Happiness is a Pint of Ben & Jerry’s Bonnaroo Buzz

happiness
Anyone for ice-cream?

My familiar happiness muse tells me that July is a month for buying myself some happiness. Without further ado, here’s how I plan to acquire happiness during the month of July.

a) Indulge in a modest splurge. I need a new pair of eyeglasses this month, and rather than head straight for the sale rack at For Eyes, I plan to stop by the fancy-schmancy eyewear store in the next town and pick up the beautiful pair of Tiffany brand glass frames that I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years.

b) Buy needful things. I’m an under-buyer married to an over-buyer. I guess on some level we balance out one another’s purchasing insanity, but rather than accepting that logic, I’m aiming to bring both of us towards the center.

c) Spend out. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten quite good at this. I get rid of worn out or no longer useful items in my household. What I cannot do is apply the same guidelines to my writing. If I’ve written something, even if I know it’s lousy and will never develop into anything other than what first comes out of my pen or keyboard, I am simply unable to get rid of it. I must learn that the delete key can be my friend.

d) Give up something. I’ve given up my bad habits over the years: too many margaritas or glasses of wine, too much partying, driving overly fast, the occasional social cigarette, eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Bonnaroo Buzz in one sitting when I’ve had a bad day.  I’ve eliminated all of those bad habits as I’ve aged.  To be fair, I still do crave that ice cream on really bad days.

One thing I haven’t given up, however, is my worst habit ever. I yell. I have an explosive temper, most especially when I feel defensive. So that’s what I’ll be giving up for the month of July, and I hope for good. I don’t want to yell at my child or my husband anymore, even when I’m seeing red.

I recently discovered the blog The Orange Rhino, written by a mom who decided she was fed up with yelling so much at her kids and decided to stop.  Her commitment was 365 days without yelling; I will commit to 30 days and when I fulfill that obligation to myself and my family, I will recommit to the next 30 days.

April is for Lightening Up

Unwilling to write yesterday for fear I would awaken to find whatever I created was an April Fool’s joke played by the universe, here I am today looking forward to my April goals as promulgated by my happiness muse, Gretchen Rubin.

a) Sing in the morning. I don’t know about singing, but I have started putting on music in the morning when I awaken. I’m afraid if I begin singing, something horrible will happen. Perhaps my husband will divorce me after hearing the horrid noise emanating from my throat, perhaps the skies will open, and the gods will smite me for daring to blemish the beauty of an early morning with something so foul, or my child will be horrified and seek to become emancipated at age five. I have a horrible singing voice and sound like nothing so much as a melee between a bunch of alley cats. My son told me at age three that he didn’t want me to sing to him any longer because I had a terrible voice.

I’ve also purchased an under-counter radio/cd player for my kitchen. In my mind, these types of appliances have long been the province of my grandparents; it seemed as though my nana had some type of machine under every inch of cabinet space in her mongrel kitchen that my grandfather built piece by piece. Regardless, I don’t want a radio taking up valuable counter space, so I caved. I haven’t yet installed it, so Ernie Hemingway hasn’t seen it. I’m hoping the reaction is not explosive, unless it’s along the lines of ‘what a fantastic idea!’

Regardless, the goal seems to be having more lightness and more music in my mornings, so whether I sing is irrelevant. The idea is to make this whole happiness project thing work for me, so I’m not being bullied into singing.

b) Acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings. Although not as good as I could be, I’m told I’m actually pretty good at this. Having a young child is terrific practice. The person with whom I have the most trouble in this area is the person with whom it should be easiest. But I’ll keep trying.

c) Be a treasure house of happy memories. Holidays with my family remind me how fabulous we all are at remembering the good and putting aside the unpleasant. It’s not that we forget; it’s that we deliberately choose to put the negative aside in favor of the smiles, the laughter and the warm feelings. This is one of my favorite things about my family, and one of the things I most want to pass on to my child. Having a sense of history, a sense of your place in the world, is important, but having positive experiences to frame your sense of self is one of the most extraordinary gifts a parent can give a child.

d) Take time for projects. I recently cleaned out what we call “Mummy’s Closet” in my house. It’s a small area in the hallway that looks remarkably similar to the closet in which Harry Potter spent his nights while living with the Dursleys of Privet Drive, in which I keep gifts and books and crafting materials. Everything in it is my exclusive domain. I can hardly ever find the things I want in there, and I have found that I often “lose” Christmas and Hanukkah gifts I’ve bought early in the year, so I decided the contents needed to be culled and organized.

I made a pilgrimage to my spiritual home, The Container Store, and purchased several bins, which I separated into three categories: yarn, patterns, crochet hooks and knitting needles; jewelry making supplies; and fabric and sewing notions and patterns. I am hopeful that now I’ve seen all the wondrous colors and projects available to me, I will make time for them.  I’ve already made a couple of jewelry items and pulled out a sweater that I started working on before I began law school in 1993. When I asked my mother for help in figuring out where in the pattern I had stopped, we joked that although it’s been so long since I started the sweater that the style has likely gone out of fashion and come back in again.

