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Lessons From A Daffodil

Mother Nature likes to play in March. One day it’s glorious and spring-like, doors and windows flung open to the fresh air; the next it snows.

And what of the daffodils?

Fooled by the weather, some full-grown and giddy, their golden cups reach proudly for the sky. Then winter rains down again, and you feel sorry for them – yet, in the same breath, admiration. They’ve done this drill before. They’ve got looks, delicacy and toughness all wrapped up. We could learn a lesson or two from the daffodil.

Maybe it would be to rest in winter, allowing our roots to replenish.  And after the cold weary days have dragged on and on, be the first to send out hope, defiantly and boldly sprouting up in February’s first light.

And maybe then, ignoring suggestions like “it’s too soon, nobody else is growing yet”, or “don’t you know something bad could happen?”, or “ah, such a dreamer” – we stand by our conviction. We encourage others. We grow taller. We bask with confidence.

And when the inevitable happens (but is it inevitable? they say it is, so it must be) – when the inevitable bad thing showers down upon us ~ we cover our heads, huddle together, look inward and brave it out, the strength from our nourished roots holding us tight. Knowing this will pass. Knowing we’ll stand again, straight and tall. Knowing, that bending in the breeze and holding steady, we can bloom just as brightly after a storm.

Lifting hearts to hope and renewal. Resilience and determination. A bright disposition. If we could learn these simple things, perhaps that’s good enough.

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Outrageous Happiness #6: Kaleidoscopes, Crayons and Rainbows

outrageous_colorThe world is mad, life is hard. Color is fun.

And right now, nature’s on full, gorgeous, dynamic display. Bursts of color sing all around, challenging our impulse to be dreary in the face of all that madness and hardness. So – notice. Drink it up. Revel in it. Let your mind splash around in it, your spirit bathe in it. Walk in it. Wear it. Paint it. Have fun with it.

True enough, rainbows don’t last and kaleidoscopes change. Crayons wear down, paints run out. Bright orange leaves turn brown and crumbly. A sky that’s blue can quickly turn gray. But there’s the beauty – everything recycles, refreshes and reboots. It always does. And we can, too.

autumn

crayons2“If you’re feeling blue try painting yourself a different color.”
– Hannah Cheatem, age 8

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #5: Happiness vs. Bill-Paying

outrageous_pjs-blueandyellow

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.

pjs-optHow’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #3: O-Bla-Di, O-Bla-Da

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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. ♫♪♩

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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Outrageous Happiness #1: The Kick-Off

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

celebrate_everything

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The Gratitude Jar

The other day I was inches away from getting creamed while driving through a green light. Another driver came whizzing through a red light at the exact time I was crossing. (Insert: life flashes before eyes.) Shock and impulse took over as I slammed on the brakes. Had l arrived at that spot just a second earlier, I’d not be writing this. It was way too close a call, and once my heart rate went back down, I was thanking my Angels and feeling overcome with gratitude for both the timing and my car’s brakes. (It also reminded me that we should always be a little more cautious on the road than we might think we need to be.) And I thought, well, this’ll be an easy one for my gratitude jar – which, I then realized, I’d neglected for a while.

It began a few years ago – although I’m sure some of you had the idea before I did – the filling of a jar with slips of paper on which we’d scribble the things we were grateful for. (If you haven’t done it, I’ll tell you that just the act of writing down what you’re grateful for feels good.) It can be a daily exercise or as the spirit moves. Sometimes they pile up in one sitting. Anyway, we’d start on New Year’s Day, then empty the jar and read all our notes the following New Year’s Day – and smile a lot – then start again.

This year I thought I’d start a jar for the holiday season – a time we expect to feel gratitude, but in reality can feel exceptionally stressed. It also feels like a particularly murky time out there in the world; people often pick up on that vibe (consciously or unconsciously), making us feel even more ornery. Actively “being grateful” can do wonders to help. It takes just a few minutes and costs nothing, but the benefits are strong, well-researched and well-documented, including things (you may already know) like improved physical, mental and psychological health, higher self-esteem, better sleep and better relationships. All good stuff. Funny how we so easily forget this simple but powerful tool.

