become somewhat anhedonic. The obvious big joys (marriage, childbirth) are hard for my heart to remember. Hopefully, I may give birth again, and I hope to never marry again. But these events are like a lunar eclipse or Hailey’s Comet. Once in a lifetime.

So what is joy to me? I want to start small. Instead of making a three course Gordon Ramsey meal, I’ll begin by serving a shrimp cocktail. You see, I can be quite shallow sometimes. Is there anything more flashy, yet easy to prepare than shrimp cocktail? And so, if you’ll pardon the strained metaphor, my shrimp cocktail equivalent of joy is being glamorous. When I was in my early twenties, I lived my life as if I were in a Hollywood romantic drama. Audrey Hepburn was my style icon, and I wore cat eye sunglasses, black turtlenecks, trench coats and little black dresses. And I always wanted to attend glamourous soirees. I was like a grown-up Fancy Nancy.

One time I was invited to an actual soiree (who knows how). It was a gathering celebrating the fashion designer Anna Sui. Oh, the delirious imaginings: this would be the evening I met my George Clooney/was discovered for my unique sense of self/would be declared the toast of the town. It started out well: I provided a quote to the gossip columnist there (something inane about how wearing moisturizer under M.A.C. Foundation was key to dewy skin. Yikes.) Champagne was served, mingling was done. Anna Sui herself sat alone. I think everyone was afraid to actually speak to her. Now was my chance! I walked up to her and said hi. And then…you know that nightmare where your tongue is stuck to the top of your mouth and you can’t speak? That actually happened to me. A frozen silence, followed by me finally turning around to hide away from the shame. The shame of having nothing to say to Anna Sui!!

Anyway, that’s mortifying, but mostly what I remember about that night was the glamour. The clothes, the champagne, the design crowd, and the music! They played this song which I have long searched for it, but today I finally located it. It’s called “A Very Stylish Girl”, and it is an ode to Audrey Hepburn, appropriately enough. Wasn’t she gorge?!? Hearing this song brings me a sense of superficial coolness and glamour, which is a type of joy I suppose. In any case, this memory and listening to this song is my Perfect Moment.

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Filed under Discovering joy, Perfect Moment

ICLW and the Pursuit of Joy

Welcome to everyone from ICLW! I have really been enjoying reading all the blogs from the ALI community participating in this event. There are so many moving and inspiring stories and strong women. You are all so impressive to me.

This blog has been an outlet for the pain of my miscarriage in March, and writing it has been like draining pus from a wound. We’ve had some good news this week, and it has lightened my load a bit (no, not related to getting pregnant). But I also have made the realization that I’d prefer not to have to wait for good news to be happy. I’d like to find happiness in little things. I’m not sure what those little things are yet, but I want to learn to recognize them when I see them and grasp hold of them immediately.

And so, this holiday season, I wish you all joy. Both little joys and big joys.

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Filed under Infertility, Miscarriage

Hair Club for Women

That damn miscarriage. Not only was it physical and emotional napalm, it also compromised my favorite feature, my hair. While my hair wasn’t very thick, the texture, color and style (maintained through twice yearly visits to my hairdresser) was often noticed and complemented. Until the week after the miscarriage when I noticed 50 strands of hair in the brush after a routine blowdry.

The hair loss has continued to the point where I have visible bald spots on my scalp. My doctor claims it’s stress induced and my hair will return, but it’s been more than six months now. Great. It seems to be adding insult to injury that I have to lose my hair, too.

Has anyone had this problem and if so, what (if anything) helped bring back your hair?

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Filed under Infertility, Miscarriage

Fun Fun Fun!

Things have gotten entirely too serious around here, so I have chosen to lighten the mood a bit by writing about things that are fun.

Like, “Fun Fun Fun”, that Beach Boys classic. Growing up, my parents only offered me a few choices of music: classical, the Beatles or the Beach Boys. My dad grew up surfing in Southern California, and he always looked more youthful and carefree to me when he listened to the Beach Boys. So I requested the Beach Boys most frequently. “Fun Fun Fun” makes my think of him, tan and blonde, happily riding waves.

Also, the Nutcracker. My daughter is just starting to show that extreme fascination with ballet that I also possessed as a girl. Today we watched a Russian production of the iconic ballet on DVD and attempted pirouettes and high leaps. Ballet was the only “sport” I was ever really talented at and watching the beautiful dancers jump higher and higher (some of them had to be on wires) with my equally appreciative daughter was so joyful. I know it’s currently en vogue among the ballet elite to look down on The Nutcracker as common and overproduced in America. Eff that noise.

Finally, my beloved brother and his lovely wife are coming to stay with us for a week. My family all moved away and deserted me (as I like to tell them, dripping with guilt). I don’t see them enough and I can’t wait for them to arrive.

So, take that bad economy and scary job markets!

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