Tag Archives: happiness

nostalgia


nostalgia n. a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

I think that I have Nostalgic Personality Disorder. I have a profoundly difficult time living in the moment. In fact, most of the time I rarely enjoy the present. Take for instance all of my past homes. When I was living in Providence, Rhode Island, all I wanted to do was move somewhere else. These days I would give anything to spend a few months back in my old home. Same thing with Brooklyn. I had just about had enough of pretending to be cool in the “other borough” when I was pregnant, and so we moved to Maplewood, New Jersey. Now I simply hate my new home and long to wander the littered, Brownstone streets of my former abode.

My nostalgia isn’t even accurate. I think about past periods of time quite a bit and my memory embellishes them, making them sweeter than they actually were. I know I didn’t love high school and those were some tough years, but I often find myself longing to go back for a few days. I’d like to think it may be because I have changed, or evolved, so very much since then that I would like to go back and remind myself who I was at that point. I’d like to get some of my old, good habits back…talk to myself and get some advice from the person who I used to be. I think it would be good to go back so I could prove to myself that my memories aren’t honest and that things have gotten exponentially better in my life since then…that I have accomplished things and grown. My former self could sit me down and say “Listen asshole! You’ve done so much since now. Why would you want to return like some psychotic ‘Back to the Future’ wannabe?”

I recently read an article in Psychology Today about nostalgic personalities. I am surprised I was even able to get past the first few lines as it began with a reference to Proust and his “buttery madeleines.” Suffering through Swann’s Way was not my finest hour in college. It was a very painful read…but I digress. Here is a link to the article if you are interested…and this quote which made me take particular note:

“For some people, reminiscing about good times can trigger painful emotions. Recalling a career triumph can make you feel like a has-been, and thinking back to cozy weekends with grandma might be a poignant reminder that she’s gone.

But it needn’t be that way. “It’s what you focus on,” says Lyubomirsky. “Do you focus on how positive it was then, or that it’s over now?” People who see each good experience as permanently enriching are more likely to get a mood boost. But a person who mainly focuses on the contrast between past and present damns every good experience with the attitude that nothing in the future can ever live up to it.”

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200605/nostalgia-sweet-remembrance

And just like that EUREKA. I do this everyday, thus damning my present state of being. Now the advice that this article doled out was to make a “Greatest Hits” of your past list…but I think the more useful thing for me would be to make a Greatest Hits of TODAY list – since that is what I tend to take for granted the most. Perhaps I can trick my nostalgic mind or at least shorten the time period for which I long. Today’s list would look like this so far:

  1. Drank 3 cups of wonderful coffee.
  2. Rocky Raccoon by the Beatles randomly came on my iPod while driving.
  3. Graham looked particularly dashing in his new cable – knit old man/baby cardigan.
  4. I’ve managed to get off my ass and write something this morning.

…and so on. So perhaps tomorrow I will be nostalgic for today – but since it was only yesterday all of those greatest hits will be easily achievable again thus tricking myself into loving my present state.

OR – I could make the Ungreatest Hits of my past so I remember the truth about the things which I remember as so awesome. This might also be a fantastic, yet painful exercise. If I choose to write this particular list I won’t make it a list at all. I will write in the style of Marcel Proust – agonizing over every second in detail so that I will never forget the tragedy and can convert my false nostalgia into the truth about my past. Instead of an agonizing 20 pages of rolling over in bed or the taste of little French crumbly cookies, I can describe the time I went on a job interview in Coventry, Rhode Island which turned out to be a clandestine door to door salesman job. After I told my pimply faced escort I wasn’t interested and that I had been lied to, he left me in the middle of the 30 degree New England woods – no car, no phone, no cash – and I walked around crying and knocking on doors until a lovely family took pity on me and drove me back to my Geo Tracker – whose lights had been left on and whose battery was dead.

Sure – I laugh now and there are some bright spots to this story – but in reminding myself of this tarnished moment of my past I can see clearly how much better things are here in my sleepy, privileged suburban mommy life.

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voulu


voulu adj. lacking in spontaneity; contrived

How many words do you know that end in a “u” like this one? I don’t think I know any others, hence the reason I chose it.   Voodoo ends in an “o” but that doesn’t count. It’s the “u” that makes this word special. For some reason this word makes me think of the Lululemon shopping bags they give out – because spending 80 dollars on something you are going to sweat in should come with a little free inspiration. So in the spirit of spontaneity, I am going to ponder some of these sayings from my shopping bag as an exercise for today’s post. Now some of these quotes are well known and wise, while others sound like they came out of the mouth of some type A, female, yoga freak psycho…so I’ll include both varieties.

