In the Unlikely Event of My Happiness

canstockphoto21074062I’ve been freezing up at the keyboard. This last week freaked me out a bit. In the course of a week, my subscribed followers jumped by 1000+ readers, crossing over the 10,000 mark. The Likes on this Freshly Pressed post exceeded 1400. I answered 300+ comments.

I’d never experienced anything like this in the four years I’ve been blogging. I have to believe that it is because, for the first time ever on this blog, I used the word “clusterfuck”.

I’ve had the thought all week that okay, I’m done. Really, where do I go from here? Does this extra attention mean I need to change my blog theme, open a Twitter account, punch up my rhetoric, Instagram a boob selfie and find a picture from 20 years ago where I look less wrinkly and put it on the blog? What is expected of me now?

Panic. That’s what an introvert does when they get a little attention. The moment of glee morphed into dread over the week. Give me a moment of unmitigated joy and I’ll anxiously stomp on it before someone or something else does. Premeditated squashing.

This is how I move forward, never lingering too long, never resting on laurels, never asking for more. I think about happiness and what that might mean for me. I think about all the well-meaning advice of the attitude-of-gratitude-too-blessed-to-be-stressed crowd. I think, as I often have over the years, what is wrong with me?

canstockphoto15489769It’s easy to be a discontented, restless, and striving person in a world that feeds it. Consumerism is based on fomenting dissatisfaction, while memes of puppies, flowers and Buddhists exhort us to be happy in the moment. Meanwhile, Likes, Hits, Follows, Stars, Views, are all feeding the message that more is better. But more is just more.

When it comes to figuring out what makes a person happy, it gets weird. We are so often told what should/might/will likely make us happy that when it doesn’t, we’re left feeling that there is something wrong with us. I must remind myself what has, historically, been happy-making for me.

Solitude. I am often happiest as a party of one. It’s when I’m working in the garden, dirty from head to toe with sweat dripping into my eyes. Sitting back on my haunches, I notice the flurry of life around me, bees and butterflies and frantic squirrels – and I get to be right in the middle of it. Being part of something greater, I feel the privilege of being alive.

Love. Never one long for sentiment, I feel my attachments like ligaments to bone. A child who makes me see everything all over again. A man who baffles me with patience. Friends who have raucous laughs and who are, when I say “I need to be alone”, understanding, not bruised.

canstockphoto10265804A story. There’s that ending to a book, when I sit back and sigh. Marvelous. The writer was a magician performing sleight of hand. Who wouldn’t want that kind of skill – the ability to take a reader out of themselves?

Odd sources of happiness. I’m happiest when my desk is clean, when I’ve written something that makes me laugh, when I’m in the middle of a run, looking on the verge of a cardiac event, red-faced and dripping with sweat. There are extrinsic things that make me happy: coffee, when I make someone else laugh, live music, and being outdoors.

Like the ten pairs of glasses a middle-aged myopic owns, the things that make me happy have never been where I looked for them. It’s in the looking and striving that causes the disappointment and pain. In never expecting happiness as a given, I find myself constantly surprised.

I think of that unalienable right, in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, to the “pursuit of happiness”. Pursuit suggests a high speed chase, and less a saunter. If happiness requires a chase, it’s getting away. I stroll. I sit on park benches for long periods of time. And when a happy event runs me over, I have to sit with it for a long time to see that it’s a good thing.

In the end, I’ve realized that the things that make me happy will likely always make me happy, with an occasional addition, like my current addiction to burritos or meeting fellow writers.

When something happens, like a blog post exploding, I can marvel/freak out in the moment, but then it’s time to get back to being me, a bemused, caffeinated, and sardonic depressive who likes to write. Whee. Let the good times roll.

What makes you happy?

100 Comments on “In the Unlikely Event of My Happiness

  1. I would be overwhelmed. I would constantly doubt myself about whether I deserved that attention. Great that you figured out that you can enjoy the moment, then roll with the punches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes and yes. Coming back to writing another post was difficult. Blogging is fun when I write whatever I feel like. After something like this, I think I’m supposed to write better, and more interesting posts than I’m actually capable of. Once I do a few lame ones, I’m back on track.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m down for those type of good times! Thanks for sharing this!

