"Happiness hit her like a bullet in the back"

So says the divine Florence + the Machine.  But what does it mean? Happiness hit her suddenly? Transformationally? Or happiness killed her?

The two most common anthems to happiness that crop up in my life are the completely antithetical "Carpe Diem" (Horace, 23 BC) and "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread" (Alexander Pope, 1709). If happiness includes opposites, then it must include everything, or nothing.

What one person claims would bring happiness--wealth, fame, success, love, glory, honor, family--is anathema to someone else.  Having happiness, or nirvana, as the end goal, may be the root of the problem. A quick Google search for the definition of happiness is "the state of being content." Similarly, reaching nirvana provides "a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self." Both talk about states of mind that sound pretty selfless, that don't sound like what most people want when they talk about happiness. Where are the parties, the bubbles, the champagne, the gifts, the accolades, the adoration?

When I asked people recently what it would take for them to be happy right now, a simple If This, Then That, I got the highly specific "the ability to ski moguls well" and the nearly global "peace, everywhere peace." Here are twenty more answers and their variations that I got multiple times to the prompt,"I would be happy if I were:
  • thinner
  • healthier (healthier and maybe younger, but not too young. I was stupid when I was young)
  • warmer (much warmer)
  • rich, and blonde (definitely blonde) (still blonde)
  • more popular 
  • less scrutinized
  • sitting on a beach with a frozen drink in my hand
  • married (married to the right person) (in a relationship) (with someone else)
  • single
  • a mother (pregnant)
  • not a mother
  • somewhere other than here
  • with my friends (with my real friends)
  • by myself (alone)
  • at a new job (a job where they would appreciate me) (at a new school)
  • retired
  • at home
  • on vacation
  • anywhere but here (with anyone but the people I see everyday)
  • someone else (the person I was meant to be).

If you could be happy then, and happiness is a state of mind, why not choose to be happy now? Right now?




The Quest to be Younger

Having just celebrated a birthday and spent much of the evening in an independent bookstore (there's a dinosaur-like concept: independent and bookstore. What's a book? Oh yeah, that thing people used to read before they had phones. But I digress), I gorged on the magazine section, since I only subscribe to a few and occasionally read a few others at the library, and I think the magazine section is an interesting gauge of the culture at large.

Who knew there was a magazine called Garden & Gun?  What's the premise, learn to shoot the wildlife that might threaten your prize-winning roses? Mount said trophies in said garden?  Before I can find out for sure, my eye seizes on a title further on down the row, Crappie World, which turns out to be about fishing, rather than the mess we've made of the planet, so is probably less depressing and sells better.  But far and away the biggest crop of magazines continues to be women's fashion and beauty, a celebration of our joint obsessions with bodies (our own or others', male and female alike) and with prettiness.

Our society celebrates youth.  It celebrates celebrity births and baby animals whose parents are on the endangered list and models who are thirteen but dressed like 30-year-olds.  Have you ever looked at Teen Vogue?  Well, first off, it's all about selling things, which our society is also obsessed with, unless it's something difficult and unpleasant to think about, like buying carbon offsets or taking fish oil.  But it's also sort of disturbing that the magazine even exists, since it's supposed to be for teenage girls, but you know there's a whole other market out there who likes, you know, teenage girls.

Everywhere you look, it's all about smooth skin and shiny hair and long, hairless legs--and the products that claim to help you get said qualities even if you didn't actually have them when you were young or to get them again if you have lost them, either through age or misuse--but not legs that have lost the hair again at the other end, in old age, and have lived full lives.  Our society pretends that old age doesn't exist, with all its warts, and bowel movements, and disfiguring disease.  The people on the cover of AARP and More are also all screamingly healthy and way younger-looking than most people can dream of looking at 50...60...70...gulp, 80 and beyond.  I've heard that many Asian cultures still venerate their elderly, heralding them for their wisdom, their experience, their lives lived, but a scan of recent magazine covers bound for Asian markets yields virtually the same: young, beautiful, smooth...and Asian.

What are we seeking, both with the youthfulness and the shopping?  Is it "Glory Days," a la Bruce Springsteen? How many people have you heard say (or have you said it yourself?) my best days are behind me/were in high school/college/before I got married/had kids--all those markers along the road to adulthood?  Isn't it funny then that teenagers say they can't wait to grown up, to be adults, so they can drive, drink, move out, meet the Right One, travel, have their own money, fill-in-the-blank with your adult vision of choice?  Is it that America is still a relatively young country with the belief embedded in our founding that "anyone" can be "anything" here, but somehow it's gotten morphed and diminished into the desire to be young and famous and rich, preferably all three?

How about happy?  Yes, as it turns out, there is a magazine for that, too, in fact, several. Ah, more things to buy (and most of the people on those covers, are, you got it, young and beautiful, except Robert Downey, Jr., but he gets a bye, since he apparently has more lives than a cat).  How young are you, in spirit, where it really counts?



Spread Some Indie Love Blog Hop

I am pleased to feature two of my favorite indie authors and my recent reviews of their work. Enjoy!

Meg Wilson, author of Mourning Dove

Mikey Young is killed in his backyard by a hunter who is acquitted of all charges. While the years roll by, grief paralyzes one family and motivates the other. When Mikey's sister falls for the hunter's son, everyone gets caught in the turmoil. And the only place serving up peace is Mourning Dove.

