Sunday, January 24, 2010

Love and Work: My list of ten things that make me happy.

Kass has asked that I list ten things that make me happy. At first glance this task does not seem easy. I’m much better at writing about things that bother and trouble me. Things that make me happy seem too sugar sweet by half. However, I shall try.

Like Kass in her blog, I shall order these things in no particular order, but the fact that I order them implies an order and so just as I did when I was a child and fantasized about a woman whom I saw each Sunday in the church and rated her as the most beautiful woman in the world, I will qualify my rating.

When I was a child I put the Blessed Virgin Mary first ahead of my mother second, and Miss Andersen, my grade four teacher, third. I could not rate a complete stranger for beauty ahead of my mother. Then I included all my sisters and brothers for beauty and love in a bunch. I would not discriminate one from the other, just as I cannot rate my children as preferred or less today.

When my third daughter was around the age I was when I was in love with the woman in the church, she asked me,

'Which of your children do you love the best? I don’t care if it’s not me,’ she said. ‘I just want to know.’

She did not let up. For weeks she hounded me with this question. For weeks I refused to give an answer. Eventually her question died away, but she had already decided whom I preferred, and nothing I could say or do would shift her decision, at least not then.

When I was a child I was convinced that my mother preferred me to her other three daughters. After all she gave me her name, her exact name, Elisabeth Margaretha Maria and she let me get away with things, things my older sister never managed to avoid, like having to tidy up – my mother never pressured me - and she bought me a Rockman’s baby doll for my eighth birthday, and a poetry book for my fourteenth. Proof positive of her special love for me.

I stored up evidence of my mother’s favoritism until I was well into adulthood and she was by then in her sixties. Not long after my father had died, my mother told me one day about an assignment she had been given by her church group. She had been asked to write down the name of the person with whom she felt the closest affinity.

My heart did a little flip. I was sure she would say my name, but no. She told me my older sister was the one closest to her in ideals and temperament. I was stunned. My older sister had convinced me for years that my mother hated her, and the feeling, my older sister suggested, was mutual. But this was not how my mother saw it.

You see now why it is so hard for me to list ten things that make me happy. I go off on tangents and always wind up with the difficulties. But I will try here to fulfill Kass’s directive.

1. In honour of what I have said above I will include my family at the top of the list. I bunch them together under the term family, my husband and four daughters, my grandson, my son in law. My love for them all is differential. I love them differently, as I say. Love for me, loving a person no matter who that person might be, makes me happy. I love to be with the ones I love.

2. Writing makes me happy, the sheer joy of clacking away at the keyboard just as I am now, writing, and to no serious agenda. Even here when I am trying to fulfill Kass’s request, I write into the unknown. I love the sense of not knowing where this writing will take me, what I might discover. Writing as an activity, as a process, as much as it sometimes brings me pain, brings me the greatest happiness.

There you have it: the two things that make me most happy.

3. Thereafter I list my work. My work as a therapist makes me happy but it also makes me sad. It worries me at times and I find it difficult and demanding – to be available; to keep my mind open; to project myself as far as I can into another’s state of mind; to try to imagine what might be going on in the room; to read about other people’s ideas on how this thing called therapy works – all these things bring me happiness. They also make me suffer.

I could say this applies to everything that makes me happy. There is nothing pure to me about happiness. It always comes with baggage.

4. So now I’m up to four. Dreaming at night, remembering my dreams in the morning, writing them up and discovering these dreams, days, weeks, months later to be surprised and wonder: Did I dream this? What can it mean? This makes me happy.

5. My house makes me happy. The bank still owns a part of it, but it is still our house. I have lived here since 1980. I have seen many changes. We have renovated twice. It was first built in 1895. It is an old Victorian house with a curved front veranda, lead light at the door and a long central hallway.

At the moment we are working on its maintenance. There are so many things wrong with this house but I am a homebody. I love to have a stable base. Being at home makes me happy.

6. Blogging makes me happy. This could I suppose be subsumed under writing, but blogging also involves reading and responding to others. It involves looking, seeing, listening and most all thinking and feeling in response to the stories of others from my blog community. This for me has some of the pleasure of being with and thinking about good friends and family.

7. Other people’s happiness and successes make me happy, especially the joys of those close to me, particularly my husband and children. I could say that I am happiest when they are happy. The same applies to those with whom I work. I am happy when they achieve a flash of their own genuine happiness, which happens from time to time over the course of our work together.

8. Books make me happy - my library case filled with books most of which I have read or at least dipped into. Books to lose myself in, books whose words flow for me such that I enter new worlds when I read, or revisit my own.

9. My correspondence, my letter writing to people like Gerald Murnane, makes me happy. Again I should perhaps subsume this under writing, but writing snail mail letters, the type you send through the post, the type that makes it into hard copy and gets sent off in envelopes away from me to be read by some beloved friend or others, makes me happy in a way that is different from blogging.

Similarly emailing makes me happy. I’m cheating here. It should perhaps have its own rating but I need more space before I can safely finish. I’ve written about emailing before, too. I love the ping from my computer, the way the little ball flashes red when I have mail, in my in-box. Of course it helps when the mail is personal and from blogging friends and actual friends, anyone who bears genuine good wishes. The experience of connectedness with the outside world, whether nearby or far, gives me great happiness.

10. Watching DVDs, particularly the BBC period dramas, alone in my writing room on my computer screen, while everyone else is asleep late at night after all my tasks for the day are complete, brings me joy. I love it. It is my moment of escape into another world and one that requires little from me other than to bask in the fantasies of what life was like many years ago, usually in England or Europe, when things seemed simpler and paradoxically far more onerous.

At the risk of cheating I add jewelery, the rough silver variety, not expensive but strong and bold, the stuff my husband makes, and two of my daughters make; silver earrings that hang long and low, these give me pleasure.

Once I start on objects my list gets far too long and I have already over reached my mark.

Thanks, Kass. This has been fun. My impulse is to tag many of the people you have tagged including yourself but that would defeat the purpose, so I presume I should move further afield.

With that qualifier in mind, I shall try to find ten other lovely and wonderful bloggers who might not, unlike Jim of the Truth about Lies, find the task too irksome, but even Jim, for all your hesitation, you have written a list of sorts in your response to Kass and have shared a most wonderful poem.

It's a good idea therefore, Kass, this task you have set us. It gets us to work. What greater happiness is there than through work.

Work and Love: Freud's two parameters for living.

So here's the task for the following bloggers, if you have the time, the desire and energy, if you can bear it, please list ten things that make you happy and then tag ten bloggers who might have their go in turn.

If you choose not to, for whatever reason, it is fine. It will not be held against you. As far as I'm concerned blogging is for pleasure, despite its sometimes onerous nature. It ought not be done out of sheer obligation or duty.

Since reading through this, I have changed my mind.

To choose to tag people is to show preferences in one way or another. I find this too difficult, especially as I do not want to leave people feeling burdened, nor do I want to leave others, who like me, might feel left out.

So I have only completed half the task. Unless someone can convince me otherwise I will not tag others here. But I invite anyone who has gone to the trouble to read this post to have a go at the exercise if only for fun. And please add it as a post or a comment or whatever you like as you see fit.
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