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  3. I am behind on my blog reading, so a belated congrats on another round of words from the heart touching many folks as they ring so true! My mid-life, approaching 50, what should I do as the last bird graduates from high school next spring project, because apparently work and a couple nonprofit boards aren’t enough?!? Running Grandma’s Marathon … the full …. after pretty much a couple year hiatus from running regularly, and a 5-year break since my last half …. check back with me next June to see how good an idea that was …. I remind myself, an 11-minute mile gets the same medal as the winner 🙂

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    • Thanks for the congrats. Wow on doing Grandma’s! I’m running my first 5K since stress fractures last year this Saturday. I spent the last decade being a volunteer “go-to” person and I’ve just stopped until I can reassess where I want to spend my time.
      Good luck with your marathon training!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. But, seriously, what makes me happy — hiking in this beautiful landscape of northern MN, often just a few minutes from my door, as my dogs trot alongside me, reminding me that life is to be enjoyed in the moment.

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  5. Wow,, firstly well done you. I’m not suprised after this the first post of yours I’ve read. I had to keep reading and it was lovely I truely felt your spirit in your words. You are blessed. As to the answer to your question, I agree I am happiest in those little moements a smile from my child or in watching them play freely,, a warm brez, spotting a rainbow, dancing and losing myself. Those short lived moements that lift us out of ourselves those moements make me happiest the most.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is excellent. Don’t ever change the way you write to please an audience. You gained that popularity because your writing is refreshingly open and candid. I feel like I can relate in some way to all of your fears and loves. Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts!

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    • Thanks. I’ve found that when I write for anyone else but me, I end up with a mess. It’s just getting out of the gate after a post that people like that is a challenge. But I did and now can go on writing about important things like more middle-aged lady feelings (that phrase just makes me laugh!).

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I forgot to answer your question! I am happiest when sharing moments with my family and friends or when snuggling up to my husband or when my cat curls up on my chest, her slow-blinking eyes looking up at me as I pet her. It’s the little things that make me happy. 🙂

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    • Lovely. My cats are gi-normous and aren’t snugglers, but they snooze in the window and reading chair across from my desk. I can hear their snuffles and snores as I type. The little things count for a lot – thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I was Freshly Pressed twice in one month this spring and acquired 3000 new followers almost overnight. It took me all of two weeks to figure out I didn’t owe these monkeys anything. They are as capricious as a teenager with a remote.

    If I feel the pangs of obligation or laziness (two words that incidentally only have meaning when somebody else is observing you) about not posting anything in a while I remind myself that these aren’t clients and I ain’t gettin’ paid.

    I write stuff I want to come back to and read again. If anybody else happens to like it, too, hey, it’s a open bar.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, I try not to refer to potential readers as monkeys, but I see your point. Blogging is, in and of itself, rather capricious in nature and unpaid. I see this as a good exercise in what public writing entails, albeit a rather gentle one, considering that most bloggers have skin in the game when they comment or like other blogs.

      It’s a healthier attitude not to think about audience when writing, but to me, that’s akin to telling a jury to disregard something they’ve already heard. It’s human nature to feel them looking over your shoulder and good practice to absolutely ignore them while writing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, trust me, you get enough of them together and soon you’ll detect our simian roots out there.

        I write to my best friend. When I meet him, he’ll have plenty of research on me.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. As usual, I tried to like but it didn’t seem to register. So . . . I like! And congratulations on the Freshly Pressed. Way to go, well deserved! Now back to work, huh? Peace and best, John

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  10. The sound of the wind in the trees on an early October day is bringing me happiness this moment. There’s a distant drone of hammers constructing a new roof for a neighbor before the promised rains come to our drought ridden region. And the voices of my peers who share honestly their fears, hopes and struggles with this craft – its when I hear honesty that I feel happiness. Scream into the void that there is hope for the Truth!

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    • The wind in the trees is one of my top nature favorites! And of course, in the fall in Minnesota, the leaves rustle loudly. I love learning what fellow writers are being challenged by – it keeps whatever I’m working on in perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. beautifully written – I was breathless in parts, effected by the enthusiasm and then you just brought me back slowly to who you really are. Love this post

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  12. This is a great post! I, also, am an introvert. I love moments alone. With a great book, my two kitties purring close to me. I suffer from anxiety, so I’m happiest at moments when I’m outside myself and my sometimes anxious mind. I’m also happiest when I’m at the local hospital doing volunteer work. Again, focused on something other than panicked thoughts. 🙂

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    • Thanks! I wondered for a long time if I had social anxiety disorder, as it runs in the family, but I think now it’s that it takes so much more energy for me to be in a group than to be alone, energy I need to stay centered. I just know less of one and more of the other really helps.
      Stepping outside oneself, either by helping others or being outdoors (where it’s difficult to feel like the center of the universe) are great ways to combat anxiety.

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  13. I’m an extrovert and really like that you present the world from your view, it helps me better understand a number of people in my life. Happy for me comes in the form of my grandson’s giggle, the color of herons on the summer mangroves and the way midnight smells in winter.
    Thank you for writing!

