Happiness Challenge

by Maria Theresa Maggi 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)


Leave a Comment

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Danielle August 23, 2014 at 6:36 am

-The great feeling right after we did an intensive cleaning yesterday, and since our home is so small it only took two hours! (confession, we employed both toothpicks and q-tips)

-Gratitude over my love of and joy about my yoga practice, which I felt each time I did yoga this week.

-The fact that we are so lucky in this country. We are so lucky we sometimes lose sight of that fact and want it to be even better. Just the fact that we have clean water to drink whenever we desire it, and all we have to do is lift a tiny handle to do so is amazing.


2 moonwatcher August 23, 2014 at 7:49 am

Oh Danielle, LOVED the toothpick and q-tip confession!! That made ME happy! Thanks for sharing your lovely list here. 🙂


3 Teresa August 23, 2014 at 7:25 am

Maria your life sounds so wonderful to me! Love the stories of community, family, furry friend and food!

My week has lots of gratitude. Visited my older son last weekend while he finishes up an internship in San Francisco and then he stopped by here in Boise on his way back to Moscow/UofI. We celebrated his 22nd birthday with him, along with old friends.

I also had an unpleasant dental appt this summer. I have Sjogrens so I’m also fairly vigilant with oral hygiene. And thankful for access to good health care!

Enjoy the week ahead!


4 moonwatcher August 23, 2014 at 7:48 am

Thanks, Teresa! I loved hearing what you are grateful and happy for, too. And sorry to hear about your own dental woes.Yes, let’s enjoy the week ahead!


5 Veronique August 23, 2014 at 8:04 am

Hi Maria,

Sorry to hear about the dental troubles. Always wondered how our stone age ancestors dealt with that 🙂 .
Yes being grateful and being happy are two different things and though I am part of a facebook group “I am grateful for” and it is brimming with gratefulness, I also keep a gratefulness and Happiness jar. I am grateful it stopped raining but I am happy my two friends are back from holiday so we can go swimming together again, I am grateful my friend brought me a new bird’s house and I am grateful to have a garden. Watching the happy birds makes me happy. Thinking of dinner (pizza too!) Also makes me happy. I was also very happy making the nut and soy free cheese from http://www.cookingwithplants.com It’s in the fridge firming up and I will try it on my pizza later on. Those are happy moments too 🙂
Gratefulness and happiness reproduce very fast. The more you are aware, the more there will be to be aware of. And it is the best way to soar through good, but especially through the not so good times.
Good luck on the dental thing and thank you for sharing your happy moments!


6 moonwatcher August 23, 2014 at 8:24 am

Thanks for this beautiful comment, Veronique! I appreciate you also make a distinction between feeling grateful and feeling happy–though they certainly “feed” each other really well, don’t they? I loved reading about your jar and your list and sharing the pizza plans too!! Thanks, too, for the well wishes on the dental work. And I SO agree that gratefulness and happiness reproduce very fast and they are by far the best way to soar through the not so good times, if at all possible. And it seems it always IS possible to find them, if we look. xoxo


7 Pam August 24, 2014 at 3:25 am

Sorry to hear you had a rough week, Maria. Dental stuff is never fun. Hope you have the best possible outcome with little to no effects on your health.

I love your happy list! Here are a few of mine for the week:

– sitting in an Irish pub in Dublin with my husband, who is the best possible travel partner, listening to local musicians come together to play traditional Irish music – several fiddles, a flute, a squeezebox
– in another pub/restaurant (uh-oh, there’s a theme here!) listening to a young Irish man sing what he called “nostalgia”songs – Dean Martin, Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and his encore was “New York, New York” and he had the whole place swaying and dancing and kicking, from the 11 year old girl who had a birthday to the couples in their 60’s and 70’s!
– I realized this week that I’ve gained some weight since I’ve been traveling. It’s not great, it means I’m not eating as well as I should, but they are the happiest 10 lbs I’ve ever gained!
– I was so happy to discover the small harbor near the town of Dalkey, which looks out to Dalkey Island. I love the sea, and this area has such a great feel to it along the coastline.

Thanks for the opportunity to reflect on me week. 🙂


8 moonwatcher August 24, 2014 at 8:32 am

Thanks Pam! It made ME happy just to read about all those people of all ages and stripes singing and swaying and dancing and kicking along with those songs! I love the richness of your list, and the opportunities for awareness, forgiveness and presence they afford. I also appreciate the well wishes for the dental work. There’s a long road ahead.


9 Veronica August 25, 2014 at 9:21 am

Lovely post, Maria! It’s especially important to reflect on the good when you have a particularly bad week… I’m sorry to hear about your dental woes. Ugh. I’ve had my share, and it’s not fun. I feel for you – good luck!
It is true, there is a difference between gratefulness and happiness – but often one leads to the other and vice versa. Or at least puts you in that mindset to expand into the other.

-I think the number 1 thing I’m grateful for this week is that the earthquake didn’t cause any damage here – we were very lucky.
-Watching the birds and squirrels and their hijinx outside always makes me temporarily forget whatever’s going on and focus on watching and listening; a bit of meditative mindfulness, and I’m glad I have them.
-I’m getting back into my knitting! I’ve missed it, and it’s nice to have the yarn back in my hands.
-Many more things, but I won’t clog up your comments listing it all. We’re going through some stressful stuff right now, and I needed a reminder to focus on the good stuff – thanks for a timely post. 🙂

Oh – and we’re having pizza this evening. It seems like the thing to do…. 🙂 xoxo


10 moonwatcher August 25, 2014 at 11:08 am

Thank you, Veronica! I’m so glad to hear the earthquake didn’t cause any damage where you are. I know some folks in Napa who did experience some significant damage, but thankfully they are alright themselves. I loved hearing some of the things that are bringing you happiness, and also how you feel grateful and happiness, while distinct, are intertwined. The watching and listening is always a good path in, isn’t it? Thanks for the well wishes and sympathy about the dental work, and I’m sending good thoughts for you as you address your own stressful stuff–and I totally agree, pizza is the thing to do!! 🙂 xoxo


11 Debra Maslov August 28, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Oh Maria, how I needed to read your wise words this week! I too am going through some dental woes – medical too – but LOVED reading how much focusing on your gratitude moments changed your mood & boosted your feelings of happiness. I will surely do the same now. Thank you ever so much!


12 moonwatcher August 28, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Thank you Debra. So sorry to hear of your own dental and medical woes. Very honored that reading about I focused on my gratitude and happiness inspired you to do the same. You are very welcome and here’s to more happiness all around!!


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