Remembering the Good in 2016

 

On the morning of New Year’s Eve while Dave was walking the dog and the kids were still sleeping, I curled up on my favorite chair with a blanket on my lap and a cup of coffee in my hand to reflect on the happy moments of 2016 (yes, there were happy moments) and read my Happiness Journal.

Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Happiness Jar, I would sit down at the end of each night and reflect on the little moment that made me happiest that day and write it down in my favorite calendar. Well, I aspired to, anyway. But can I confess something? I don’t think I ever once sat down at the end of the night to write my moment. I would try to capture it as it happened. This is my moment, I’d say to myself as Marley told a funny story at dinner or Chandler called unexpectedly and stayed on the phone longer than usual or I opened my front door to a full moon, shiny and bright at 5:15AM on my way to the gym. But after (another) night of falling asleep with while watching TV with Dave and Marley, I’d tumble into bed always, always, always taking the time to wash my face and 87% of the time brushing my teeth, but never having the energy to write my happy moment.

Many mornings I’d write my happy moment from the previous day (like this morning), and most mornings I’d write down two or three (or four) at a time. (What was your moment on Monday, Charlene? Think!) 

This year, as always, I have resolutions.

Write a sequel to Frosted Cowboy.

Lose the holiday weight (again).

Waste less time.

Make healthier meals for my family.

And take the time before bed to reflect on that moment. Because even the shittiest of days (and years good riddance 2016) have wonderful moments. Some of them big, some of them quite small, but they should be recognized. Reflected on. Cherished.

Here are some of mine (big and small):

January 1st: I saw a father teaching his daughter how to ride her bike in the park.

February 8th: I held my book in my hands for the very first time.

February 22nd: The moonrise was amazing tonight. I called Rita to share it and she got in her car and drove to a high point to see it. That made me so happy.

March 23rd: My writers’ group always fills my soul with happiness. (BTW, we meet monthly and I wrote some variation of this every month.)

April 4th: Lunch with Dale and Mera. A hot waiter. An elixir with lavender, cucumber and mint. Happiness all around. So much love at that table.

April 15th: I watched the funniest commercial on YouTube. It sounds lame, but it gave me belly laughs. And belly laughs make me happy. (Want a belly laugh? You can watch it too.)

April 16th: Cheryl’s ballet boot camp class. So freaking hard. But if felt good to do something hard, even if I didn’t do it particularly well.

May 1st: Dancing in the pit at Stagecoach and feeling the energy of the music.

May 8th: Finding out Marley has Brown Eyed Girl on her “Feel Good” music mix and singing along with her. She knows the words better than I do!

May 10th: Hugging Chandler. He’s home!

June 5th: Having a margarita outside on a Sunday afternoon.

June 21st: Marley turned 16 today. Giving her a gift that she wanted but didn’t expect made me so happy. She knows that I listened.

July 11th: When we drove Chandler to the airport he said, “I’m glad everybody came.”

August 8th: Being home with Dave and Marley, just chilling with pizza for dinner after going out five nights in a row was heaven.

September 11th: Listening to Marley tell a story at dinner about the seniors vs. the sophomores. That girl is hilarious!

October 11th: I wore boots today! Fall is really (almost) here.

October 14th: I had to go to Ventura court for work and saw two couples getting photos taken for their weddings. They were dressed up and happy and in love. It felt so great to witness that.

November 8th: Voting for HRC made me so proud. (Remember, it’s my happiest moment of the day and not necessarily how the day turned out.) 😦

November 28th: Interviewing Matthew Ramsey on the phone and having a goal I set for myself be realized. (Matthew Ramsey is the lead singer of Old Dominion & interviewing them was a writing goal I set for myself. The interview was featured in an online magazine called Songwriter Universe and you can read the interview here. If you like.)

December 10th: Watching Marley give her speech and stand up for what she believes in at her march. Watching people rally around her. I’ve never been more proud.

Taking the time to reflect on the happy moments of my year filled me with such peace, such joy, such happiness. I noticed just as I did the year before, so many of my moments were repeated – listening to music, the feeling of accomplishment after a hard workout, laughing with Dave and Marley at dinner, talking to Chandler on the phone, spending time with friends.