With Thanksgiving this week, the timing seems ideal to start fresh. And this time, I’m inviting you to join me – by doing your own, or by helping to fill a virtual gratitude jar. I’ll be opening it up to the public on my facebook pages*, now through January 1, and who knows, maybe there’ll be a great response and a wave of human gratitude can spread far and wide, rippling farther and wider again and again. And wouldn’t that be something to be grateful for.

What are you grateful for today? There’s always something. Grab it, jot it down, try to make it a habit. Feel free to share. Let’s do this.

Oh, and thank you. 🙂

saxton.gratitude_jar

 

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Outrageous Happiness #19: Friendship, Magic and Clark Kent

saxton.outrageous_nurture

Whether it makes me lucky or unlucky, strange or strangely interesting, I’m one of those people who can go for days at a time without interacting a whole lot with other people. (Okay, even I think it’s kinda strange sometimes.) Maybe as an artist it simply comes with the territory; where swaths of solitude are a necessity. Who knows. But for whatever reason, I ended up a decent dose of the “I’m okay being by myself” gene. I’m a quality over quantity kind of person, and fairly choosy about how and with whom I spend time. Admittedly, there are times when I wish I were a more social animal; but at some point you just accept how you’re wired.

That all said, people matter. There are people I absolutely treasure. People I’ve known for eons, people I’ve known for just a few years, even some special people I’ve just met. There’s something remarkable that happens when the connectivity ions are in sync. They’re all a little bit different, of course, with varying depths and points of connection, but they matter, tremendously. And because they matter, they deserve nurturing.

We ‘ve all probably experienced friendships where we may not see or speak to one another for years, yet when we finally do, the years dissolve and the connection is as real and true as ever. And those are pretty darn great. But it’s not enough to count on that. For one thing, pardon the morbid truth, they may not be there any more. For another, different people love us and teach us and learn from us and help us grow in all sorts of ways. Their value is often immeasurable. (And vice versa.) But most of the time none of these happen of their own accord. You have to cultivate them, feed them, water them. Pay attention. Be present. Write the note. Make the call.

And sometimes, when you nurture, when you do your part, you even find magic. And magical = happiness. Magical lights you up. The air feels electric, your energy is high, the weights of the world are somehow lifted for a time.

I was blessed to experience this twice in the last month. Once with a beautiful family who came to visit from Austin, Texas. It involved a serendipitous introduction by a mutual friend, a little girl who loves fairies, and a very real feeling of being surrounded by angels. Another was just the other day, with a few friends whose paths didn’t cross until years after having been, unknowingly, in the same place. It was like we’d known each other forever. (And there I am, looking a little like Lois Lane with Clark Kent. How fun is that?)

Both instances were joyful, and pure, and magical. Both also came about because along the way, other friendships were nurtured. And both gave me a sense of deep happiness, because it feels pretty wonderful to know those connections exist in this life.

And they exist because we take the time to give them some of our heart.

People matter. (Even for those who might prefer a night in with their paints and pencils to a night out.) And a lot of the time, they’re even responsible for some pretty outrageous happiness.

Nurture, my friends, nurture. Nurture the people who matter to you.

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

 

 

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New Season, New Shoes and Life on Mars

There may be life on Mars, have you heard? While we’re pondering that, there’ve been visits from the Pope, world leaders convening, and rare lunar eclipses eclipsing. Big stuff.

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And somehow in between all that, seemingly small by comparison, our own lives happen. Everyday lives stitched together with various versions of joy and struggle. An ever-changing tapestry of our individual here and nows, hopes and dreams, fears and glories.

