“I say, ‘Get me some poets as managers.’ Poets are our original systems thinkers. They contemplate the world in which we live and feel obligated to interpret, and give expression to it in a way that makes the reader understand how that world runs. Poets, those unheralded systems thinkers, are our true digital thinkers. It is from their midst that I believe we will draw tomorrow’s new business leaders.”
– Sidney Harman, CEO Multimillionaire of a stereo components company, from Daniel H. Pink,
Be still my heart. April is National Poetry Month, and all the world is celebrating poetry’s glories. Well, maybe not the whole world, but surely as it runs in my blood, I can revel in the fact that poems and poets get a broader spotlight.
So I hope you’ll read some. Write some. Sing some. Because the world needs poetry – if only to remember to savor things like words and feelings and moments; if only to soften the rough edges or roughen the soft ones. Because, whether beautiful or raw, simple or complex, poetry has the power to reveal and re-shape our emotions; to know expression differently; to connect with the human experience.
I’ll leave you with this gem for now. Expect more poetic sharings to come.
I cheated on this one. It’s not actually one of our book club books, but I’m going to recommend that it become one – because if you take love, art, World War II and the south of France and put them together in novel form, it’s an almost guaranteed win for me.
In Lisette’s List, Susan Vreeland transports us to the years between 1937 and 1948 – from the onset of war, to an increasingly distressed French countryside, to the war’s aftermath, to Paris, to the rebuilding of hearts and souls and cultural treasures – and in the process, composes what amounts to a kind of lavish love letter both to art and to Provence. Known for her art-based novels (A Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Passion of Artemisia, and The Forest Lover among my personal favorites), perhaps affection was her intent; if so, she succeeded.
With imagined conversations involving Pissarro, Cezanne and Chagall, and main character Lisette’s passion to “learn what makes a painting great”, with the tragedies of war and the luxurious, natural beauty of southeastern France, Lisette’s List paints a feast of color, tones and textures, lovingly framed by a well woven story that’s beautifully blended with a rich cast of characters. Added bonus: you might never look at a painting quite the same way.
Some books read like a symphony. They start out innocently enough, a little tug here and there to capture your ear, then they rise and float as different instruments chime in – and before you know it you’re swept away by the melody, by thunderous twists and gentle pauses, cheerful refrains and deep undertones carrying heart and mind to unexpected places.
A Gentleman in Moscow is such a book. It’s also a book that reminds me why I find the written word so magical.
In telling the story of an aristocrat under house arrest in Moscow’s finest hotel during the 1920’s – 1950’s, a world within a world is brought to mesmerizing life – a world as surprisingly large as it was obviously small, as delightful as it was touching, while offering a glimpse of Russia during a broad span of massive change – and Amor Towles masterfully ties it all together with a steady beat of delicious writing.
Like a fine wine (or perhaps a Vodka?), there were passages so yummy I had to pause now and then to savor the flavor. Like moments in a symphony that hold you briefly but luxuriously suspended in time and space, I would find I’d stopped to relish a particularly brilliant sentence. (But, don’t worry, you won’t pause for long, because you’re already anticipating the next movement.)
A Gentleman in Moscow had all the key elements right – irresistible characters inside a beautifully written, well-crafted tale. Well done, well done.
I think books are pretty marvelous things, and that anything that encourages reading, inspires creativity and ignites the imagination is also marvelous. And because it’s gift-giving time, just maybe you or someone you know will consider some of my works worth the giving! It’s been a joy to create them, and an even greater joy to watch them being appreciated. I hope they’ll make lots of people happy this holiday season… the little and the tall, the big or the small; there’s something for all to enjoy. 😉
With peace, love and magic – Patricia
This morning I came across a wonderfully written, though somewhat sarcastic (if not scathing), article about the apparently very American pursuit of “being happy”. Of course I felt immediately stung, almost guilt-ridden for not only participating in that pursuit but dedicating a whole section on my blog to “Outrageous Happiness”. Indeed, in my sensitivity, I felt the finger pointing. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the piece, filled as it was with sharp wit.
It was written by a Brit, who proudly claims to possess a certain genetic cynicism – which, whether by nature or my own DNA steeped in British realms, I really do “get”. Even as a born optimist, my inner cynic is very much alive at times – except I like to think of it as healthy skepticism rather than gloom (which seems an appropriate opposite of happiness), and it definitely doesn’t include a distaste for happiness, nor for anyone’s interest in attaining that lovely state of being. Because it is lovely.
Have you ever met someone who exudes a kind of contented joy just for being alive? That person who knows how to not take things too seriously, who, without effort, seems to embody an easy, uplifting attitude? In truth, I think these individuals are quite rare, but what a gift they are. They don’t intrude or demand, they just, very simply, brighten life. Whether a stranger or someone you know, that they exist at all is an inspiring thing.
The Dalai Lama is, to me, one of those people. And his mantra – that we’re here to experience joy – is a pretty exciting concept. Impossible and possible. Makes perfect sense and makes no sense. But it feels really, really good to consider, and terribly worthwhile to at least try to infuse joy into our own lives.
