eight words.

i was walking across the park two mornings ago. the air warm, sticky--battling off fall's advance.

i shuffled along the cobblestones lining central park south lost in thought--lost in a mess of thoughts, a tangle of half-formed, ill-informed notions, no one clear or strong. and i was swimming. taking laps in the discomfort of it all when one surfaced, thrummed up and through. came out before i even knew what was what was happening.

clear as day and eight words.

it was a prayer.

God, grant me the courage to be happy. 

and from my body there went a little bit of air. oh. so that's my great wish. the courage to be happy. 

i didn't pray for happiness, didn't ask for the thing itself. my plea was for the courage.

the courage to pursue happiness.

sadness is known territory. it is a settling back on one's heel. it is a falling inward that comes naturally and takes little to no work. that's not entirely true, it takes a great deal of work, but the work is easy and deceptively alluring.

happiness, well, happiness demands that i be bold. demands that i say yes (most especially when i don't want to). it demands that i value myself enough to feel worthy of happiness.

ay, there's the rub. there's the tricky, unsettling part: it demands that i value myself enough to feel worthy of happiness. why is that so hard, to say, i am worth fighting for? this good thing, it's okay that i want it. and it's okay that i might get it. 

the prayer, that monday morning prayer, was an answer, an affirmation in and of itself. it was illumination.

the courage to be happy. fight for happiness.

but in riding the train home last night, clinging to my little prayer, there came a bit more.

relax into it.

fight for happiness. be bold. say yes. and then relax into it. ride the wave. recognize that this thing you think is terrifying might actually be thrilling. and you'll look back in ten years and wonder where that feeling went--that one that you're fighting so hard against right now--and you'll find yourself praying for a way to get it back. imagine that. so enjoy it. live in it. revel in the unknown and uncertain and the delicious discomfort of it.

and know that you're worth it.

(post script: know that in reading this over i started to cry. and i'm not entirely sure why. perhaps because as true as i know this all to be, there are moments where it is so very hard. to fight and not know and not understand why what's happening is happening. life is hard, you know?).

on forcing one's self to look up. and the fight that ensues.

i saw a mouse on friday night. a live one.

i was sitting in the living room watching dateline's lived to tell the tale when something caught my eye.

a mouse. moving.

i have dealt with every kind of bug situation since moving to new york. ants and roaches, bed bugs and larvae, maggots and dead pigeons (those two were related, as it turns out).

but not a mouse. not. a. live. mouse.

so i sat on the couch and willed the thing to go away. but just as i began to relax, it thought the coast clear and would attempt to run from the hallway to the kitchen (food!) and i would let out a squeal and back it would go.

you see, i was a little undone by this wee of the mouse. but that poor mouse was absolutely terrified of me--this notion upset me all the more.

and so i began to cry. not too much, but enough to know that i wasn't really crying because of the mouse.

something bigger was at play here.

and to some extent i know what that something is, but also i haven't a bloody clue and how is that possible?

i'm pretty sure it has to do with shifting terrain and the sense that at any moment--should i make the decision--my world will open wide. and there will be light. or absolute darkness. or something in between.

{ahhh, that familiar territory of the unknown i so adore}.

but back to the mouse. so there i was: crying. legs pulled up under me on the couch. friday night. dateline on the television. and i made a decision.

i did what any manhattan-dwelling single-woman in her mid-twenties (actually, let's take a moment to clarify that, shall we? mid-twenties. not late-twenties. mid. MID-TWENTIES. got it? okay) who's home alone on a friday night would do: i ran to the bathroom, drew a bath, and locked myself in there. mouse be damned.

and when i finally emerged, a little bit cleaner and a little bit calmer i clomped about the apartment in flip-flops, trying to scare the thing back to wherever it had come from. out of site. out of mind.

i haven't seen it since. knock on wood.

more worrisome than the mouse is the nagging sense that i'm not feeling totally well--the tears brought on by something bigger than myself.

that old sadness creeping in.

sleeping a little bit more than usual. eating a little bit more than usual (and by a little bit, i mean, a lot).

