Movies that make me happy

I get my love of movies from my parents. When I was a sprat, I’d try all kinds of strategies to stay up later and watch movies with my parents. They liked musicals and westerns, dramas and comedies, love stories and tales of swashbuckling pirates. It often surprises me how much we talked about the stories, and about the books that inspired them. Years later, what I remember most is the movies that were just about feeling good. Some were diversions created to boost morale during the Second World War; others were pure entertainment created in the era of the Hollywood studio machine. As a family, we loved the classics best.

Harvey – about a six foot tall white invisible phouka called Harvey, and his gently alcoholic and pleasant human companion, Elwood P Dowd, or is that vice versa? I loved this tale at the time, and it continues to be one of my favorite movies of all time.

Mary Poppins – I loved the books, the stage play is terrific, and the Disney movie is a lot of fun too. The wind changes, and blows in a new nanny for the children of this family. Mary Poppins is part fairy, part witch, and all about improbable circumstances. Whimsical and serious by turns, it features Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, and Dick Van Dyke in a range of roles.

Auntie Mame – Who wouldn’t want an Aunt like Mame? Eccentric, bohemian, extravagant and devoted to her nephew. Another wonderful musical.

Singing in the Rain– One of many great Gene Kelly dance movies.One of my first leading men, I fell for his charm, his smile, and the way he was comfortable in his body, a wonderful choreographer and dancer. Another favorite with him as leading man was For Me and My Gal.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown – A wonderful tale of an indominatable woman who was rescued from a river as a child, grew into a tomboy determined to marry a rich man, and who was brassy, bold and determined to live the good life. Through various trials and tribulations, adulation and rejection, she found her way into people’s hearts as a hero who saved people from a sinking ship, the Titanic. The critics didn’t always love this movie, but we did. It’s outrageous, over the top, and delightful.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Being passionate

I just found this terrific quote about love and passion, and about how passion ignites our imagination, from Joss Whedon, and it inspired me to think about what passion means to me. It is red. Passion is sex and creativity, energy and vitality. It is about being alive, about all the brain cells firing…feelings running wild like lightning, inspiring us to move, move move. To me it is that voice in the back of my brain saying “do something, do something”, anything. Make stuff. Make love. Make art. Make connections.

Passion, it lies in all of us, sleeping… waiting… and though unwanted… unbidden… it will stir… open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us… guides us… passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we’d know some kind of peace… but we would be hollow… Empty rooms shuttered and dank… – Joss Whedon

I cannot imagine life without connection, without passionate, committed opinions about things. I am a definite kind of person; guess I have been for as long as I can remember, even as a little girl. Almost especially as a little girl. I love storytellers and tales about heroes, and I love the story about the young person making their way in the world, growing into it, becoming someone unexpected. All of these tales have, as part of them, people who are willing to put their feelings on the line, to tell it like it is, to stand up for what they believe in. For me, that is one of the core things about happiness and love. For me, you are as defined by those things you stand against, as by those things you stand for. Standing against injustice, standing for honor and honesty and the struggle to be real. Those are the beginning of the things I care about.

And I care about the little stuff, because there is, in a sense, no little stuff. Being mean is not an option. One of my favorite movies is “Harvey”, and the character of Elwood P. Dowd. He says at one point that his mother had given him advice about there being two kinds of people in the world, ones who were oh so pleasant, and ones who were oh so clever. And he said he’d tried both, and preferred the former. I have a terrific friend who reminds me very much of this character. While she is wicked smart, she prefers to be pleasant. And that makes her great to be around. At the same time, she is very passionate about life, people and books. And that makes her even more fun.

Any time you can share praise, give honest appreciation, be kind to someone, you’re making another connection in the world, becoming a more passionate and connected person. I believe that to love deeply, it is important to be passionate, enthusiastic, and caring about the people you interact with in the world. Be passionate. Anything else lacks conviction.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Attitudes of gratitude

There’s a fabulous book about gratitude by M J Ryan, Attitudes of Gratitude. I like it so much, I give copies to friends, recommend it, and keep a lending copy on hand as well. Go buy it. One of her first quotes is from Milton Erickson. He was an amazing M.D. who worked out useful things about how people think, and applied that knowledge to helping people make changes in their lives.