A gemMeg Wilson's MOURNING DOVE was a keeper. Evan and Gracie's story of coincidence, tragedy, and finally, peace will break your heart and then help it mend. I thought each of the parents and children spoke truly. I especially liked the descriptions of the small Maine towns where the story took place; clearly the author knows her subject there. In the end I was misty-eyed, and you may well find yourself the same, in the best way.

You can see more of her timely, touching work here at Meg Wilson. It is available for purchase on her site and on Amazon.

Brendan Halpin, author of Enter the Bluebird

"Something was wrong. Julie flew to the ceiling." Julie Rouge is nearly 16 and can't wait to join her mother, the masked crimefighter Red Talon, patrolling the crime-ridden streets of New Edinburgh. Unfortunately, Julie's mom has disappeared, and, while searching for her, Julie is going to discover that the city she calls home is even nastier, more corrupt, and riddled with toxic secrets than she ever knew. With brutality and betrayal around every corner, Julie will need the help of some unlikely friends and strength she never knew she had in order to become the hero she was born to be.

Bam! Pow! Biff! Make time for Julie Rouge AKA The Bluebird! ENTER THE BLUEBIRD by Brendan Halpin reminded me in the best way of the old Batman TV show with Adam West and Burt Ward, when superheroes were a little less flashy but had more heart. The book--Kickstarted, how appropriate is that--has that same fun mix of action and earnestness, humor and darkness, camp and thrill. I especially liked Julie's complicated origin story. May The Bluebird fly again!

You can see more about his voluminous, awesome work here at Girl in a Cage. It is available for purchase here on Amazon.

And then there's mine, more info on the Books page of this blog ;-)

Now in paperback in my e-store and on Amazon
Available here as an e-book
Happy Valentine's Day, and here's to Independence!

Knowing Vera
Under Different Stars
Bubba the Bulldog Tries to Smile
Dangled Carat: one girl's attempt to convert the ultimate commitment-phobic man into a doting husband with a lot of help from his family and friends
Venice in the Moonlight
Starlet's Web
Starlet's Run
Starlet's Light
No Alligators in Sight
The Silken Edge
Illusions Begin: The Mysticseeker Series
The Hideaway
Meeting Destiny
Blood Debt
Destiny's Revenge
Centaur Legacy
Destiny's Wrath
Centaur Redemption

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Time and your time

A brother of a friend is an expert on time, a philosopher of time, a person who studies time and how it relates to life as we know it. We seem to be the only species that cares about time, logs time, in the way that we do, labeling it minute by minute, hour by hour, and year by year. Most species look at time in the immediate (Is it time to eat? to sleep? to play?) or the seasonal (Is it time to hibernate? to store food? to have babies?); we make everything so much more complicated. Is time linear or cyclical or something else entirely?

Then there's the way time plays out according to our desires, so that something we enjoy moves time faster, and something that pains us moves time more slowly, sometimes agonizingly so. Time can feel like air, gone in a puff of breath, or like liquid, pooling in the base of our minds, or even solid, immoveable, in grief or depression.

Then there are the concepts of having time, setting aside time, making time, and finding time, as if we actually had some control over time. The best time song I've heard lately is Anna Nalick's "Breathe (2 am)," in which she croons, "Life's like an hourglass glued to the table/ No one can find the rewind button, girl."  Of course Mick Jagger bragged, "Yes time, time, time is on my side," which does in fact appear to be the case, but he's Mick Jagger. Or maybe the devil.

Or how about the saying "Live every moment as if it's your last," because, of course, maybe it is, whether you are standing in the middle of the highway or hiding under your kitchen table? If it's your time, it's your time. It's strange how that expression can be the beginning, a birth, say, or the end, your death, untimely or not. "What time is it, Mister Fox?" What time indeed. What's on your list to do before it's your time? Emily Dickinson said, "Life is composed of nows." What now?

Time on the Mind http://www.blogging4jobs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/saving-time-life.jpg


The blessings of work and of pursuing a dream (which takes work)

Look in any dictionary, and you will see that the definition of "work" varies as widely as the people who work, somehow, somewhere, in some way, every day.  Many times the references to work are derogatory--working for the weekend, work as drudgery, punching the clock, and, of course, the daily grind.

I'd like to vouch for the blessings of work (productive satisfaction, intellectual stimulation, collegial dialogue, and let us not forget, our daily pay) and to offer a few of my favorite, work-related quotations:

“I don't like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself. Your own reality--for yourself not for others--what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”
― Joseph Conrad

“Earning happiness means doing good and working, not speculating and being lazy. Laziness may look inviting, but only work gives you true satisfaction.”
― Anne Frank

“Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it.”
― Madeleine L'Engle

“No man needs sympathy because he has to work, because he has a burden to carry. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

“This is the real secret of life -- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
― Alan Wilson Watts

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
― Confucius

So with the day that is a holiday for many in celebration of a man who worked harder than most in pursuit of his dream still fresh in our minds, I say work on for what matters to you, whatever that may be.  For me it's the writing, the creating, that fuels me. What work works for you?

punching the clock http://namwe-connect.com/2012/07/how-to-reward-for-performance-throw-away-the-time-clock/