Happiness Challenge

by moonwatcher on August 22, 2014

Twilight Crescent original watercolor by Maria Theresa Maggi

I had a very difficult week. At a visit to the dentist I thought was a conscientious inquiry about a sensitive tooth, I discovered I need much more extensive work than I would ever have dreamed. I won’t be discussing the gory details here or in the comments, but suffice it to say that I’ve been on a steep  learning curve this week about what it means and what kinds of choices i will have to make, and what kind of price tag I’m looking at, along with a return to putting mouth care at the top of my priority list.

Since going to the dentist is among my least favorite things, topped only by having the dentist find something wrong, I thought this might be one of the worst weeks I’ve had in a long time. And yet, on Friday afternoon, as I dozed on the couch with Romeo, listening to a summer thunderstorm roll in, I realized with sharp clarity that despite all this, there had been many times this week I was very happy–and none of the ones I could remember were BEFORE I got the bad news at the dentist.

Perhaps it’s my leisurely reread through The Nature of Personal Reality that helped me to such a realization, with its matter of fact assurance that our beliefs about ourselves and our reality can be changed by no one but ourselves. Yet it isn’t necessary to read channeled material to consider such things. Nearly anything can be a prompt. For instance, one of my friends on facebook has fashioned herself an 8 day gratitude challenge, which she invited a few other friends to join her in. At the end of each day she’s posting what she is grateful for that day on her wall.

It’s easy for me to find things to be grateful for. That’s never been my challenge. Just thinking of one thing creates an almost instant mood shift. But happiness can seem more elusive. Maybe it’s that I guard it more carefully, am hesitant to jinx it, so I “put it in the mouth of the wolf,” as an old Italian saying goes. But suddenly, as I listened to the approaching thunder crack its mighty whip, I was energized by the MANY times I was happy in a week I had begun to assume (and describe) as only difficult.

I’ll list some of them here, in no particular order. And I hope it helps prompt you to remember what made you happy this week, no matter what else took your time and attention.

-At the dentist: after the full mouth x-ray session was over (I was grateful for their equipment which emits a third less radiation than the standard), I was so tired that I thought I would not be able to get up out of the chair, let alone walk home. But then after a while during the exam I felt myself rally and knew I could walk home and enjoy it.

-When I saw the “Easter Island” kleenex dispenser with a Kleenex coming out of its nose in the consultation room and I laughed out loud. Then when the dentist came in we both laughed out loud about it all over again. He said although he hates wasting the kleenex, it’s the best thing in the world for putting 3 year olds at ease. I liked him instantly for that.

-During my whole conversation with the x-ray technician about care products. Just appreciated her style and honesty–and the free Spry gum she gave me

-When Romeo poked his nose up through the arm of the dentist chair to see if I was alright after the dentist touched a sensitive spot in my mouth.

-When the receptionist offered to take care of him while they did the x-rays so he wouldn’t get any “scatter” x-ray, however slight.

-When I discovered it’s easy to eat quinoa, even when my mouth was at its most sensitive

-When I discovered that I LOVE quinoa topped with a generous sprinkling of carob powder, a dash of cinnamon, and a splash of almond milk.

-When my left handed self figured out how to load the right handed soap dispenser in the dishwasher.

-When the young couple and their baby that used to live in my house came over to visit. While we grown-ups visited and dreamed up some ideas about the rain chain we will construct for my new rain barrel, their 10 month old son sat on the ground at his mom’s feet intently examining the marbles, rocks and shells that came out of the jar with some of the ones we will wrap into the rain chain. It made me very happy to see him enjoy himself so intently, something in each hand at all times.

-When my pizza dough, already resting in the fridge for several hours, took the forgotten bit of added salt needed for a proper rise into itself so neatly.

-When I saw how lovely it looked the next day when it was all ready to go in the oven.

spelt sourdough veggie pizza pre-oven

 

-When I realized this zucchini slice looked like a spider web to me.

spider webbed zucchini slice

-When my trusted herbalist friend gave me some clove oil and a whole list of good things to do and eat, along with her love and support, based on our long years of knowing one another so well.