Do one thing a day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Okay. I think have this covered. I wake up and deal with a screaming child that’s usually covered in urine and jumping on a crib mattress. I also face several different kinds of poop – baby, dog and if I’m not careful, some other kinds when we go to the mountain for a walk or run. Poop is very scary. I don’t know if Eleanor got the verb in her quote right though. Am I supposed to drive the wrong way down the highway or drink bleach? I suppose in the Lululemon yogaverse I’m supposed to do a head stand in class and be in the moment while fearing that my $80 tank top will flap down and expose my flabulous belly…

“Salt + High Fructose Corn Syrup + Butter = Early Death”

What if I dip a carrot in it?

“Friends are more important than money.”

Does this hold true if you go shopping with friends? I would think that the two would cancel each other out. What if you wanted to buy a special present for your friend and you have no money? What if the friend is dying and it’s the very last thing you can do for that person before they expire? What if you and your friends have no money and you can’t buy food? No, wait. What if you and your friend have no money and you need to eat but the only way to get money is to not be friends anymore? What’s more important then? Gotcha Lululemon.

“This is not your practice life. This is your actual life.”

Shit. I thought we were just practicing and I’m already sucking at this. Well, I’m going to stay in bed and eat donuts all day since I’ve already screwed this up.

“Visualize your eventual demise. It can have an amazing effect on how you live in this moment.”

So this morning while munching on half of a banana I visualized my death. Hm. Now let me go do something that scares me. Hand me the bleach and a donut because this ain’t practice. Tootles! I’m going to drive the wrong way down the highway now!

“The world moves at such a rapid rate that waiting to implement changes will leave you two steps behind. DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW!”

This is the last quote because the bag is yelling at me now. Unfortunately, I know people who live like this – many of them. I had never really met anyone who was like this until I moved to NYC and worked on 5th Avenue. They are the perfect young ladies in the Chanel boots with perfect teeth and pencil skirts. They carry their lunch in little Lululemon bags and talk about their Wall Street boyfriends and where they ate dinner last night. They can take you down with one swipe of their perfectly manicured paws in a meeting and then pop 3 Aderalls in the ladies room 30 minutes later. They are on top of their game all of the time – except they are ALL THE SAME. Like little fembots from an Austin Powers movie waiting to shoot you with their boob guns.

The thing is, if you are constantly forcing yourself to change, eventually, you will not be the same person. Change is good on a small scale. No one is perfect and I think trying to be a better person or eat less fat is a fine thing to strive for. It’s a matter of what you are changing and for whom. So DO IT NOW is a dangerous thing. If anything, Lululemon should be a little ashamed of this quote on their bag. Yoga is about being in the present, meditation and self acceptance – at least when you are doing it right. This element is important even in Bikram, which is pretty intense.

So here is a quote that would be more fitting to be on a yoga bag:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

The world would be a better place if we spent less time on changing ourselves and more time trying to change the world around us through our deeds and actions. This is the change we should DO NOW.

Namaste:)

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eudaemonism


eudaemonism n. a system of ethics that bases moral value on the likelihood of actions producing happiness.

I have always fought a losing battle with the concept of “happiness.” I’d like to think that someday I will find the true, innate meaning of the word, but I doubt it. I read a fair amount and know that few people really find the core, “holy grail-like” meaning of happiness. That is why this word truly intrigued me. To have a system of ethics that bases moral value on the likelihood that it will produce this enigma we call “happiness” is absurd – like the infinity symbol…some never-ending loop. Happiness doesn’t seem to have just one definition. It means so many different things to so many people. To a starving child in the Sahara, happiness is endless clean, cool water and food as compared to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness where happiness might be a night without pain or 10 extra days of their life to be lived with their family. Donald Trump deems happiness a much different thing than I do…or does he? It would seem that as life gets increasingly happy, the bar rises – like an addiction, a drug that makes us believe that we deserve much more than we actually do – but is that the case? Is happiness much more simple than one would think? Maybe Donald Trump find his true happiness in a box of Malomars while I dream of a yacht sailing on the mediterranean.

And then there is that lucky place in life where happiness becomes monotony. Where we reach a certain level of what we call “happiness” and expect that it will exponentially grow from that point. Somehow we begin to think that the world owes us the next level because we have earned a certain amount of points or reached a certain threshold, like a game. That is where things most often fall apart. This is the juncture of where happiness meets its counterpart – not sadness – but gratitude. Every truly happy person in life at some point must come to terms with gratitude. At the height of our life’s bell curve where we have reached the highest arch of happiness and when the line gradually descends, gratitude begins – where some turning point make us turn away from the easy happiness we have and make us grateful for ever having experienced it at all. This is the point where people find their greatness, their groove, their reason to live. I fear that there are few of us who get to this point. I believe the majority of people either find stasis and accept their level of happiness or – worse – constantly strive to a higher, unattainable level – possibly leading to greed and arrogance.