My main project for April, however, is writing., or rather the devoting of daily time to my writing practice. I’ve got hundreds of starts – stories, essays, poems, just about anything – and I need to devote myself to finishing some things and making other nascent thoughts into reality. I could commit to getting up thirty minutes earlier each morning to write in peace, but I am far too committed to my sleep for that. I’d like to say I’ll take thirty minutes each night after putting my son to be, but I get so little time with Ernie Hemingway as it is that I will not sacrifice those hours each night before we both go to bed. Instead, I will make time during my day, giving up thirty minutes of mindless internet surfing or watching one television show on my DVR. Writing is a much better use of my time, and much more likely to help keep me sane than cruising around the ‘net or watching Emily Thorne get her “Revenge” on the Grayson family.

On Being a Junkie

It is said by many that the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem.

I am an addict.  A beauty product addict, to be precise.  That’s right, I am a product junkie.  And this is my year to get the monkey off my back, to ignore the insatiable urges, to fight the irresistible force that forces me to buy all manner of beauty products: makeup, hair, face treatments, appliances, treatments…you name it; I’ve either bought it, tried it, or quite possibly, still have it stashed under my sink or in my linen closet.

The state of my under sink bathroom cabinet that tipped me over the edge:

UnderSinkBefore

Notice the plethora of hair products, a particular weakness of mine. I have naturally curly hair, but neither curly like Bernadette Peters nor classically waved like Sarah Jessica Parker; no, my hair is somewhere in between, and accordingly frustrating as I try to force it to commit to one camp or another.  Unsuccessfully.  Thirty plus years of trying ended with me choosing chemical straightening over everyday rounds with the blow dryer and either a flat iron or curling iron. Since I would allow a professional wrestler to break my arm rather than let my hair go naturally curly, I felt quite safe in throwing out all the products targeted to making curls more prominent.

Notice also all the skin lotions.  I have exceptionally dry skin.  Like the old alligator in the Lubriderm ad campaign.  In preparation for the culling, I pulled out all the bottles and consolidated all the part-used bottles and tubs into other mostly empty bottles and tubs.  There are still a lot of them, but instead of twenty-five bottles and tubs, I’ve now only got about twelve.  Seriously, I don’t have to buy body lotion for about two years.  That’s if I use the stuff every day.  Which I’m trying to do since I hate the tight, itchy sensation of super dry skin.

The state of my bathroom counter that further contributed to sending me over the edge (not even taking into account Ernie Hemingway’s side of the two sink vanity):

BathrromCounterBefore

Again, notice all the hair products.  Is anyone sensing a theme?

And last, but certainly not least, the pile of old makeup that I finally threw out:

OldMakeup

I have resisted throwing out the stuff for years, mostly because every time I consider it, I see all the labels and cringe to think of all the money it represents:  Chanel, Dior, Estee Lauder, as well as the occasional Cover Girl, L’Oreal Paris  and mongrel brand tossed in for good measure.  With it  all in the trash, that seems like a silly rationalization, especially when I consider that ninety percent of it predates the birth of my child, some of it ringing up the decade mark.

At age 44, it’s time for me to give up the fantasy that I will one day be one of those chic, lipstick wearing sophisticates portrayed in the advertisements of the aforementioned companies.  If I looked like Kiera Knightly, Jennifer Lopez, January Jones, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Kate Hudson, or any of the various ethereally beautiful models who peddle the products on their airbrushed and photoshopped faces, perhaps I’d feel differently.

However, my reality is that if I have a tube of lipstick in my pocket, it’s more liable to fall out and roll under my car seat, melting into a waxy puddle that can never be removed from my car mat than be whipped out at a moment’s notice when I have an impending business encounter. If I have a tube of lipstick in the inside pocket of my purse, it’s likely to be used as a pen or a crayon, not swiped across my lips to give my pale complexion a bit of color before I meet my husband for an unplanned assignation.

Lip gloss with a hint of color – I’m all about that. Those lovely little tubes that smell delightful but hold no interest for my child and are easy to put on without a mirror as I’m dashing around during the day?  Yeah, baby!  Stock me up.  But true color that could bleed or will make me look like a clown if not applied properly?  No way.

At least for the foreseeable future, those days are behind me.  Perhaps someday in the future, but even if I get there, my lipstick tubes will likely be ready for dissection by an archeologist by then.  Better to give up the fight now and simply admit defeat.  I can always buy new ones … when I don’t have mortgages and car payments to make, a rapidly growing child needing clothes every few months as he shoots up and out of them.

I wish I could say that I bought all these various products over the years because I’m a reformed shopaholic, and although that it a tiny piece, that’s not all of it.  The sad truth is that I purchased all the products because of an inability to accept myself for who and what I was.  I wanted curlier hair, straighter hair, glossier hair, tighter skin, brighter skin, less cellulite, longer and stronger fingernails, silky smooth feet, tanner skin without going out in the sun (although that’s actually a good thing).  I wanted to be the glamorous woman behind the products, the fantasy offered by those advertising geniuses.  I wanted to be noticed, to be envied, to be cherished as all of those women appeared to be.  I wanted to be a better me, a different me.

Since 2013 is my year to discover and embrace my bliss, it is about time to get rid of all the evidence and baggage I’ve accumulated over the years that allows me to put off facing the reality in the mirror.  I am … me. Just me.  No better than that, no worse than that.  I’ve got my strengths, my weaknesses, my admirable qualities and my traits that make me and others cringe.  I can try to change, but the only real change can come from within.  I can’t change my cynicism by wearing red lipstick, but I can change it by stopping myself from imagining that having those perfect pillow red lips will make me less of a doubter.

I can be happy with myself and find my happiness in the wonders of life all around me.  Trying.  Now THAT makes me happy.

smiley_face_lipstick