-When I saw a woman I know on the street after my dentist appointment who told me she wanted to buy my watercolor “Twilight Crescent” hanging in the library for Art Walk (see above). I so enjoyed her lovely words about my other paintings at the co-op show last winter, and also those she shared with me about the beauty of hay, after telling me how much she liked my Haystack of Light painting, which had sold to someone else. She owns one of my rainbow paintings and she said, “Now I’ll have a rainbow and a moon.”

-When I ran into my friend at the co-op and we sat on the bench outside the store and just talked for a while.

-When I went into the store after that and met a woman while i was staring at all the tooth care products who had been through worse than I’ll have to go through and the kind perspective and recommendations she gave me.

-When I got silly while asking my friends who work in produce if they were going to get any fresh figs in.

-Whenever I had a nap or night time cuddle with Romeo, warming up my feet or spooning into my legs. Best cuddler ever, human or not.

original chalk pastel by Maria Theresa maggi

-When I decided to wear my watermelon-colored pants.

-When I finally solved how to frame a drawing I did for a friend.

-When I ate my lunch “with my son” while talking to him on the phone.

When I did my sun salutations early in the morning and the sun was “right there” with me at the window in the front bedroom.

-When I heard the thunder and it ushered in these and other times of happiness in a difficult week.

 

Your turn. Can you remember your times of happiness this past week?

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

{ 10 comments }

Instant Carob Ginger Banana Dipping Sauce (or Pudding)

I’ve never had any hesitation that moving to the little house on Van Buren Street was anything but the absolutely right thing for me to do. I just knew it from the very beginning. But if you’d asked me why I’d have a hard time telling you. I could have said “time for a change.” I could have said “easier to take care of.” I could have said “more quiet out there.” I could have said “it’s artfully remodeled” or “I’ll have my own studio.” And I did say all of those things. They’re all good reasons.

But the real reason is not something that can be expressed as a reason. Like getting close to a wild animal, it’s something I’ve had to wait for. I catch fleeting glimpses, in moments when the light and shadow of the aspen tree outside my kitchen window dapples the window sill and cupboards as it “waves” to me, or when I hear new bird song through my bedroom window in the early morning. Such moments seal my trust a more full view will eventually unfold itself.

I have a pair of white cotton capris I almost never wear. Even though they’re perfect for plenty of hot days in summer, I’m always saving them for a special occasion. One where I need to look nice but not be too dressed. One where I won’t be digging in the dirt or pulling up weeds or walking through dust or eating anything I might spill that would stain them. So of course they often hang in the closet all summer and never get worn, or get worn only once. That’s what happened last summer.

But the other day I put them on. I’d had them hanging in the bathroom, awaiting that perfect day I thought might come but didn’t. Then I put them back in the closet. The next morning I took them back out and decided to brave the fear that they might be too dressy, too hot, get too dirty or that my underwear might show through in a way I’d rather it didn’t.

I don’t know “why” I went back in and got them out of the closet. It wasn’t because I’d finally come up with a satisfactory answer to any of these concerns, real or  imagined. I just felt like it, and didn’t want any of these things to stop me. The funny thing ended up being that none of these worries were the least bit of an issue, even though this was an ordinary day. I didn’t garden, but I drew with charcoal and I made bread—not exactly a recipe for keeping white pants spotless. Nevertheless, they were comfortable, and light, and I’m going to be really glad I didn’t miss out on wearing them, even without a special occasion.

While “I just felt like it” sounds kind of egotistical and self-absorbed, I don’t mean it in that sense. The “I just felt like its” I’m referring to arise from a deeper place within me, a place that’s very hard to describe with words. And while this may seem like an off-the-wall reference point, I can think of no better way to describe that place than the one I read years ago in a Seth book by Jane Roberts called The Nature of Personal Reality. I still have the book, and recently rediscovered my own underlines around passages like this: “Your emotional feelings are transitory, but beneath there are certain qualities of feeling uniquely your own, that are like deep musical chords. . .Sometimes they rise to the surface, but in great long rhythms. You cannot call these negative or positive. They are instead tones of your being. . .they represent the core from which you form your experience.”