And yes, it must be said that there are times when happiness has nothing to do with anything. Your car breaks down, you can get mad all you want but in the end you get under the hood and fix it. Or a baby’s diaper needs changing. Or a light bulb. It’s not whether you’re happy or unhappy about it, it’s just something to be done. There are also people for whom the whole idea of happiness feels completely out reach, and many of us have experienced periods or events in our lives when a heartfelt “look at the bright side!” just. does. not. work (and may raise your shackles quite a bit more than your spirits). Even for those who have been blessed with a happy disposition, it’s not a 24/7 deal. It just isn’t.
Point being – for the record – that no one should feel in any way at fault, less than, or stressed out if they aren’t feeling the glow of positive vibes all day every day. In fact that would be pretty strange, especially when you consider how volatile life can be – from a pot boiling over in your kitchen to, please, any number of things out there in the big wide uncontrollable world. Our equilibrium can shift in an instant through no fault of our own.
And all that said, I can see where the author of the article concluded that our pursuit of happiness was creating more anxiety. But it doesn’t have to. It’s a matter of perspective.
“Happiness” is not, and never should be, a test you pass or fail. It’s something that’s very hard to measure – some days we fly, some days we fall, some days we want to stay in pjs all day, other days we want to conquer a mountain. Sometimes life is just hard. But I hope we never give up, because it sure beats the whole “pay bills and die” outlook, and for that alone, happiness is absolutely worth pursuing.
How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?
When life is annoying, it’s good to remember how fabulous you are. You know, like when there’s the guy on the highway who thinks he’s in a bat-mobile, weaving in and out of cars at top speed, or when your laptop freezes, or when people talk during the show in a movie theater.
Or maybe your friends are too busy, it’s rained for ten days straight, the afghan you made is lopsided, and the clerk at the store is rude. And that person who thinks everyone wants to hear the music in their car from 5 blocks away? That neighbor who practices dixieland songs on his trumpet at 10PM? Loud and clear, roger that.
Your car won’t start. Your phone battery dies. Politicians sap your faith in humankind. Your head hurts. You’re out of milk. Your toast burned. Your clients are late to pay. Ketchup spills on your white shirt. You get all the red lights. Your flight is cancelled. You manage to pick the slowest grocery check-out line, and they were out of your favorite ice cream.
But YOU are fabulous. To quote the marvelous Dr. Seuss: “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”
Go with it. Embrace your inner fabulousness. Practice some self-love. It’s great revenge for life’s disappointments.
How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?
It’s been days. I can’t get this song out of my head. Granted, I haven’t given it a big shove, but thought that by now it’d at least be quieter. But no. Not so. So I’m going with it.
The point could be, after all, that if you want some fun, say o bla di bla da. The point is that life goes on. The point is that when things feel too heavy, you just might need to lighten up. Maybe even veer towards the silly. Maybe, just maybe, head towards outrageous happiness. And there you have it.
But there could even be a little more to it.
I went for a bike ride this morning. It’s been a few years, I will admit – the reason being that each year I found that my tires were flat, and with the best of intentions I’d get the bike a tune-up, but then I’d opt for a swim or a run or a game of tennis. I don’t know why; I used to bike all day long when I was a kid. And sure, I’m not a kid anymore, but the truth is I probably wasn’t as interested as I once was. But this year, I was determined.
You see, I’d fractured my spine a few years ago and it took several months before I even felt ready to get back to my lap swims. Now that it’s summer, I want to run. I see others running and think, “I’ll go for a run, too!” But something tells me that would be a huge mistake… same for tennis. So (mini lightbulb moment) I brought out the bike, got a tune-up and rode it. And I’ll ride again. You can’t keep a good girl down, or something like that.
So I’m pedaling along, enjoying the sun, the summer breeze, feeling the burn (having not ridden in a while!), when all of a sudden, I’m aware of the song playing merrily in my head – yet again. “Happy ever after in the market place, Desmond lets the children lend a hand…” Seriously? You’re still here?
But I thought, you know, this is good. It’s reminding me that you do what you can. I can’t run but I can bike. I can do that swervy thing with the handle bars and wheels, and I can coast down a hill, and go off road. I could even sing at the top of my lungs if I wanted to, all at the same time….la la how the life goes on.
Outrageous? Not quite. But sometimes we all need a little ob-la-di ob-la-da. Some simple. Some silly. A little bit of “hey I can do this, so I will!” That’s all I’m saying. And I hope you enjoy some for yourself, because, well … la la how the life goes on. ♫♪♩
How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?
As if on cue, life decided to throw some curve balls ~ or, because it’s not uncommon for life to do that, maybe I’m just aware of them in a slightly different way. That doesn’t make them any more fun, but now that I’m consciously armed with an unrelenting turn-lemons-into-lemonade approach, I’m thinking I might be handling them with less angst. And less angst = more happy.
And yet, when staring down a sidetrack that clearly did not feed my happiness quotient, I almost went off course. I felt somehow responsible, put myself down, and got a little stuck there. Life lessons, all that. But I rallied. Because rallying is better than being miserable.