And yes, most will agree that 2016 was sort of a sucktastic year. The entertainment world was robbed of beloved icons, there were too many terrorist attacks, and he-who-shall-not-be-named was elected president. And trust me when I tell you that I have taken plenty of time to wallow in the sadness of 2016.

Carrie Fisher Flipping people off
Like oh so many, I feel this about so much of 2016!

But we can spend our time focusing on the sad times or the happy times. And while acknowledging the sad times is important and doing what we can to change them is necessary, I believe our well-being depends on reflecting on, acknowledging, cherishing the things that fill our hearts with happiness – both big and small.

What made you happy in 2016?

 

 

 

How to Achieve Your Goals (Even When It’s Hard)

I set a goal last Monday night at my writing group: to go back to writing a Monday Blog Post every week until we meet again. Every. Single. Week. Except for this week because Monday was a holiday and no one reads blogs on holidays, so this week I am supposed to post my piece on Tuesday. Or so I promised my group (and more importantly, myself).

The problem? I have nothing to write about. Well, nothing worth writing about anyway.

I tried writing a clever post about what I did and did not do over the holiday weekend, but when I wrote…

Things I Did NOT Do Over the Three Day 4th of July Holiday Weekend

  • Do something fabulous or go somewhere fabulous and post the pictures on Facebook like (seemingly) everyone else I know.

…it sounded whiny and bitter instead of self-deprecating and funny as I’d intended.

 

And when I wrote…

Things I DID Do Over the Three Day 4th of July Holiday Weekend

  • Exactly one load of laundry – the cloth napkins and kitchen towels, which I folded while watching one of many, many hours of Property Brothers. (So, it looks like I’ll be wearing the ratty underwear this week.)
  • Got into a deep discussion with Marley about which Scott brother is hotter.
    Discussion went like this:
    Me: Jonathan’s the cuter one, right?
    Marley: Totally, Mom.
    Me: Are you sure, because sometimes I think it’s Drew.
    Marley: It’s not.
    Me: Okay.

 

  • Took two naps. (I’m getting over a cold. I’m a little disappointed in myself for not taking four.)

 

  • Took Marley to the gym and walked on the treadmill at a ridiculously slow speed while catching up on John Oliver and called it a “workout.” (See above – I was sick.)
Last-Night-This-Week
Please take note of how the reflection of the florescent lights makes it look like John Oliver is holding a light saber, not the sad, sad time of my “workout.”

 

  • Played cards with Dave and Marley Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night. (Yeah, the three of us – we’re like a party machine!)

 

 

  • Watched fireworks (through some very thick trees) at my mother’s house Monday night with Dave and Marley (Chandler was working) and then played more cards.

 

… I felt like everyone would die from the boredom of my pathetic life.

Seriously, you’re not still reading this are you? And if so, why? Is it because you feel sorry for me? Are you one of those weird Type-A-OCD people who has to finish whatever you start no matter what, even if you’ve figured out there will be no reward at the end? (Trust me, this post is not going to all of a sudden get better.)

But here is the good news: this blog post will be over soon.

And I can pat myself on the back for doing what I said I would do (at least this week) to achieve my goal. (To steal from and paraphrase the awesome Elizabeth Gilbert, I said I would write a blog post every week, not a good blog post every week.)

And you can be happy because you, too, have achieved your goal by finishing what you started. And because your life is way more exciting than mine. (Hey, I meant that in a funny/self-deprecating, not bitter/whiny way.) 🙂

What Made Me Happy in 2015

Every year my mom gives me a National Geographic desk calendar for Christmas. It’s always my favorite gift. The calendar is in a weekly format and there is a different breathtaking photo for each week. The beauty of nature astounds me and the photographs in these calendars often leave me awestruck.

national-geographic-2016-calendar
My 2016 Calendar

 

Near the beginning of last year I read that Elizabeth Gilbert kept a Happiness Jar and at the end of the day she would scribble down the happiest moment of her day on a piece of scrap paper and put it in a jar. (She said that on sad days she would write down the least-crappy moment.)

Happiness Jar
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Happiness Jar

 

I thought this was a great idea, but I decided to write my happiest moments on my National Geographic calendar instead. My plan was on the last day of the year to sit down and read over my happy moments and reflect on my year as I prepared myself for the year to come.

I will admit that I wasn’t the best at keeping faithful to this practice. In fact I would almost never write down my happy moment before heading to bed. Usually I would write it down the next morning. Okay, maybe that’s not even true. Usually I would sit down near the end of the week (*cough-Saturday Morning-cough*) and think to myself, what the hell made me happy this week?

happiness-calendar
Some days I was better than others at recording my happy times

 

The good news is, I’m a genuinly happy person, so being happy isn’t hard for me. But I am trying to be more mindful and I wanted to focus on specific moments that filled my heart with joy, no matter how small. In fact, the smaller the better. Sure seeing Chandler march down the aisle at his high school graduation ceremony or Marley earn her varsity letter made me happy, but I wanted to reflect upon the little moments. And as the year went on I did get better at recognizing little happy moments of my day and writing them on a piece of scrap paper to transfer to my calendar later.

  • My stinky ninety-pound dog climbing on my lap (even though he knows he shouldn’t) and staring at me with those puppy eyes in a way that gives me no choice but to kiss his smelly head and pet him.
  • Watching a butterfly flit past.
  • Singing Adele’s Hello (before it was overplayed) at the top of my lungs while driving to work.

So on New Year’s Eve, when Dave was walking the dog and the kids were hiding away in their rooms I sat down with a glass of wine in my hand and a plate of cheese on my lap and went through my calendar.

National-geographic-photography-calendar
Mmmmm cheese makes me happy!

 

There were many moments that repeated themselves. For example, my writing group meets once a month and every month I noted it as my happiest moment that day. Going out with friends made the list twenty-seven times, singing in the car made the list seven times, working out at the 5:30AM class made the list nine times and running made the list eight times (which I know is weird since I hate running, but my happiness had more to do with the fact that I was able to run and not die).

2015 was a great year for me – in many ways epic. Chandler graduated high school and went away to college. Marley finished her first year of high school and went on a month-long trip with her grandparents. I received a publishing offer the day after my 50th birthday. I’m telling you, it was a fantastic year full of big wonderful moments. But I believe what also made it great was taking the time to notice the little moments.

Here are some of them:

January 27th: I was stopped at a light and the woman in the car next to me was blowing bubbles out of her window.

March 6th: Dave and I walked the dog after dinner tonight and had such a nice talk.

April 2nd: I talked to my friend Pat today. He always makes me laugh and feel young and happy.

April 26th: Dancing with cute gay men (who only want to dance and nothing else) at Stagecoach Music Festival. Music and dancing always make me feel so young.

April 30th: Marley took out the recycling and told me to come outside so I could see the sunset. It was glorious and I was so happy that she wanted to share it with me.

May 10th: I was vacuuming and Chandler came home from prom and said, “Can I do that for you, Mom, since it’s Mother’s Day?” (Um, Yes!)

June 6th: Pulling weeds -or at least seeing the result- my yard looks so nice!

June 26th: Walking on the beach for hours looking for sea glass. So meditative.

July 11th: Spending the morning yard saling with Chandler. (And finding a Lululemon top for $1.00!)

August 29th: Watching Bridget Jones’s Diary while drinking a Frosted Cowboy.

October 16: Wearing a coat and gloves for the first time in so long and feeling the cool, crisp air. (We were in DC visitng Chandler and it was still ridiculously hot in LA.)

November 16th: Marley thanked me for making her breakfast, just as she does every morning. It always makes me so happy when she says, “Thank you.”

December 14th: Finding out my book was well-reviewed in Publishers Weekly. (Okay, this was kind of a big moment!)

December 19th: Sitting in the car with Chandler eating tacos from a taco truck in the rain while thrift shopping.

December 20th: Baking with Marley.

December 22nd: I was standing in front of the silverware drawer when Dave offered to set up coffee for the next morning. Then he said, “But for that to happen I need two things. 1.) for you to move and 2.) for you to give me a kiss.”

I loved reading and remembering the small things that made me happy and it was such a lovely way to reflect on my year. I am definitely continuing this daily practice (well, daily-ish practice) of writing down my happy moments. And I look forward to December 31, 2016 when I’ll find a quiet space (and some wine and cheese) to relive them again.

What made you happy in 2015?

 

Photo credit: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Happiness Jar