Deciding to buy, move to and begin the long slow process of settling in to my new place is a lot like the decision I made that morning to wear the white capris. I felt like doing it,  in this hearing the-deep-tones-of-my-being chime sort of way. And I didn’t want to miss out on what felt so right, despite any number of objections or worries or obstacles that I could have let stop me. And as it turned out, because I didn’t let any perceived obstacles stop me, there really weren’t any. Certainly there were steps to go through, including the rezoning, but it was as if it was already a reality and all I had to do was walk through the steps that were already laid out so I could walk into the front door of a new stage in my life. The real obstacle was not getting caught up in transitory worry along the way.

There isn’t any particular reason a bowl of fresh summer fruit needs more than itself to appeal to me. But sometimes I just feel like dressing it up with a little something extra, maybe to celebrate how delicious it is to listen to the deep music from within. This fat free dipping sauce turns a bowl of fruit into a fancy occasion. The kind I used to want to get my white capris out for,  but then worry myself silly that I’d stain them if I did. But carob doesn’t seem to stain like chocolate. And in this little sauce it tastes every bit as rich, with a lot less fat, and almost no prep. And if I leave it in the fridge overnight, it becomes an extraordinary dish of pudding worth celebrating any special occasion in life, or better yet, “just because.”

Of course you can do this with cocoa powder, too, if you want. But the carob is great with the ginger, and both are good for digestion, so I hope you’ll give them a try together.  Living a bit dangerously, in the equivalent of your own white capris, of course.

Maria (moonwatcher)

{ 4 comments }

White Bean and Basil Spread (and The Return of the Sandwich!)

August 13, 2014

Feeling at home on the electric range was just the beginning of what seems likely to become a chain of surprises revealing themselves in my new home. This latest story of surprise and enlightenment has roots that go all the way back to when I was first diagnosed with MS in 1996. One of the […]

Read the full article →

Cucumber Water: Poetry in a Jar

August 9, 2014

Last July I was scurrying around my old kitchen to create sugar free low fat whole food treats for the guests that would arrive when I hosted poetry night at the Asbury Street house. But this July poetry night was literally a walk in the park. It was being hosted quite a ways farther south […]

Read the full article →

Tasty Thai Style Hummus

August 6, 2014

  When it comes to a vegan staple, hummus is right up there at the top of the list–it’s healthy, can be made low fat or fat-free, travels well, and can be spread in a sandwich, a pita, or used as a dip. The usual treatments with garlic and lemon, or the addition of roasted […]

Read the full article →

A Gentle Reminder: Perspective

July 30, 2014

Long ago as a university writing instructor I didn’t have the luxury–or the confidence–to draw pictures on the chalkboard to illustrate a point. Instead it would be key words or concepts from the required reading. What I never failed to marvel at, though, is how many times it was necessary to repeat these key words […]

Read the full article →

Double Banana Bread (Vegan and Gluten Free)

July 25, 2014

When Mike and Kelly and I come together, we always wind up with an overabundance of bananas from both our households. Some travel all the way to Moscow from Portland, needing to be used up before they turn liquid. Others have accumulated at my home base, as I try to squirrel away more than usual […]

Read the full article →

Home on the Electric Range

July 21, 2014

A long time ago, as my friend Jim was building the masonry stove in the house on Asbury Street, we got into a discussion about whether it’s satisfying to be right all the time. Jim is an intelligent and conscientious craftsman and at the time he was very invested in getting things right. And, “rightly,” […]

Read the full article →

Pineapple Basil Garlic Scape Pesto

July 13, 2014

I’m sharing a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share this year from the organic farm at Washington State University with two friends of mine.  I’m so glad they asked to include me, because it’s meant I’ve had more local fresh produce during the move than I otherwise would have, since planting an extensive garden at either […]

Read the full article →

Time is a Circle

July 8, 2014

The subject line of this blog post was also the subject line of an e-mail my son  Mike sent me with the photo above attached. The first half of the photo was taken the summer I bought the blue house, the summer of 1994, the summer we got Tinne, our golden retriever. I was 38 […]

Read the full article →