Saturday, December 31, 2011

HappyLutions to You!

So, the ladies in my arthritis water class are generally supportive about almost everything, but they completely mocked me when I told them my New Year's resolutions would be only things that make me happy.  

Right away, Janice pointed out, "Good luck with that on April 15."  It appears she believes there's nothing happy about coughing up your taxes and that, unlike Martha, I couldn't be happy in a federal prison.  Quite possibly she's right about that, too. Bunk beds and orange clothes, yuck. 

But, actually, I think I just expressed my Happy Resolutions plan poorly.  I don't mean I plan to only do happy things -- somebody has to clean up the cat barf, after all and sooner or later it will be my turn. 

I mean that, here today, as 2011 fades, I am only going to make resolutions to do things that raise my spirits, encourage my better nature and, thereby, make me happy.

Here's the deal.  I have two or three really big, bright, wonderful goals for this year.  And, from many decades of experience, I've deduced that the absolutely worst place to store goals you care about is anywhere close to a New Year's resolution. It's way too dark and cold in there, and the moaning of the broken and lost is simply too dispiriting. Also the Guilt and Blame Levels (GBLs) are way too high for the support of optimism.  Or maybe even life itself.

Here's what I meant by happy resolutions.  First of all, I'm only making five.  Not ten. Why does it always have to be ten?  I want to abandon five absolutely jewel-like Happylutions with tender regret and whisper, "Sorry. You guys are alternates.  Maybe next year.  Or maybe if one of the ones I pick gets voted off the island.... We'll see."  

(FYI:  Moving into SweetieFry

didn't make the top five.  Je regrette.)  

The key distinction is that these are things I rejoice in gravitating towards.  If I happen to forget all five for a week, I don't want to say, "Oh crap. I am a toadlike failure, as was clearly inevitable."  I want to murmur, "Oh, wow.  I've got a ton of happy to catch up on."  

So, only good, only nurturing, only generous and kind, feel-good mini-parties on my resolutions list this year.  

These are them:  ("Screw good grammar" isn't on the list either, but what the heck.)  

#1.  Breathe like it's a spa treatment.  
#2.  Be alert for improvement.  When improvement is identified, celebrate.
#3.  Pay attention: Notice. Listen. Smell. Touch. Taste. Savor. Love. Be. Repeat.
#4.  Be kind to somebody.  Anybody.  Start with you and work outward.
#5.  Be grateful for something.  Anything. Everything. Maybe even taxes.
#6.  (Cut yourself a break. Give yourself a bonus.)  Invoke festivity.

That's them.  Aren't they pretty?  Sweeter than a SweetyFry. 

To you, I say, Happy New Year.  With all the incandescence of #5, I say that I am grateful for all the magical goodness that has come to me this year, all the kindness, all the healing, all the promise, all the generosity, all the love. (You know who you are.  If you got this, you know.) 

And, with all the kindness I can muster from #4, I invite you to make your own Happylutions.



Thursday, December 22, 2011


Quick!  Before Christmas.  Before New Years.  Before I forget.  I want to write this down.  Because it's the sort of thing that can really make a difference.  And it's also the kind of thing that wears out, wears off, gets lost in the day-to-day.  Like it never happened.

Here it is.  It's Monday at about 6:35 p.m. -- dead dark and drizzling.  There I go, driving The Flying Tomato across the familiar intersection of Lakeshore & 149th, with the green light in my favor.  And there it was.  My brush with Eternity.

Eternity was coming straight at me, driving a Cleveland Police cruiser, doing approximately 65 mph with its full complement of flashing red and blue lights.   (And siren blasting, I'm sure, although I missed that somehow in the amazement of the moment.)

It was large.  And quite colorful.  And close.  I registered a big-flashing-red-and-blue UhOh. And my foot saved me by stomping on the accelerator ASAP.  In an instant I was across the intersection and kind of parked.  In good repair and excellent health. With probably 3/4 of a whole second to spare.


I was spared!  Realistically speaking, in my smallish red car with my 10 lb. Le Creuset pot full of hot sweet potato and lentil soup on the floor of the front seat, I would have been -- upon impact with that cop -- a) crushed dead and b) covered in soup. And probably have damaged the police person pretty badly, too.   Not what I had planned for the evening. 

So, I drove calmly up the hill, ignoring the little voice that said, "Holy sweet jumping lizards, that was close!"  I drove past the Nela Park Christmas lighting display, marveling at how great it is this year after being only "just okay" last year, and ignoring the fact that there seemed to be a red VW bug, the very spitting image of mine, limned in glowing light, on the lawn. (No kidding.  Go look.)  Just driving along, and watching my speed to avoid the evil spy cameras on Noble Road and ignoring the fact that I was, mostly accidentally, still alive. Not dead or injured or even hot-soup-spattered. Spared.

I had a little more trouble, though, ignoring the white sedan in front of me with the vanity license plate that read (with vanity plate economy)  U R BLES  Oh, c'mon.  Truly?  And was Marley's Ghost driving?  Not as far as I could see. 

I  finally got the message. One wouldn't have to buy into the woo-woo of it all perhaps -- though I probably did.  But the wake up call?  For sure.  Because whether it was the hand of God, or the dance of the Universe, or the good offices of my fast right foot, I was alive and well and on my way to book group. No harm.  No foul.  Spared.

So, right away, that begs the question: "Spared for what?"  Because we know people in books and movies always say, "She was spared to do some good thing in the world."  Or "She was spared and finally appreciated the preciousness of her one human life." Or. "She was spared and gave poor Bob Cratchit a big turkey and a nice raise."  Or other things along that line, usually with examples.

Spared for what?  That's a great question.  Because if I look back -- and if you look back, you'll no doubt see this, too -- I've had a lot of close calls in my life.  As close as that, if not as colorful.  And I'm willing to entertain the possibility that others I don't even know about brushed by, like an asteroid, tumbling through the darkness, just as close or closer.  How about you?

So we're living The Spared Life, you and I, and probably everybody alive.  And I've found in the last handful of days that The Spared Life is a very fine thing if you keep inquiring of it, "Was I spared for this?"  To do this good thing?  To save somebody without knowing it?  To pass along the U R BLES message in short hand or long hand?  To move through the world as if the commonplace were holy?  That's a good question.  And best left open so it can keep moving unimpeded through the world.

Then, when annoyance strikes and I say or do or think something REALLY PETTY?  Here's a good question to ask:  "Was I spared for this?" Did I get rescued from the intersection of Soup & Death to be my old familiar jerk?  Surely the Universe had something a little more generous in mind.  Or, if we believe some holy, wonderful Something was not in charge right then, maybe it could be just me or just you with a suddenly better idea.  A kinder, better, more loving, more ultimately satisfying way to be.  In honor of the pure unbridled generosity of ... The Gift of Life.


So, here's my Christmas/New Years message unto myself and to you:  I am thankful to have been spared to intend to be a better, kinder, more generous, less jerkier human being.  I am renewed in my sense of gratitude for family, for friends, for home, for my juvenile delinquent cat, for my unmanageable lake and this extraordinary moment.

I tell you this not so you can watch for me, going about, doing good, because you'd likely be sorely disillusioned.

What I wish for you is that you ride my little hair-raising experience into a happily enhanced appreciation of your own gratitude-worthy life.

And to Marley's Ghost in the white sedan, I say, "God bless us, everyone. No exceptions."

And especially, "BLES U."