31 Happy Things

BigOrangeMichael has been participating in something called the Happiness Challenge. Basically, bloggers are challenged to post one thing that makes them happy each day during the month of August. I'm generally happy but, like all human beings, I can't say I'm happy every day. Some days I'm downright miserable, and then there are those more common days that offer a mix of both. The happy stuff makes the sad times bearable, or perhaps the sad stuff makes the happy times that much more valuable. Though I doubt I could come up with something happy every day for a month, I think I should be able to list 31 things in one shot that bring me joy. Let's see how I do:

1) Water. I love to drink it, especially ice cold on a hot day. I love the feel of it in the shower. And most of all, I love the sound of it, from crashing waves to flowing streams, it helps me find my center calm.

2) My parents. Like all parents, there are definitely days when they'd be on a list of things that make me miserable, but in the grand scheme of things, between their age and health issues, I'm definitely glad of their continued guidance and comfort. I always think of that scene in Saving Private Ryan where the medic played by Giovanni Ribisi laments the fact that he'd sometimes pretend to be asleep when his mom came home from work and just wanted to talk to him. It's a regret that strikes him only when he begins to realize there's a chance he'll never see her again. Too many of my friends have lost parents, and I need to remember that when I come home from work and don't feel like conversing.

3) Solitude. Too much can have the opposite effect, but it's always nice to have quiet times to reflect and think clearly without distractions. Literally as I write this, my mom just paused in the hall to ask what I was looking at, because I was just sort of staring at the ground thinking of the next sentence. “I'm thinking,” I said calmly, rather than snapped as I've done in the past when hit with an unwanted distraction while struggling with my words. Items 2 and 3 can potentially conflict with each other, and thus it's a matter of timing and mood.

4) Playing music. I cannot fathom driving without music on, and by extension I do enjoy playing the Baritone Horn. I might complain about my gigs sometime, and I'm certainly not looking forward to driving in to Brooklyn during the morning rush hour on a Tuesday, but once I'm out there on the street, I lose myself. It's more than just supplemental income or a way to spend time with my dad; sometimes I genuinely enjoy playing to the crowd.

5) Television. My list would surpass 31 easily were I to list every drama, comedy, or animated program that I follow on a regular basis. Even the Summer months offer regular entertainment when I use the lack of new episodes to go back and catch up on other series I've missed, as I'm currently doing with Stargate: Atlantis.

6) Internet. This probably should have been number one on my list. Every aspect of my life is connected to the computer. Need to know something about my favorite show? I check online. Need to check medical symptoms? I check online. Need to keep in touch with my friends? Internet. Train schedules? Internet. Movie tickets? DVDs? Weather? Internet.

7) Movies. In the grand mission of making up for lost time, my Netflix queue is almost always at the maximum limit of 500 movies, with a text file containing another 80 to 100 kept on my harddrive until there's room to add them. I watch several DVDs a week, and enjoy going to the theater as well for new releases, either with friends or on my own. I even have a stack of screeners of lesser known foreign films, low budget horror, or “B” movies that B13 gets from his job and often loans me. I literally go through hundreds of movies a year, and still can't dent that queue. They just keep making more, even sequels when you'd least expect them.

8) The outdoors, provided temperatures range from 60 to 70 degrees. In keeping with solitude and water on this list, sometimes a walk through the woods or along the beach can eradicate any mental burden.

9) Kissing a pretty girl for like three hours straight. I'm not going to say how long it's been since I've done this, but as I recall it never seemed like three hours and I was always amazed at the time when we came up for air. And that's all I have to say about that.

10) Completing a task. Things are always darkest before they're done. I can dread a tough assignment, brutal meeting, or long drive, but there's nothing like that feeling when I'm on the other side of an obstacle, look back, and think, “Well, that wasn't so bad.”

11) The Inimitable Mister Chirp. My cat is awesome. He runs to say goodbye when I leave for work in the morning(or to try to get out the door with me). He's waiting for me when I come home. When I don't pay attention to him he'll sometimes jump on my lap, roll over, and reach a paw out to the keyboard and imitate my typing. He “plays” the piano. He opens doors. He's damn smart, and has the friendliest demeanor of any pet we've had. He gave us quite a scare with a particularly bad infection last year that had him not eating on his own for a few days, and we thank God Chirp pulled through and we get more time with him. He's as much a part of this family as any of us.

12) Cubby. I shouldn't play favorites and ignore the other member of our family, Cubby to his friends and Lord Cubbington in formal situations that never arise. He's a bit of a scaredy cat despite being thrice the size of Chirp, and definitely doesn't like being picked up. Chirp will jump in any box or laundry basket you put down and wait for you to ferry him around; Cubby will whine and even swat if you grab him. He's the only cat we ever adopted as a kitten and not full grown, and definitely makes us happy even if the feeling isn't always mutual. Of course, when I put food in his dish he always seems to forget I'm “that big scary guy” and nearly tackles me with thanks before brushing past to eat.

13) Animals in general. I love zoos, love seeing birds, squirrels, and chipmunks in nature, and definitely think any home without a pet of some kind seems to be missing something.

14) Going back to sleep. I hate going to sleep at night, hate to think that I'm “missing” something. But one of the best feelings in the world is waking up only to find I can go back to sleep for another hour or so before work or, even better, that it's a Saturday and I was only dreaming about work.

15) Snacks. This is another one of those things that, if broken down, would exceed a list of 31. I've gotten better at curbing my appetites, putting a bag of chips down and knowing when a sandwich will be enough at a deli. Ice cream is a pretty big weakness too, and for a while having a Carvel near my job had been dangerous. I've managed to get my ice cream intake down to one small Frosty a week, the best way to end a Sunday night.

