A Modern Manual For Happiness, Part 1

I was vacuuming my car today, in anticipation of not being able to drive it anywhere because we're about to get about 24" of snow; what could be more luxurious than a clean car that can't be made dirty for at least a day or two?  

My fingers were on their way to becoming frostbitten (no, for real - they fucking killed) and I was vacuuming up the last bits of pretzel and paper scrap and KIDSwhatthefuckisthisshit when I thought something like, "What the fuck am I DOING?  Like in LIFE?  I need to write a moody poem RIGHT NOW."  Now, I don't write poetry, so the idea of me attempting moody poetry sounds, in retrospect, particularly adolescent in every horrible way you might imagine.  

But the kids were happily playing on an icy snow pile off to the side of the car wash's driveway, and so I dictated some lines into my phone.  When I got home, I edited these lines, added a few more, and hit 'publish'.  The Squarespace app said, "You think I'm gonna let you publish garbage like that?" by way of making me re-enter my password, thus deleting everything I'd just written.

"Well," I thought. "That's a relief."

I started making dinner.

But then real words - grown up words - started coming and so I grabbed my laptop.  I set it up on the island and tried to nonchalantly type a few sentences without the kids seeing.  

"YOU'RE ON A SCREEN!  If you're on a screen WE CAN BE ON A SCREEN!"

"I'm writing.  This is hard for me.  This is my work, you guys.  It's not really that fun, it's just something I need to do."

"YOU'RE ON A SCREEN!  WE WANT TO WATCH TV!"

I walked away from the screen and started peeling garlic.  A child who shall remain nameless (but is the only four-year-old youngest boy kid that lives in our house) promptly closed my laptop and grinned at me.

I did not react, which means I WIN TODAY, and instead realized that I could actually, you know, fucking write words down with a pen and paper, and so grabbed my journal (I have a journal.  I am deep.) and started scrawling.  

When I read it back, I discovered that I'd quite unexpectedly written out my Personal Manual For Happiness.  

I didn't know I had one, but, lo, here it is.

A Manual For Happiness, Part 1

1). Be willing to laugh at yourself.  Oh my GOD did this take me a long time to learn.  When my husband and I were dating (even though dude never took me on a real first or second or third date 'cause college kids 'hang out') I made it a point to let him know just how serious I was about myself.  I was intellectual and interesting and DON'T LAUGH AT ME.  Thank God he ignored me completely and laughed in my face when I needed it.  Learning to laugh at myself made me like myself more; I became less tedious to be around.

One of my my husband's best friends also happens to be a good friend of mine, and I remember him picking on me one day a few years ago, and following his comment up with, "Don't get mad."  I remember feeling both embarrassed that he felt the need to say it, and relieved that getting mad hadn't even occurred to me. 

It's okay to take some of the seriousness out of things.  Just laugh at yourself.  You're less tedious that way.

2). Admit when you're wrong.  I'm starting with the doozies, huh?  This has been harder for me to learn than the laughing-at-myself thing.  I like to be right.  I'm very good - in disagreements especially - at articulating, in clear and concise language, exactly why I'm right.  I do this even when I'm wrong.  

I have no idea why it sucks so much to admit it when you're wrong.  But I can say - with absolute certainty - that admitting you're wrong as soon as you realize it is baller.  I have stopped arguments in their tracks by having a flash of, "Oh, shit, he's right," pausing, smiling, and admitting defeat.  I save myself from needing to blindly come up with ridiculous points to back my weak argument, and my husband doesn't need to spend half of his Saturday morning wondering if it was really the right move to become legally bound to me for life.  

You're not weak or lame if you admit you're wrong - you're brave and self-aware. 

3). Eat good food.  Preferably with your hands.  Swear and squeal a lot while you do it.  I love food and I love eating.  The people I work with at Hope and Olive laugh at me constantly over how goddamn psyched I get about the food there.  Perfectly-cooked food plated beautifully that I get to eat?  Come on.  In the summer, my favorite thing in life (my mouth is starting to water) is hearty toast slathered in a truly unseemly amount of Hellman's with thick-sliced garden tomatoes and salt on top.  If I'm really living right, I eat this while standing over the sink (to catch spills), and shove handfuls of local spicy salad greens into my mouth between bites.  Oh my God, it's heaven.  

There's a time and a place for watching what you eat; I'm at the beginning of another Weight Watcher's stint as I type (AND YES, I'M HUNGRY RIGHT NOW) because I somehow gained 15 pounds without realizing it.  (Thanks for forcing me to eat fries dipped in aioli all the time, H&O.  Jerks.)  I feel better when my body is healthy.  But once I get to where my body wants to be?  I'm gonna enjoy some indulgent moments.

Life's too short to miss out on really, truly, deliciously, gorgeous food.

4). Accept that it's probably not gonna look how you thought it would.  We know this, right?  That life never goes exactly like we think it will?  I'm pretty sure we all know this, and I'm equally pretty sure that most of us fight this fact like angry roosters.  (Sidebar: that's not as weird an analogy as you might think: last year we had a rooster that pecked another rooster to death.  It was intense.  Roosters get pompous and angry sometimes, no joke.)  

Anyway, hear this: things happen - magical things, confusing things, tragedies we never imagined.  How we respond to these things is the single biggest indicator of the kind of life we'll have moving forward.  We don't always get to decide what comes into our orbit, but we absolutely get to decide how we respond.  

Resistance to change or challenges is natural; they don't always feel comfortable, and we like comfort.  But shit often goes down exactly how it wants to.  Resistance might be our natural go-to, but acceptance - when we can muster the strength for it - will take us where we want to go.

5). Have really good sex.  Ooh!  Sex talk!  We never do this here!  First I should just be really honest and tell you that my husband's a babe.  He's also a builder, and so always smells like man and sawdust and hard work.  That plus his chiseled jawline makes it very easy for me to want to put my hands all over him.  

BUT -you knew there needed to be a but, right?  We used to come at sex (pardon the pun) from totally different angles.  I needed to feel emotionally connected in order to get in the mood, and he needed to have sex to get emotionally connected.  

Huh - the difference between men and women, right?  Once we finally figured this out, it was clear that just having sex whenever one of us was feeling the spark was the path - for both of us - to emotional connection.

The result?  Really good sex that gives both of us what we need emotionally.  Also?  All of this regular bedroom happiness has provided the added bonus of making us feel fresh and young and new; we flirt all the time, make out in the kitchen, and cause our kids say, "Are you kissing in love?" all the time.  

Love-fueled sex is happy-making.  


Need something to read during the Historic Mega Blizzard Of The East, 2015 Edition?  (If you're living somewhere warm, quit bragging - I don't wanna hear about all of your not-shoveling.)  

I'll be back - assuming we have power - with five more bolded bullet-pointed things tomorrow.