To follow the curve downward is much harder. Seemingly it leads to things like gratitude, humility and humbleness. I believe only the great can follow this path – Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa. It’s a completely selfless place – perhaps a power greater than ourselves – where we surrender things over and are happy just to experience life.

Or maybe, happiness is inconceivably simple…like a surprise party or unexpected treat. No bell curves or expectations…just a feeling of joy that seems so rare in life because it is meant to be truly enjoyed and not dismissed like every other minute we live – like that little kid feeling you got running down the stairs to see what was under the tree at Christmas. It didn’t last long…probably only as long as it took to rip that first piece of paper off the first package…just a few seconds. That fleeting, giddy sense of exuberance that makes your heart race and your face beam without trying…like the day your child was born…or the day you fell in love. That intangible feeling of being fully and totally appreciative of life and what is happening in the present – and not thinking about the future or past.

For me, true happiness is found in that short, fleeting moment and I am learning to accept that in the totality of my life, I may chase it relentlessly to only experience it a handful of times and constantly strive to be grateful for those hard earned moments.

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pudeur


pudeur n. a sense of shame or embarrassment, especially with regard to matters of a sexual or personal nature

The Oxford also mentions the synonym of modesty for this word, but I am have never thought as modesty as being shameful or embarrassed. However, now that I think about it, I suppose it does.

Modesty or pudeur is a rare commodity these days. Growing up in Catholic school, modesty was something that was imposed. Having to wear a uniform everyday and not being allowed to differentiate yourself imposed a certain need to find other ways of standing out, such as being smart or artistic. Girls were still nasty and formed cliques, but at least in the classroom, a smart or creative girl could feel good about herself. When my beloved little private school closed, I was forced to go to public school…and such modesty as I had learned did not go over well.

I was a victim of some very harsh bullying. I was a chubby 12 year old girl who didn’t wear makeup and wore unfashionable clothes that my parents bought me from Bradlees. One particular girl – who wasn’t even popular or pretty (I was so low on the totem that the popular girls didn’t even acknowledge me) dubbed me “meatballs” and I had the extreme pleasure of being called that everyday of my life at school…until I smashed her in the face with my school books. My parents told me that if I was going to survive, I needed to toughen up and give up my shy, modest and good girl ways. At that point I pushed aside my love of drawing, reading and writing so I could fully focus on improving myself in ways that the world wouldn’t cast off.

The summer after my first year in public school, I exercised everyday and nearly starved myself. I walked up and down the stairs in my house listening to Paula Abdul sing “Forever Your Girl” over and over again. By the time it was Fall and the beginning of the school year, I was thin. I forced my parents to take me to get clothes that weren’t embarrassing and when I started school on the first day the sounds of praise and compliments gave me a sense of satisfaction that I still rarely achieve to this day. I wasn’t popular, but I fit in. And it felt damn good. So good that I had a pretty great 4 years of high school.

After my high school graduation, my father was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor that would eventually take his life in 2 short years. I had hinged everything in my little world on college so when he was diagnosed on the day I was supposed to leave for my freshman year, it all fell apart for me. I worked in a factory for 6 months and ate my way through the pain until I was once again a chubby, badly dressed introvert. When I finally got to college I found myself in the same place I had been on my first year in public school…so the process began again (without the Paula Abdul music).

Over the course of my life this scenario has played itself out time and time again. I am 33 now and I find myself back in the throws of trying to lose the weight so I can fit into the right clothes so I can find the right job…all to get back to that blissful feeling of acceptance. I continually push down my modesty, my creativity and my overall awkwardness in order to attain what I have come to recognize as happiness, when that is not what it is at all.

Happiness is something that comes from within. When I listen to my son laugh, I feel it for a moment and it’s blissful. Perhaps happiness is something that I have no right to feel everyday, every minute, every hour. For me, I think it is something rare and treasured, similar to love but more fragile…in my opinion.

I want contentment. A steady lack of worrisome thoughts and faith in who I am as a person. I want the courage to face the world as I am without sacrificing anything. I want to know the strength to be called “meatballs”, to smash that girl in the face once again – but this time, to go right on living without changing a damn thing.

 

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