it's always a humbling experience to find myself face to face with the eating disorder once more. mostly because there are things you forget--experiences and moments and memories your body protects you from. like how you sometimes remain as still as possible so as to not feel yourself in a body that is just a little bit bigger and a little bit less yours.

but then there are moments that pull you out. in the form of a kind boy with big eyes who's far more interesting than the burrito before you, or a night out at a bar in chicago that words will never fully do justice, or the man who wants to kiss you even when you're wearing that old, navy blue dress you only pull out when you feel you need both a little more coverage and a little more breathing room (i have an inkling he hasn't a clue about the dress. and even if he did, he wouldn't really care).

i know enough to know that this steep pendulum swing between being just fine and ever, so off-kilter is always--without a doubt--the period of the most growth. i come out better for it. and as a very lovely friend said to me the other day, it always passes. and there is such comfort in that. 


it was at a slip of a table at a restaurant in midtown west four years ago that a conversation took place. happiness is a choice. that's what we settled on, circled around. it's a choice. i can't tell you how many times i've returned to that place, that time, that thought. turned those words over in my hands, swallowed them whole and felt them burning at the pit of my stomach.

but then just recently i came across the wise words of ayn rand:

Learn to value yourself, which means: fight for your happiness. 

fight for your happiness. don't just choose it, fight for it. somehow that seems more apt. the actor in me understands that: the difference between those two verbs is an intensity of action. and the more active the verb, the more interesting the choice.

fight for your happiness. and value yourself. of course.

easier said than done, but an exciting proposition no?

i read an article in the huffington post this morning about what makes a person happy, really happy. and how mostly it's the small things.

and lord knows i've blogged about this before. (here and here, most recently).

but because right now i'm feeling a bit like i really need a tangible list of weapons with which to fight i want to include an addendum to my previous cocktail for happiness.

so here goes. addendum. (other things that make me happy. in no particular order)...

when my father sends me clippings from the new york times. (and they arrive the old-fashioned-way: posted mail).

speaking of my father, when i look down at my wallet--my absolute mess of a wallet and i know in that moment--in that absolute instant that i am actually my father's daughter. (i'm not daddy's little girl. never have been, never will be, because i am my father. i am his daughter, for better or worse, i am his child--nervous stomach, messy wallet and all).

when my parents do something--have a little argument, make coy comments, and i am reminded that even after all this time, they still love each other enough to poke fun and be willing to laugh.

always having a set of concert tickets in the little, white box atop my dresser. (someday i'll write about this year in which i became bold simply by listening to really good music).

pretty bowls. dried lavender. a long, slow brunch. getting dressed up--from the shower to the makeup to properly chosen under-garments (note to self: rid drawer of that pair of bridget jones-esque underwear {you know the pair, the terrible control top pair that is only okay when seen by no one but herself {actually, even then, it's questionable}) .

turning the subway into a movable cafe with a to-go latte in one hand and good book in the other. pulling the dirty clothes off my reading chair just long enough to actually read in it (a novel idea!). a good pun. the weight that is lifted the moment i finish my laundry. the promise of a good first-date. a really good literary illusion.

i gave myself two goals this week--two tangible things to pull myself from that metaphorical couch on which i sit, legs folded, afraid of a mouse for goodness' sake!

1. to try a new recipe each day. and 2. to lug a camera everywhere. that's it. that's all. a goal. and a gift to myself.

so do tell, won't you. what are the tangibles you pull out? what are your happiness triggers? i want to add to the list, make a communal one from which we call all draw...a starting place from which to fight for happiness.

(post script: happy tuesday).


i went out with a friend recently, one i haven't seen in ages--and by ages i mean years. it had been years. whole lives had passed between our last meeting. we went to a posh restaurant in the meat-packing district--one of those places that people say you simply must go when in manhattan. the girl who sat us wore a black dress, red lipstick, and a pill-box hat. the waiter spoke with a heavy french accent. we sat outside, at a tiny slip of a table. my dress tugged on my neck as i tried to find a comfortable (and modest) way to sit in the small folding chair. there was a garden across the street--with a large wooden table and sunflowers atop it. and the way the sun hit the stones of the patio caught my breath in my mouth.