  • Life will bring you pain all by itself.
  • Your responsibility is to create joy.

She goes through the book giving examples of how to give and receive joy every day of your life. She talks about ways that gratitude erases worry, increases health, and enhances relationships, and it in this relationship area I want to focus today.

For years, my sweetie has put out vitamins for me in the morning, knowing that I stumble around for the first half hour, and likely would not open all the bottles to make decisions about what to take. This act of service, of thoughtfulness, tells me every day how much I am appreciated. It makes me grateful for the care, and the love in the gesture, especially as it is not something I take for granted. Every day, I walk to the same place in the kitchen and put on some tea, and right there is a dish (usually a pretty glass one) with my vitamins in it. it feels like am embrace; every day it makes me smile. Once I’ve taken the vitamins, I can go to my desk, and drink the tea while it is still hot.

During the day, we send notes in email, sometimes a picture or a link to a fun article. These are all ways of showing our appreciation for each other’s time. That way, when we see each other, we can be in the moment, and present.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Setting the stage for happiness

For me, happiness is a transitory state, much like optimism. Yet there are things I do to set the stage for it, to prepare for good fortune to enter in, and to celebrate it when it arrives. Some of that is gratitude for the good things that have gone before, and some of it is awareness that good things happen if you set your mind and will to it. One of my favorite artists, Austin Osman Spare, had a formula for setting his will in motion.

He would start with “This my will that…(specifiy exactly) …” and would end with “so mote it be!”, a formula that I’ve found very successful. It took me a while to get the specifics as, well, specific as they needed to be.

This my will that I will

  • get enough sleep to feel rested and refreshed for the next 3 nights
  • just for today, be free from worry
  • smile at co-workers when I see them
  • express appreciation to at least one person

It varies from day to day, however, the pattern is a repeated one. Over time, if I focus on the statements, and write them down, they manifest in the world.

When I set the stage for happiness by planning to manifest it in the world, it tends to arrive with satisfying repetition.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Reaching for abundance

I was inspired, and encouraged by this TED talk about impending abundance in the world. For a long time, I’ve spent some time each day searching for good news, for scientific discoveries, and medical breakthroughs, or for those things that are triumphs of the human spirit. In this video, there is much to encourage us about the abundance that is within our reach. One of the threads that runs through this talk is about the wealth of energy that is available to be harnessed, if only we bring the right kind of bucket to the party (me paraphrasing). I’ve also been reading Robert A. Heinlein lately; in his fiction, from the 1960s and 1970s, he postulates a world where energy and clean power is made available; he also throws light on how this upsets established interests. It seems to me that one of the biggest challenges is one not of shortage, but of accessibility and distribution. And that’s just engineering. Very encouraging.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Relaxing on the couch

One of my favorite things is to curl up on the couch next to my love, and cuddle while watching tv shows. We like to indulge in a series at a time, and may watch 4-5 episodes on a rainy afternoon. In between episodes, we make each other hot tea or cocoa, and talk about what the characters were doing. Often enough, it’s a series that we watched as a first run some while ago, and this time around, we know the story. Being close, and sharing the experience again makes us feel warm, cozy, and as though all is right with our world.

One of our comfort tv shows is Firefly, by Joss Whedon. Terrific cast, great stories. Shame it was on Fox; they seem to schedule, and then cancel, all the best shows.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Happiness grows on you

In the beginning, those lovely endorphins and brain chemicals say “wheee” and other non-verbal things to the brain that let me know I’m having a good time. The more I notice how much I’m enjoying myself, the more feedback I get, and the better it all feels. This must be what positive reinforcement is all about.