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    • You’ve described some wonderful moments of happiness. It’s taken me a long time to get the introvert/extrovert thing, because there are so many stereotypes and mischaracterizations of what those labels mean. And of course, we usually aren’t one or the either all the time. Humans are complicated!

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  14. I hate receiving any attention, so can relate to how you feel. Like you, I’m happiest when I’m at home alone, reading.

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    • It would be disingenuous for me to write a blog and work on writing for potential publication and then say I hate receiving attention, but a little can go a long way for me. And I have to remember to pull back, keep some of myself in reserve and allow myself to do what I do best, which is to work alone, without an audience.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. A job well done..you are authentic and I enjoy your honesty in your writing. Don’t hold back and on happiness solitude is right up there with some of the points you made.

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  16. There is writing and there is blogging and what distinguishes the two is the Publish button. Clicking that button turns you into a child wildly waving their arms and screaming “look at me!”, “look at me!”.

    The horror comes when people do.

    What makes me happy? Cars dragging long plumes of dust who slow down as they pass our house.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha – this made me laugh! The horror, the horror…
      What’s so freaky about your house that cars slow down? Are you running around in the front yard waving your arms and yelling “look at me, look at me!”?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The township dumped another four inches of “gravel” on our road. I am not sure why they call it gravel because there is no pebbles in it. Nor is there anything as coarse as sand. It is merely fine dust and every time a car speeds by, a wall of dust sweeps across our yard.

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  17. I swear all the time and hardly anyone notices. No, that’s not what makes me happy but it can be very satisfying, especially when uttered with gusto!

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  18. 53 comments by the time I got here. Are you sh*ttin’ me?
    So, (1) I’m not reading all of them and (2) they probably said everything I’d say.
    What makes me happy? Right now, Robitussin and lotion-injected Kleenex.

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  19. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed. It’s an honor that comes with a lot of work, it would seem. 😉 I agree about sauntering after happiness. That which is pursued always eludes me. Happiness included.

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  20. Thank you – just getting to your blog. I am currently working on being unaffected by exposure, of any kind. Except for the illegal kind. As people often behave differently when others are watching, my efforts can even be derailed by the idea of someone witnessing it.

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    • It’s interesting, because I read about how sometimes you have to be able to switch gears while writing – first as writer, then reader, then editor. Perhaps that is farther along in the process. The first task is just getting the words down and probably should have no audience in mind.

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  21. I don’t think you need to (or should) change anything. There’s no rubric change once you’re freshly pressed, unless you choose one.

    People came to your post because they saw it and were enticed by it. They stayed because they enjoyed the read, and we’re continuing to check our your blog because we’re curious to read more. We’re here because of you, not some more-famous-future-version of you! Keep things going until you or your writing want to change, I say. Not that you asked. 🙂

    Congrats again and keep writing like this, I too was transfixed and couldn’t pull away from yet another new post of yours. It keeps us here and coming back.

    All the best Michelle! You’re showing us newbies how it’s done, believe it or not.

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      • Ugh, it didn’t happen last night, as things got away from me, which causes me to put more pressure on myself and inadvertently make it less likely to happen next time.

        Your blog though, more than any I’ve seen lately, has opened up my eyes to the pitfalls I allow to happen in my writing habits and it makes me aware of the urgent need to reverse them. It always feels like an uphill battle but more and more I hear it’s the constant little wins and baby steps, more than the big wins, that make permanent changes happen.

        Thanks for asking though! Planning to make up for it today and will come back to let you know how it went. 🙂

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  22. Bemused and caffeinated Michelle is good. She writes honest blog posts that feel spontaneous although tinkered on many times. And the way she looks at life with dry humor makes the reader hold onto the thought she’s developing … reading, identifying, shaking, nodding and just feeling generally quite happy. I’m sure she’ll also make her unwieldy novel characters to listen to her.

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    • 3rd person Michelle sounds awesome! Thanks, Helen. I appreciate the comment about the spontaneous nature of my posts – to me this is proof positive that writing is work, since my revisions on a draft take forever.

      I’ve been practicing something new with my recalcitrant characters this week – meditating (eyes closed, movie rolling) on what they are like before sitting down to write. It seems to be helping. At this point, I’d stand on my head to shake something free!

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  23. There is so much wisdom in this post! I appreciate your compass point, asking yourself what has historically been the sources of your happiness. That approach strikes me as damn near infallible in principle and yet all too rare in its frequency in today’s world of doing more. Thanks for the reminder.

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    • This is the upside of nearing 50. I’ve had enough time to see the things that consistently give me pleasure, so that I can return to them when things get wonky. It reminds me of one of those life coach questions “What does happiness look like to you?” We can often surprise ourselves with the answers.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. The thing that makes me happy is just being around people who make me laugh, smile and let me sing and boogie like there’s no tomorrow. IN PUBLIC! haha

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    • That sounds delightful to me. Of course, being an introvert means it’s all in my livingroom with me, myself and I, but still, singing and dancing to one’s content are definitely happy things.

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  25. Your entangled thoughts about what is going on around you are poetic. Thats good stuff to read. An enjoying thing to read.

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  26. I think sometimes there should be a way to not be able to see how many followers or likes you have…I’ve only been blogging a couple of months, and I told myself I wouldn’t care how many people liked it or followed it…I did it for me. But honestly, the approval and validation I get from others makes me feel good about myself. Which means unfortunately, when no one likes or comments or follows, I struggle with what I did wrong? It’s a self esteem thing for me that I’m working on. When you said in your post that you’re obsessing now about what to do next since you had this big jump in followers…I can relate to that part in other aspects of my life! I can’t just enjoy the moment.
    I just found your blog and Ive enjoyed it! Another follower. I don’t know where you used it, but I love the word Clusterfuck lol

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    • It is sometimes hard to keep writing into the void, which was very much what I did the first year of blogging. It’s hard not to have a fragile ego about those stats, but consistency and authenticity seem to be a blogger’s best friends. Also taking the time to find bloggers who you connect with through comments or common interests is very useful. I wish you the best of luck on your blogging journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Pingback: Have You Heard of…………The Green Study? | Stars and Stripes Writing Site

  28. Michelle, I hope you enjoy my review. I’ve shared your page with all of my friends and the people I love because most of them have my sense of humor and would really enjoy your writing. Thank you for sharing yourself and your blog.

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    • Michela, sou do Brasil, e apesar de todo meu esforço para realizar um blog de qualidade, não consigo fazer com que as pessoas me sigam. Recebo algumas visitas mas ninguém se afilia. Estou no inicio, faz apenas 2 meses, mas estou ficando um pouco desanimada !!!! O que devo fazer ??? O seu blog é muito interessante.
      Bjs, Sybelle.

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      • Obrigado por ler este post , Sybelle . Eu não falo Português, por isso estou usando tradução do Google. Espero que de certo!
        Para ganhar leitores como um blogueiro , há dois aspectos importantes: 1) publicar a sua melhor trabalho regularmente e 2) de leitura e comentar em outros blogs. Dois meses é um tempo muito curto para ser blogging . Ganhando leitores leva tempo. Boa sorte para você!

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    • Thanks, Sarah for the kind words in your review. I’m glad that I can make you laugh. It’s not always my modus operandi, so I’m likely to disappoint when I put on my disgruntled face and write about something that has pissed me off. That happens every other day or so. Thanks again and best wishes to you!

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  29. In one line: I just love reading your writing, and end up wondering as to how you are able to frame the thoughts with such perfection, followed by re-reading it all over again and end up loving it. Thanks for writing, once again.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I’ll tell you what makes me happy! When all of these damn people go home and the place quiets down…… 🙂
    Seriously, congrats on getting Pressed. You got the sugar high now. Don’t let the future crash, in comments or followers, get you down if it occurs.

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    • Ha! That usually happens pretty quickly after an FP post. This one’s taking a little longer to die a quiet death, but it will be there soon. I’m regained some equilibrium, so situation normal and back to it.

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  31. “Like the ten pairs of glasses a middle-aged myopic owns, the things that make me happy have never been where I looked for them.” Love this line (and the whole post). Glad you continue to share your thoughts with us – so many of us can relate. 🙂

    Like

  32. Loved this post, loved the ‘attitude-of-gratitude-too-blessed-to-be-stressed crowd’ 🙂 So agree with you on ultimately getting back to being yourself to be happy!

    Like

    • There’s nothing worse than reading someone’s exhortation to be happy when you have a personality like mine. If I’m mindful, though, I realize what the subtleties of my own happiness are. Thank you for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Michelle I loved this post! I am SO HAPPY I FOUND YOUR BLOG! You reminded me now of why I started blogging in the first place. Thank you for your honesty!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Betty. People often comment on my honesty and openness on this blog. Here’s something else I’m honest about – I think it’s laziness. It’s just so much easier to be myself than to try to appear to be anything else. Thanks for the comment and I hope your blogging journey continues to be a rewarding one!

      Liked by 1 person

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