there is always the moment, with old friends, when i must explain what i'm doing in this life.

no acting? why not? what then? writing? what kind of writing? and my answers become tedious and often vague because to answer them all well and truthfully and fully would be a whole (and pardon the language that's about to come) shit-storm of information. and some things are best unraveled slowly and carefully. so i gave some sort of (or i thought so) coy look and said, i've been learning how to be happy. i've figured out happiness for myself. and he looked at me incredulously and said, really, you figured that out? 

it's a bold statement. to say i've figured it out. i know. but i think in a lot of ways, i have.

i smiled, looked down at my latte (what else) and said, yeah, sort of, it starts with this (the latte). and a clean room--a clean room is essential to my happiness. 

i have a whole list of things. red lipstick. hoop earrings. a camera around my neck. live music. late-night conversations with my father. riding in the car beside my mother. trips to boston. sitting next to strangers on a bus. girlfriends that refuse to deal with nonsense. photo albums. any book by pat conroy (with the exception of south of broad--not mr. conroy's finest). living through fear. doing what i once thought impossible. the list is endless. or at least, that's the hope, that it should be never-ending.

but the list is only a sliver. i think what i've figured out is this: everything passes. and sadness does not negate happiness--it sometimes eclipses it, sometimes not. the two can live side-by-side. they can co-exist. there is a sadness in me this morning, as i write this, but that is not to say i'm not happy.

it's just that happiness is ever-moving and ever-changing and all i can do is be open to the possibility that every-once-in-a-while when i least expect it, i'll be so lucky to have it move through me and around me--to fill me and live there before it continues on.

do i have happiness figured out? as much as i can, right now. yes, i think so.

i've been feeling weary of my upcoming 26th birthday because i feel i've accomplished so little. i'm so near a number and so far away from any expectations i had for my life at this point. but realizing this last saturday morning that a little piece of happiness is mine, knowing i've just a wee of a handle on it? well, that's not so bad for a twenty-five year old nearing twenty-six, is it?

the "to be continued" part of yesterday's post.


i got the tree today. from my canadian tree farmer. just over the hill.

i walked home hugging the bundle close against my chest--my stomach. the wind whipping off the hudson burning my exposed hands. i nestled into the green and felt safe, warm.

as i looked around my room yesterday, it struck me that the only thing missing was a christmas tree. for 'tis the season and there's nothing i enjoy so much as the scent of pine and the twinkle of lights.

the thing about this summer is that there was a point when i felt stripped of all freedoms. it was no one's fault. not my own. not that of those around me--in fact i will never forget the goodwill and kindness of many--just a strange, unfortunate congruence of events.

i had no way to get from here to there. no room of my own. no space to stake a claim to and declare as private. i was constantly exposed, without the needed escape. so i started taking showers. often. because those few minutes with the water running down and washing me clean were mine and mine alone. i would then take the time to dry my hair (not something i usually enjoy) because it allowed me to stretch the minutes in that tiny, enclosed space where no one could follow.

it was a lesson in returning to the basics. in finding the great pleasure in the simplest of things. many an afternoon found me holding a warm coffee mug. i don't think i ever got past two sips into the thing--i simply wanted it for the warmth between my hands: a universe unto itself, an opening of space in which to seek solace.

perhaps this is why my room, more than ever before, has new meaning--new importance. why i was so struck in the second reading of eat, pray, love by liz gilbert's transformation of her apartment into something of a hospice. why i now take frequent baths--remaining in the water just long enough to soak myself warm. or indulge in hot cocoa late in the evening. perhaps this is why i finally bought a humidifier after years of putting it off due to expense. or why i now can justify fresh flowers every two weeks. why when the friends and family anthropologie sale happened this last go-round i bought pillows and candles as opposed to blouses and bowls. why for christmas i'm asking for a bed skirt (and maybe a new window treatment?).

sometimes it all seems so silly and frivolous--the import i place on such things--how vital they are to my existence.

but on this morning i'm not gonna worry too much about that.

because on this morning i'll sit in my corner, read my book, and allow scent of candles and fresh pine to fill me.

for christmas is coming and i have found a home.