In fact, just this morning, I felt my super powers kicking in. And man, do I love them! (You have them too. It’s where you’re strongest, and truest. Where you’re lifted up.)
Here’s the thing though, before they kicked in, I sat down and had a serious conversation with the Universe. And I made sure to not just talk, but listen.
You might talk to God, you might talk to Divine Intelligence, or to Angels, or your Higher Self, your Spirit Guides, your mother or father, sister or brother, a trusted friend, a counselor. Guidance is available in many forms, and none of us, no matter how wise or experienced or content, is outside the realm of needing some now and then. It might be brief, or it might take a few goes, but in the process it’s key that you listen – you have to hear not only what you’re saying and thinking, but what you’re hearing in reply. Then, listen to your heart and find what’s true.
And then, by all means, gather your super powers and don your cape!
How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?
Back by popular demand….. whether it’s new or a “refresher”, let’s do this.
Everybody’s doing it. Consciously or not ~ we’re all trying to be happy.
Joy. Delight. Contentment. Love, peace and harmony. It’s a basic urge, in varying degrees of intensity depending on our genetic makeup, manifesting in different ways, but it’s there. Elusive. Sneaky. Not completely reliable.
So, this is a test. I’m calling it the “Outrageous Happiness Experiment”.
It started after a friend gave me a book. (Ah, the power of the written word in action, yet again!) It’s the true and rather amazing account of the extraordinary life of Tracy Evans*, a physician’s assistant who decides to follow God wherever He leads; Tracy calls it “radical faith”.
Towards the end of this adventurous read, feeling both uplifted and somewhat inadequate, I had an inspiration; something I could apply to my own life: why not radical happiness? Kind of like positive thinking on steroids. Because at the root of positive thought lies a certain amount of faith, and trust, and hope. And if you know anything about me by now (whether you know me personally, or have read my posts for a while), it’s that I’m a staunch optimist and a huge, huge, believer in the power of thought to shape both ourselves and our world.
Just to be clear, though, being a staunch optimist doesn’t necessarily mean wearing rose-colored glasses – I’m a pretty even-keel person, but I admit to the stray string of curses when a driver cuts someone off, or the random rage about the digitally over-stimulated age we live in. I also confess that after watching half an hour of the news, the cynic in me can come roaring to the surface, feeling helplessly disturbed by the nature of the human beast. There are times that stir my blood to boiling – with nowhere to flow to. So, yes, even with the best of intentions, challenges to our happiness quotient, our “positive thinking” efforts and our spiritual well-being can pop up like militant weeds after a spring rain, threatening to overrun our mind’s well-tended garden.
It’s then that I go back, as I always must do, to what I can do in my world, and what each of us can do for our little corners of the planet, period. If everyone paid attention to honoring positive values by living them, what a better place the world would be. (Reminiscent of my 52 Weeks of Peace message.)
Because in the face of the madness of the world at large, throwing bucketloads of good stuff at it can seem the only sane route – not to mention, a pretty potent force.
So that’s where I go. I bring out the pen, the paper, or play a tune on the piano to bring the boiling blood back to normal temps. Tend some flowers. Slow down. Spontaneously do something nice for someone. Practice what I preach. Watch my thoughts. Bend my mind to the sun, open my heart to light and more light.
No one said life would be easy. There’s lots of shifting going on in people’s lives, seemingly at an accelerated rate. I know that for me there are times I feel absolutely certain I’m supposed to toss up my hands and say, “Okay Universe, have at it. Whatever it is you have planned for me here, I’ll try to get out of the way so you can do your wonderful thing.”
That said, since I figure I have a long time before my number is up, I want to live life well – and I figure a lot of that is up to me. It suppose it could be in the stars. It might already be planned out, pre-destined. Heck, it could be luck of the draw. But on the chance I have some say in all this, I might as well take the reins in whatever way I feel I can.
So who’s in? For a year, I’ll give it my best shot, and invite you to do the same. I’m going to give my positive thinking practice a hefty dose of adrenalin, each and every morning. Supplements throughout the day as needed. No matter what. The key here is going overboard. Crazy optimism. Being outrageously positive.
An aside: Just this morning I was put to the test. You know, kinda like when your happy place plummets from a 9 to a 2 in under a minute. I thought, oh the hell with it. Who am I kidding with this “Outrageous Happiness” idea. Isn’t it enough just managing daily life sometimes? How will I sustain a radical level of positivity?
Then I thought, well isn’t this just perfect? Any time is perfect. And at any time we might trip up. It’s (of course) what we do with that stumble. The point isn’t to walk around with a smile plastered to your face or pretend bad things don’t happen, or that as a human being, you don’t have ups and downs and a whole array of complex emotions at any given time.
The point is to observe, and find a point of light to move forward from.
Can’t say I know how everything will play out, but approaching things with a ridiculously happy intention seems like a good idea. When life feels messy and uncertain, what better time to shake things up with some unexpected happy? If you want to try an “outrageous happiness” commitment in your life, too, I’d love to have you join me. How amazing can we be?!
Stay tuned. Positive, possibly outrageous, updates to follow