Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Everyday Happiness

I have struggled some lately with being happy day to day. I start the day refreshed an energized, ready to charge into the fray. Then little things tend to come up - tests, homework, disappointments, unexpected stumbles - that make me feel worse and worse, until by the end of the day I am tired and stressed and upset and want to just hide in my bedroom.

However, fortunately for me, there is generally somebody already there. My roommate - Katie.

Katie is one of the most positive people I know - running a close race between my mother, grandmother, and a handful of aunts. When I ask her how her day went, the answer could be anything from "It was fantastic!" to "Well, my master class piece really didn't go very well," to "I had an awful exam in sight singing," - and every time there will be a smile on her face. It is an absolute marvel to me. She always knows when I've had a horrible day - theatre and sign language have made me a little transparent, I guess - but I can almost never tell with her. She is always happy, and always trying to make sure that I'm happy, too. I've questioned her about this talent on more than one occasion. "How do you do it?" I ask. Her answers have been beautifully simiple and surprsingly profound.

The first was this: "It's no fun to be sad, so I try not to do it."

Good heavens - is it possible that it's really that simple? I suppose it truly is. I don't particularly have an enjoyable time being in a bad mood or being upset or sad. In fact, I hate it. So, then, the question - if it's upleasant, why do it? The answer - there's no good reason at all. Don't! Being happy is so much better! It's about the most brilliant thing I've ever heard.

The second answer was this: "I just have such a wonderful life!"

This one gave me something to think about. And when I thought, I came to the following conclusion - when I was upset or down on myself, I was looking only at the downsides of life. Stress, homesickness, lonliness, fatigue, disappointment, inadequacy... looking at life like that, it's little wonder I ended up sad. Who wouldn't? But then I started to remember the things that make life wonderful... good food, a warm bed, great books... the trees putting on colored leaves, the cool outside air, the warm sunshine... Good friends, loving family, education... a purpose, a plan, the gospel...

Good grief. My life is wonderful, too.

To what end, then, is sadness? No end at all, in my mind. There are times when sorrow is worth something, as in times of mourning or true hardship. And hardship certainly does happen to everyone. It has happened to me. But life is wonderful, too - and it can be even better if we make it so.

"We are as happy as we make up our minds to be." My mother is a shining example of this. My Grandmothers did it before her, and my aunts as well. My best and finest friend in the world, my dear Katie, is living proof of its truthfulness for me every single day. They each have the remarkable gift of being able to disregard the circumstances. No matter how hard things may seem, they almost always find a way to be perfectly happy right where they're planted.

I want to be like that. I will be like that. Sadness is no fun at all, and I have so much to be grateful for, and such a wonderful life to live... If I have anything to say about it, sadness and bad feelings can go to the back burner and stay there.

I will be happy.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Demeter's Lament

Yes, it has happened - Everyday Magic has put on new colors again, as well as some fancy gothic-looking type on the heading in honor of the upcoming All Hallow's Even (or Halloween, if you prefer). Feel free to observe and admire - it will be here all month.

I take you once again to the days of antiquity - back to ancient Greece, where the goddess Demeter reigned on Olympus over all the green and growing things of the Earth. Demeter was the only goddess besides Hera to have produced a divine daughter (not half mortal) - Persephone, patron of flowers, butterflies, springtime, and the prettier things of the earth. However, Persephone was very beautiful and Hades, Lord of the Underworld, desired her to wife. He kidnapped her one day and dragged her down to his palace Below. Devastated, Demeter went into mourning and refused to make anything grow, and so the world began to perish. A desperated Zeus pleaded with Hades to release Persephone, but because she had eaten five pomegranate seeds while there, it was required that she remain five months out of every year. Demeter rejoiced to have her daughter back, but for those five months she continues to mourn until her daughter can rise from the Underworld once more.

And thus it was created - Winter.

This past week saw the first snow of the year. Nothing stuck in the valley, but the mountains are bright, brilliant white from the summits down. The temperature has plunged, pinching a rosie blush into the leaves on the trees, scattering diamond frosts on the ground, and dispensing numb fingertips and rosy noses everywhere. Old Winter is slowly inching his way onto the seasonal stage, biding his time until he can have his grand soliloquy in the spotlight. He's still mostly in the wings now, reminding us of his presence with a few chill winds and icy rains, but as yet his cue has not come. As the story goes, Demeter has started to feel the pains of parting once again. One can see that more and more as the beautiful summer flowers and autumn fruits begin to die, bitten by a mischevious frost.

However, this time of year needn't be one of mourning for everyone. I, for one, have been enjoying myself thoroughly. Last week I went to the Creamery and bought a can of Stephens Gourmet Cocoa - the first of many that will inhabit my cupboard this season. I have experienced anew the delight of wrapping chilled fingers around a warm porcelain mug, of the steam and chocolate scent rise across my face, and of the beautiful sensation of something hot running down your throat and warming you from the inside out. I have remembered the blessing of warm coats and hats, and the comfort of being wrapped in a soft blanket while a storm howls away on the doorstep.

Demeter can weep all she likes. I love winter.