16) Walking. It's always hard to start moving, certainly first thing in the morning when light hurts and my arms feel like I've been sleeping on them for five or six hours. But once I get walking, whether on a hike or moving at a more brisk pace on the treadmill, everything seems sharper, from vision to hearing to breathing. Motion clarifies and unclogs.

17) My teeth after a dental cleaning. I do my best, but while brushing is daily floss and mouthwash don't always make it to the party consistently. Twice a year, it's nice to be smooth and 100% plaque free, and I do my best to preserve that state for as long as possible. I've got a cleaning coming up this Saturday, and I should be pretty happy when it's over.

18) Leveling up. Video games challenge me, and while one appeal is the ability to explore virtual environments with special abilities, I think it always comes down to numbers for me. I like seeing the numbers in my bank accounts increase and like beating my previous “scores” on cardiovascular exercise equipment. RPGs always grab me when it comes to video games because while you start out weak, almost ordinary, the longer you play the more powerful you become, sometimes to insane godlike levels of power.

19) Art. A great drawing, painting, or musical composition can hold my attention and admiration for long periods of time. The creations of others drives me to create, to strive to be better. When I am better, even good, I'm pleased.

20) Three day weekends. This week marks the last time I'll have to take off from my day job to play a gig with my band. As we head into the Fall and Winter, I find that I have another seven to twelve vacation days to use or lose, since we're only allowed to carry five over into the next year. I'll definitely be working in some “mental health” days, because the only thing better than going back to sleep early in the morning or on a weekend is going back to sleep on a Monday.

21) A Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream. Technically a beverage, I choose to list it separately from snacks. When I first discovered this marvelous creation back in the late ‘90s, I was probably having three to five a week, and my rapidly increasing waistline showed it. Now I might have three to five in the course of a year since I try to avoid caffeine and expanding my waistline, and I'm that much happier when I indulge in a treat now rare.

22) A Corona with lime. I was at a friend's house a few weeks ago who was serving them with lemon wedges. “Well, it's still citrus,” he defended when I pointed out that they're usually served with lime. “And citrus kills germs,” he defended, calling on his pharmacy major knowledge when one of my other friends complained that he'd stuck his thumb in the bottle while putting in the lemon wedge. Lemon, lime, or thumb, it's still a happy drink.

23) A child's amazement at something new. Too often in public I encounter the negative aspects of having kids. But every now and then I get a glimpse of the positive things, and something as small as folding a piece of paper into an airplane can result in a look of wonder, delight, and glee wholly disproportionate to a simple task, because to them it's NEW. I see it with my cousin's kids and my friend's kids. It'd be great if there was a way to skip being a parent and go right to being a grandparent, although some parents discover unexpected perks.

24) Gleek. Have you ever yawned, and a salivary gland went off like a sprinkler? Most of my friends referred to those as gleeks; I'm sure people have different names for the phenomena.

25) Bubbles. I always liked these as a kid, though not so much as an adult when marching in a parade with a fire department band having kids on the sidelines blowing them at me. One of my fondest childhood memories is my mom making a giant bubble maker for me and my friends using straws, string, and a bucket of soapy water. She ran the string through two straws and tied the ends together. We'd then dunk it in the bucket and run across the front lawn, which resulted in HUGE bubbles. She or my dad probably regretted it when we ended up with a few dead grass patchs where the bubbles settled, but at the time a crowd of gleeful kids reveling in something new probably brought them just as much joy as it brought us.

26) My friends. They like the same stuff I like, get all the stuff my parents don't get, and for all they might make fun of, they accept a lot as well. Solitude does make me happy sometimes as I mentioned earlier, but it's certainly better when it's a choice rather than the norm.

27) A joke well played. More often than not I'm the victim, but if there's an art to it I can appreciate it and be a good sport. Last week I borrowed a friend's camera at work, and when I went to his office to return it I walked in with the camera in one hand and the case in the other, chucking the case at him. He ducked, then realized what it might be and tried to catch it as it bounced off the brick wall behind him. “What the he--” he began as I displayed the intact camera. I'm just glad I remembered which was in which hand; with my luck I could have just as easily held on to the case and thrown the camera into the wall. This is probably why I don't play jokes as often as pros like Rey or theGreek.

28) Taking pictures. This probably falls under art, but I'm running out of ideas for this list.

29) The big snow falls of my childhood. I loved sledding in the yard and making snowmen and building forts. Now, it means shoveling the driveway and battling traffic while my car fishtails everywhere. But when I think back on missing school and the transformation of my yard, that makes me happy.

30) Being of use or value. I've always been ridiculously helpful; when I worked in a gas station my boss yelled at me for giving a lady directions because she wasn't buying gas. If someone asks me a question and I don't know the answer, I find myself doing research. When I can help people, it makes me happy, but when people value my opinion or knowledge enough to ask in the first place and reach out to me, that makes me happier.

31) All of you. Whether we've met in real life or not, your blogs give me insight into the minds of kindred spirits, and your comments encourage me to keep sharing the stuff in my crazy mind.


Blogger Lyndon said...

Great post, but couldn't you have just divided up the list and set the automatic posts on Blogger to post one each day. Whatever!

I shouldn't criticize, when I can't even think of so many things to put on a list :)

8/05/2008 12:19 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

Hey, we'll have none of your Common Sense around HERE, Lyndon.

Crap, I totally missed an opportunity to take a month off from blogging, didn't I? ;) To be honest, the last 10 or 15 items were a struggle to think of.

8/05/2008 3:48 PM  

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