I finished The Day I Became an Autodidact: and the advice, adventures, and acrimonies that befell me thereafter, by Kendall Hailey. With satisfaction (it was a good read) and melancholy (but now it’s over), I’m moving on to The Happiness Project.I confess I’m not finding The Happiness Project as irresistible as The Day I Became an Autodidact. Kendall spoiled me. Though her book was simple by design (it’s basically a compilation of diary entries), she churned out some good stuff.What was Kendall’s secret to such captivating writing, especially at such a young age? Was it her literary heritage as the daughter of playwright/screenwriter Oliver Hailey and novelist/screenwriter Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey? Or was it her steady diet of Great Books? As an autodidact, Kendall was continually reading classics, and writers are inevitably influenced by what they are exposed to, so maybe her natural talents were strengthened by close study of the stylistic pace and profound themes of the greats? She was also asked to serve her parents as an amanuensis (new word via Tuesday’s Merriam-Webster Word-of-the-Day subscription), which means she typed her parents’ manuscripts. She surely gained insight into constructing powerful stories while tapping out each word of those projects.Oh, look. It happened again. I got distracted by Kendall and the autodidact book.Though those last few paragraphs were analyzing how young Kendall Hailey could write so well, I really meant to say that I found a great William Butler Yeats quote in The Happiness Project: “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing” (Rubin 66).I can personally attest to the correlation between happiness and growth. Most growth in my life—spiritual, intellectual, creative—is deeply satisfying (exception: growth around the midriff).
During my junior year at college, on a warm spring day, I plopped onto the couch and watched a movie. In the middle of the afternoon!I felt downright irresponsible as I neglected my studies for two hours and and instead vegged out in the living room of the house I shared with six other girls. But afterwards, as I rewound the tape and stretched my legs, I felt refreshed and ready to study for a test or tackle a literature paper.This past week, a couple of decades following that crazy stunt, I did it again. I watched “My Man Godfrey” (a Kendall Hailey favorite) in the middle of the afternoon! The windows were wide open as the movie played and I could hear our neighbors bustling around, attending to outside chores. I was so uncomfortably aware of their comings and goings that I considered closing the windows to muffle evidence of my sloth. What would they think of me squandering my time like that?In spite of my haunting sense of guilt, the movie was a delight. After laughing at a classic screwball comedy, I felt refreshed and relaxed.
Over the weekend, I attended my cousin’s wedding, which was held in a Greek Orthodox church.I learned quite a bit about the Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony. It included several meaningful elements, such as the crowning of the couple. I found a website that explained:
This is the focal point of the marriage ceremony. The crowns are signs of the glory and honor with which God crowns them during the sacrament. The wedding crowns (stefana) are joined by a ribbon which again symbolizes the unity of the couple and the presence of Christ who blesses and joins the couple and establishes them as the King and Queen of their home, which they will rule with wisdom, justice and integrity. The priest takes the two crowns and blesses The Bride and The Groom, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and then places the crowns on them. The Koumbaro then steps behind The Bride and The Groom and interchanges the crowns three times as a witness to the sealing of the union.Some interpret the crowns used in the Orthodox wedding ceremony to refer to the crowns of Martyrdom since every true marriage involves immeasurable self sacrifice on both sides.
Another lovely moment was the Ceremonial Walk or “Dance of Isaiah,” when the couple circled the table three times (for the Trinity). They were led by the priest, who held up a fancy Bible, while their “sponsor” (koumbara), a friend who will walk with them through all the joys and sorrows of life, followed close behind. During this walk, or dance, the couple took their first steps as husband and wife following the Scripture, a symbol of their commitment and need to always follow the Gospel of Jesus.After the ceremony, a more typical practice: guests blew bubbles as the couple exited the church.Perhaps I should have included this shot under the “playing” category?
Last week, when I provided an overview of Stefan Sagmeister’s happiness presentation, I referenced his resolution to do more of the things that he likes to do and fewer of the things that he doesn’t. After pondering his statement for a week or so, I’ve decided to list some of my own “happys.” By design, these are not big happys, like a wedding day, birth of a child or Hawaiian vacation (though I’m almost certain a Hawaiian vacation would make me very happy). These are little moments, happy opportunities that can potentially be enjoyed with greater frequency.Little Happys (not an exhaustive list and in no particular order):
- A good book (and time to read it)
- Learning something new
- The moment I realize I took a nice photo
- Having cleaned (but not cleaning)
- Having jogged (but not jogging)
- Weed-free flower beds (but not weeding)
- Solving a problem
- Helping someone else solve a problem
- Hugs from my kids
- Hugs from my spouse
- Laughter (both hearing and producing it along with others)
- Walking along white-sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico (sitting is fine, too)
- Walking along the tan-sand beaches of the Atlantic Ocean (again, sitting is fine)
- Slices of fresh-picked, vine-ripened, juicy red tomatoes (certain yellow varieties and Mr. Stripey are good, too)
- Time to write without having to block out continuous commotion
- The satisfaction of completing a quality writing project
- A clear desk
- Swaying in a hammock
- PG Tips black tea with honey
- Goat cheese on crackers or French bread
- Bonne Maman Four Fruit Preserves
- Homemade brownies (actually, any brownies)
- Clean, clear kitchen counter tops
- Morning birdsong
- Long conversations with friends
The curriculum for my fall writing class needs attention. Heaven knows I might already be done if I weren’t such a lazy bum, wasting all that time watching screwball comedies during work hours…