Life happens in moments, in thoughts, in conversations (and if you’re Italian it also happens in meals). It happens while your house needs painting and your front walk needs paving and your faucet needs fixing and your clients need tending. It happens while holding the hands of your spiritual sisters during hard, mind-boggling times. It happens while sharing stories with old friends and recognizing a kindred soul in the eyes of someone new. It comes as a hug from a child, a butterfly landing on your hand, a laugh, or a cry. When you read, go for a walk, talk to your pets. It happens when you’re alone. It happens when you’re not. It happens when we do things with love. There’s nothing small about any of that.

And I had no idea I’d be going in that direction ^ when I started writing this post. I’d meant to point out the changing of seasons, tie that in with both the evolution of my next book and the fact that the shoemaker – me – finally made her own new shoes –new website (well there, I just mentioned it), and how so much can transpire in a month’s time, even while you’re immersed, head down, in dragonry and a whole bunch of design and wondering how and when you’re going to deal with your crumbling walkway.

I guess the point is to embrace your here and now. Do your best. Stitch well. Pay attention to your heart. And, yes, believe in magic.

PS: For the record, I have no interest in visiting Mars any time soon. There’s plenty of life right here.

Needle_and_red_thread.

 

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A Cupcake For You

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Because it’s my birthday – a cupcake for you, and wishes too: That thought by thought, and action by action, this nutty, misguided, confusing, troubled, hopeful, amazing, strange and beautiful world may become a better place for our dreams to thrive. That we all choose to participate in the unfolding of what brings us our own individual peace. That we take a bite of something good and make a delicious offering of that something to ourselves, our friends, families, neighbors, co-workers, and those we pass on the street. That we uplift and respect and care and appreciate. That we smile on one another more.  That we experience more of whatever brings more joy and more peace, more often, into our lives.

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Tea, Guacamole and A Blanket

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Intention: Early morning Sun Salutations. Long walks along the shore; the wide, cream-colored beach hedged by flowering dunes and solid, old homes with weathered shingles and thick white pillars holding up wrap-around porches. Bike rides and ice cream and warm sea breezes fueling inspirations that spread themselves like butter, page after page, in my notebooks. Skin, tingling and alive from the surf and the sun. Hair in happy, salty tangles. Laughter as the sun makes long shadows in the sand and friends share a toast to the tides; to each other; to the red glow on our shoulders (pass the aloe, please). Meditations under the moon; breaths keeping time with the rumbling, tumbling, humbling waves.

Reality: Early morning drizzle followed by chilly, windy torrents. Cold; did I mention, cold? My giant-sized, fluffy red blanket and I step, daily, onto the thick-pillar-adorned porch to admire the angry sea’s spectacular beauty; this week she’s a pounding, twisting, frothy tempest. My blanket-bundled self takes 20 yard walks to the bench at the top of the beach, finds a dry-ish spot to watch the sky for signs of sunshine. Friends arrive, singing “the sun’ll come out, tomorrow…”. My girls, generally hunkered down with their laptops and phones, are otherwise perfecting their omelette and smoothie-making skills. We eat exorbitant amounts of whole-wheat tortilla chips with guacamole dip. We find that Scotty’s fresh flounder tastes just as good in stormy weather as it does in good weather. Thank goodness I remembered to pack the Scrabble board and card decks. And my red blanket.

But still, it’s not enough to see the sea, I need to stand close, near the edge (but not so near to risk dipping my blanket in the surf) ~ so we venture time and again onto the wide, cream-colored coastline and marvel at the ocean’s extraordinary magnificence. My blanket and I enjoy tea under the eaves by the flowering dunes. We read. We take pictures and post them on Instagram. During a break in the unforgiving wind and rain we settle into a comfy spot on the soft sand and attempt to write in my notebook.

Drip.

Drop.

“Oh cruel fate . . . why do you mock me?”

Surrender.

So it’s short walks, no bikes. Ice cream, no warm breezes. Writing inside, not out. Skip the aloe. And despite the lack of shadows for five straight days, we do laugh; and we share toasts to the tides, and, mostly, to each other.

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“Serenely full, the epicure would say, Fate cannot harm me; I have dined to-day.”
– Sydney Smith (1771 – 1845)

 

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