Posts tagged: happiness
May 18, 2012

Spotted: The First Peonies of the Year

I took this picture two weeks ago and have been waiting for the right time to bust it out here. Maybe when I didn’t have anything to say I could just plop this in, or when I’d taken a truly unfortunate-looking picture of something that was actually delicious I could just show you some pretty peonies instead. You wanted to see pasta and peas? Here are some pretty flowers instead! Well, today’s the day. Not because of any reason I might have anticipated, but because if I wait any longer their sight might not be such cause for excitement: they’ll be everywhere.

Last night I had a celebratory “Yay it’s Thursday!” glass of rosé at a wine bar that always makes life feel pretty and refined, in the most relaxed way possible. The windows were open onto the sidewalk and the back door was propped wide, too, so I could get a catch of the breeze and a peek at the white lights out on the patio. In front of me, standing tall in a slim-necked bottle, were two blooming fuchsia peonies. They are so lush, their petals so wildly overabundant and feminine, like messy pink butter cream on a layer cake or a frothy bell-shaped dress on its way to the ball. Really, how can that ever not be cause for excitement?

So I give you peonies today, because it is Friday, because the sun is shining here and because there’s no reason to hold off remembering the night I look this picture. I was leaving an evening appointment, and delighted to spill out onto a sidewalk still flooded with light, just a few blocks south of Union Square. Outside a bodega, where in the past six months they have set out white buckets of holly boughs, long arms of yellow forsythia, and then bunches of lilacs, they now had peonies, some of their heads still tightly furled. I stopped then and did something I want to remember: I interrupted my march home, pulled out my camera, and snapped a picture. Who would want to forget a spring moment so sweet and so full of promise?

Happy weekend to you all! I hope it’s filled with many such delights!

P.S. Because I can’t resist sharing this. Or this.

April 23, 2012

On Turning 30

I turned thirty last week, which felt like a very big deal in the months leading up to it, and then just like a wonderful thing that happened as soon as it happened. Any big life events–weddings, promotions, babies, round birthdays–arrive with a certain amount of pressure tagging along behind. In this moment, which somehow signifies something big, you better have your act together.

I couldn’t quite decide what I wanted mine to look like so I vacillated between extremes: I was either going by myself to an ashram to curl up in the quiet with my thoughts. Or I was purchasing a spangly jumpsuit to wear to a birthday bash held in the VFW party space tucked under a nearby subway stop. Choose your own adventure!

But I couldn’t escape the idea that thirty required some serious reflection, that I should bring intention to whatever was coming next in the new decade. That seemed important and yet…it also seemed like a drag. On an airplane to and from California recently, I pulled out a notebook and kept my pencil poised above a blank page. What did I need to bring into my life to make it fuller, brighter, happier? I’ve written the same thing to myself a thousand times.

Reflecting feels vital to a deliberate life. If we’re not considering what really lights us up and connects us to what’s most important, than aren’t we just drifting along? But as my birthday drew near, it seemed like there were little signs stacking that I might be hiding some micro-managing control freak tendencies inside the idea of “intention.” There was a tarot card of a man so lost in his own reverie he fails to see what’s right in front of him. And then, more pointedly, the friend who gently suggested I didn’t need the help of hallowed yoga halls to encourage me to reflect. If the pressure to reflect had been on my back like an itchy sweater, maybe it was time to stop scheming and time to appreciate the life I’ve already created.

Continue reading “On Turning 30” »

October 31, 2011

Finding Your Fun

My husband and I just celebrated our two year wedding anniversary. We were pretty giddy and corny about it, so much happier on that day in October than we’d been last year, and we tried to figure out why. First, there’s that fact that everyone says the first year of marriage is very hard. They start telling you that as soon as you arrive home from your honeymoon. It’s a very warm welcome back to reality.

But we also gave some credit to a piece of paper that’s been hanging on our refrigerator since January. It’s written on a piece of Elvis stationary my college roommate brought back from Graceland, and it has a faded tomato sauce stain of on it (a memento of the spaghetti and meatballs we ate as we composed it). On it are more than a dozen things we wanted to do in the new year. Written at the top is, “The 2011 Wish List of Terrificness.” (That was my handiwork.)

We’re kind of big on lists, traditions, and superstitions in our house, so having a list like this was nothing new. There was the year I drew an elaborate picture at the bottom of a list envisioning my look for the new year: I had short curly hair and was wearing cowboy boots. I didn’t cut my hair that year, and I didn’t buy cowboy boots either.

We got serious about our recreating in 2011. And so we went camping––sort of––even when we couldn’t secure a campsite in a state park over a long holiday weekend. We drove right up to my mom and stepdad’s house with a tent, my cast iron pan, a bag of taco Doritos, and made a campfire in the backyard. I’m not going to lie to you: It felt utterly absurd and embarrassing to me at the time. Why can’t we do anything the right way, like, for real? But that feeling passed as soon as we started having fun: cooking the most amazing campfire eggplant, going inside to brush our teeth and waking up to the sound of birds signing. We called it our trial run, and took notes on what we’d need for next time. (Flashlights, bug spray, more Doritos.)

It was also the summer I finally took the swimming lessons I’d been talking about for years. I had taken lessons as a tot years ago, but my skills had dwindled. I wanted to swim in the ocean, strong and unafraid, like Katharine Hepburn out in cold waves of Long Island Sound into her 80s. So on hot muggy nights, after putting in a day of work that left me feeling knotty and spent, I’d walk to the windowless basement pool at the Y and slip into the water. After an hour of paddling around, I’d slip my sundress back over my head and walk home in my wet swimsuit, hungry, exhausted, cooled to my core, and happy.

Then, on a lark, I bought a cheap guitar just so I could sing my favorite country songs. I looked up chords to my favorite Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline songs and slowly strummed through them. I am not very good, but I enjoy it anyway. Sebastian bought a keyboard, and then a ukulele, and before we knew it, we were having evening jam sessions. We carried the ukulele to a dinner party recently where after chicken and waffles another guest brought out a packet of song lyrics and chords, swung a guitar onto his lap, and we all did our part to sing, strum, and harmonize into the wee hours.

I spend my days talking, listening, reading, and writing, and I realized something both of my new past times had in common: they were blessedly nonverbal. Underwater, the volume of the world gets turned way down, and my mind got quiet; struggling to land my fingers on the right spot of the guitar neck took all my concentration.

The difficulty of dipping our toes into new ways of having fun is, of course, the humiliation of being a newbie. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have pinpointed our favorite ways to recreate, and we’re good at them: you’ve got a mental catalog of obscure ’90s rock, a flair for crafting cocktails, the speediest knitting hands, a strong, unstoppable run that can go for miles on country roads. But usually to be new at something is to not be good at it. To fumble with the chords, and gasp for breath in slow lane at the pool doesn’t feel especially cool. But there’s something to be said for that part of the fun, too. We may be hooked on perfectionism in our regular adult lives, but with what’s new we have to practice. It feels awkward at first, and humbling when you’re the type who likes to feel good at things (and who doesn’t?). But isn’t there also something liberating about just giving it a try, shrugging your shoulders, and keeping on, just for the fun of it?

So I’m collecting new ways to have fun: What gives you a thrill and makes you smile? What’s the newest just-for-the-sheer-joy-of-it habit you’ve picked up? What were you doing when you last lost all track of time?

Photo: via Sarah on Pinterest

October 25, 2011