At some point I noticed that repetition of happy-making things made for more of the good feeling, and I started turning my attention deliberately towards those things. Someone said protein would wake up my brain faster than coffee, and, for me, it works. Replacing morning coffee with a protein shake with iced tea, protein powder, soy milk (no added sweetener), and some juice kicks off the day to a great start. And if it starts that way, it trends on staying that way through my commute.

I was reading a bunch of things about keeping blood sugar neutral, or at least within normal ranges recently. It seemed most experts agreed on regular meals of a smaller amount, rather than the three solid meals plan that I’d grown up with. Not everyone agreed on what should be in those smaller meals, so I started experimenting. It seemed a combination of carbs and proteins hit the spot. It might be a handful of rice crackers, and some cheese; or some dried fruit with cashews; or mixed grain cereal with coconut or almond milk; even goat cheese and corn chips, just so long as there’s a mix of things, not much bigger than my hand. Some days, depending on the length of the day, that means a bunch of snacks. A friend swears by cut up apples with peanut butter as her favorite snack, and some prefer celery with the peanut butter, though it sticks in my teeth, and I like it on toast.

Am loving the idea of growing happiness by feeding it good nutrients, some attention, and deliberate repetition of the good stuff.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

New year musings

New Year’s eve has always shared space with my dad; he was born at quarter to midnight, on the last day of 1933. Some time during the day, we’d celebrate his birthday, and as he did not drink, we would not raise a glass to him; instead we’d talk about books and ideas. He has a notion that it’s important to “not let people get in your head”, and to him that meant governments, teachers, and even parents. However, to a certain extent he had an exclusion category, and that was storytellers. He would happily allow a book to transport him to another time, another world, and into another characters head. He just didn’t want anyone in his own head.

He’s passed on now, and left this world in 2007. I’ve had the notion for the past few years that he was wandering in books, and whispering stories on the wind himself. He was going to write a book about the Silk Road, and never got around to it. I wonder if it may be a story that I need to write for him some time, if I can find that inner storyteller, and do the tale justice. It feels like something it might be time to start this year, even if I only write it for myself.

The story and the characters seem familiar, from many conversations we had over the years, and he shared so much love of learning and travel that I feel the part of him that lives on in me will carry him with me when I visit places he visited from his armchair and imagination.

Wherever you are dad, I was thinking of you on your birthday.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

2012 – Making time for happiness

2012 is the year to make time for happiness. Rumors of meteors and end-of-the-world prophecies abound; there are even movies about it. My philosophy about all this is to take a single day at a time, live like I mean it to be forever, and make time for happiness. I am leaving the doors open, metaphorically speaking, to possibility. May it enter through the door, present itself in front of me, or meander in on a vagrant breeze.

And on the subject of the (supposed) end of the Mayan calendar, Mayan mystics seem to be carrying on as if the end of one year simply means the beginning of the next. Around winter solstice this year, we’ll be partying again as if it were 1999, another year when the world did not end.

Things to celebrate this year are a new planet found in our stellar neighborhood, the progress forward of health care for everyone, the end of big war in Iraq, and the lovely experiment in alternate fuels that’s been going on in Brazil for some time. As an old friend said once, “how can we fail to be happy in a world that has kittens and rainbows in it?”.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Feeding your love

I feel such gratitude that my love has dinner for me when I get in at night. He works at home, and this is one of the way he takes care of me. Sometimes he gets us take-out from a local restaurant, and other times I arrive home to the delicious scent of roasting potatoes and onions, baked in the oven. He is terrific at making chili, pasta and scrambling up cheesy eggs. These may seem like simple foods, yet they are spiced with love, stirred in as they are made.

I want to also show my love by cooking, however, work and time is against me in this desire. I love being in the kitchen, measuring, making sauces, the smell of baking. Adding love to the alchemy of making a meal is one of my favorite things. I tend to save my cooking efforts for the weekends, where I can surprise him with hot cornbread, home-made french toast with nutmeg and cream. We love to work together and chop vegetables for a big stew we can eat during the week, or make various kinds of curry.

Love is what nourishes me, and simple comfort foods tell me that all is well with my world.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved