Keep Clapping

I’m here now at the train station,  waiting for a train where I will settle in and read a book for the next hour or so. This train will whisk me away to a change of scenery, to the lights of New York City, extra bright for the holiday season.  

After an especially stressful day, I’m looking forward to this break.

I hear clapping. 

Clap, clap, clap.

I buy my train ticket. 

Clap, clap, clap. 

I find a seat on an empty bench to wait for the train, and it gets louder. 

Clap! Clap! Clap! 

To my right is a little girl, about four years old. She’s clapping. And very happy about it. 

Clap, clap. I love clapping! 

I look over and she’s clapping, nonstop, and she invites her father to join her. 

Come on! Let’s clap! Let’s keep clapping. Clap, clap, clap. 

Her father joins her, and I can’t help but smile as I (and many other people in the station) watch the two of them sitting there, clapping. 

Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!

She’s right, I say to her father. Clapping is pretty fun. He smiles and nods and keeps clapping with her, clearly both very patient and very proud. 

Keep clapping! Clap, clap! 

This time I speak directly to her. I ask, Are you clapping for anything special? 

Yeah, she told me. Clap, clap, clap. 

I’m curious. What is it that your clapping for? 

I’m clapping because it’s fun!

And then I start clapping, too. Just a few times. Clap, clap, clap! Just long enough for her to see me clapping and  for me to see her giggle in response to my joining them.

She turns to her father again, Let’s clap faster! Keep going! Keep clapping! 

I hear the chime that signals that the train is pulling into the station. I give them both a little wave and I head toward the platform.

I realize that I am now about a million times happier than I was a half hour ago, and I’m pretty sure that it’s the reason that this little girl’s path and mine crossed tonight. 

She was an important reminder that there is always something to clap for. 

We can clap for others, to cheer them on.

We can clap for ourselves, and be our own cheerleader.

We can clap just because it’s fun.

The important thing is to keep clapping!     

 ~Melissa

The first few “happy days” and the little things…

I signed up for the #100happydays challenge on Tuesday, September 22nd — shout out to Shaundrika for introducing it to me!

I am a pretty happy person to begin with, so I’m not completing this challenge to become happy. I’m already happy.

So why am I doing it?

Reason #1:  I decided to complete this challenge to make sure that I’m taking time each day (even if it’s just once and it’s just for a second) to make sure I do nothing else but enjoy being happy. That’s it. It’s about letting myself take time for me.

The first day was the hardest, because I found myself wanting to stop and take a picture of everything — every little thing — that was making me happy. Keeping myself limited to just one picture per day was initially pretty difficult, but I think it is also forcing me to slow down and fully appreciate that one thing before moving on to something else.

After just a few days, I’ve already been noticing that I am happy throughout the day for lots of different reasons. The people in my life are the main reasons for my happiness, but there are also other, smaller sources of happiness that I know I don’t usually spend very much time thinking about.

Reason #2:
Some of these smaller sources of happiness tend to get lost in the shuffle of the busy day or forgotten about all together. We have a lot of stuff. Many of us have more stuff than we need to be happy. That’s why I’m choosing to focus on the little things that do make me happy for my first #100happydays. (Yes, I can totally see myself doing this for more than 100 days…perhaps each 100 days I can have a different focus.)

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Sounds like a pretty good list, if you ask me!

So while I’m focusing my #100happydays on some of the little things, I can also see myself doing a little purging through this process. If during these 100 days of the challenge something crosses my path and it doesn’t bring me happiness, I’m going to get rid of it. There really is no need to be surrounded by anything that isn’t purposeful or beautiful — or both, no reason to be surrounded by things that we don’t need or don’t bring us happiness.

I have a pretty good feeling, because of this #100happydays challenge, I will also get closer to my goal of #moreartinmylife.

And that brings me to Reason #3:  I am going to try to make a photo essay or photo journal of some kind with the pictures that I take for the challenge. Maybe I will use them in a collage or publish them in some other digital format. I’m not sure. As I collect the images, I’m sure I will have a better idea of what I can create with them.

Here are the pictures from my first few “happy days”:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

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Having a few minutes to myself just to think and take some notes with my favorite pens — and enjoy a cup of pumpkin hot chocolate!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

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For some reason, soap wrapped in pretty paper is one of my most favorite things in the world!

Thursday, September 24, 2015 

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The first sip of a hot cup of coffee on a dark fall morning.

~Melissa

100happydays

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I think so, and I’m going to give it a try!

I especially like that this challenge encourages us to share what makes us happy with others.

To find out more, visit this link: http://100happydays.com and start sharing your happy!

~Melissa

“Happiness comes when…”

“Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.”

-Teachings of Buddha

I really like this quote because it does seem to capture the fundamental quality of what  “happiness” is.  It also reminds me of how essential balance is for true happiness.  We need to be mindful of what is beneficial to ourselves, as well as what is beneficial to others.  We can not either become so focused on ourselves that we forget about others, nor can we become so dedicated to others that we forget about ourselves.  Neither extreme will result in happiness.

I also like this quote because I love to think that it is our words (along with our actions) that can bring happiness.  As writers, we write because it makes us happy to do so.  As writers, we can strive to make others happy as well. 

~Melissa 🙂

“Experience is what you get…”

Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

Dan Stanford

Got that?  I know that you may be very busy wallowing in your own self-pity or reliving that disappointment over and over again in your mind, and in your heart (and I am certainly talking to myself on this one as well), but there is no reason to.  Stop right now!  

Even though you didn’t get what you wanted, you got SOMETHING.  Granted, it may not seem like very much, you may want to toss it out of the window (figuratively), and you would gladly give it away to the first person who would take it (literally), but it’s yours.  Like it or not.  

Every broken heart, closed door, missed opportunity, disappointing news, application denied, offer rejected, broken promise, and so on that we encounter in our lives is there for a reason.  Each of these heartaches is a chance to learn, to build character, to grow as a person, and to heal.  Though extremely painful, they are each equally as important as the good things, and actually help to make us appreciate the good things even more.  Focus on those good things!  Find the good things in your life and focus on all that you have, even if it is not what you want.  I know that it is hard (believe me, I know it is hard!), but it is the only way.  If you are so focused on the “what you wanted” you may miss out on new opportunities you could create, or what else may come your way on its own.

A recent situation that helped me to somewhat frame a (much larger, much more difficult, and very painful) current disappointment came from something that happened a few years ago.  I had made a custom piece of jewelry and it came out really great!  I was so excited with how perfect the bracelet was – exactly what the customer ordered – and wanted them to see it right away, that I sent it to them before I took a photo of it for my portfolio.  It was a really beautiful bracelet and I just could never recreate it exactly, though I certainly tried.  I was so disappointed with myself for having forgotten to take the picture.  Though I didn’t have the picture (what I wanted), I gained the “experience” of learning from my mistake and never making the same mistake again.  I take pictures of everything I make now, even the pieces that I don’t like so much!  Well, trying to make this long story shorter – that same customer from a few years ago just called the other day and asked if I could add on to that piece and they are sending it to me so that I can work on it.  I’m getting the bracelet back and can finally take the picture!  Okay, now I know that isn’t the best example and pales in comparison to some of the disappointments we face in our lives (my own included) – but, the point is that it all works out in the end.  It always does.  

Be calm.  Be positive.  Have patience.  Have faith.  

~Melissa 🙂

“And now, I’m glad I didn’t know…”

And now, I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end

the way it all would go.

And our lives are better left to chance.

I could have missed the pain, but I’d’ve had to miss the dance.

-Song lyrics from Garth Brooks’ “The Dance”

When people are asked if they could go back in time – and know “then” what they know now – would they make the same choices in their lives, would they do it all over again, I am always really interested to hear the responses!  

I think that it is important to live without regrets and to live each day to the fullest, learning from our past, but never letting the past take away from the present or what the future can bring.  Life is just not long enough to spend time wishing that the past could have been different or that you could change it. 

I think that I like these lyrics specifically because even though there may have been certain choices or events in our lives that have at some point brought us pain, they may have also brought tremendous amounts of joy and happiness…and without that choice, without the pain, how do we know that we would necessarily have had the joy and happiness, too?  

~Melissa  🙂

“If you want others to be happy…”

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

– Dalai Lama, 1935-present

It is a seemingly simple statement with straightforward advice, but it is also one that many of us have such a hard time implementing.  In the quest for our own happiness, I think that we too easily forget the happiness of others.  This becomes a problem because if we live in a world where everyone is only concerned about themselves, their own personal gains at the expense of others, and separate or competing interests from those around them, then it doesn’t seem likely that anyone could ever be happy.

However, when we try to understand the people around us more, and feel empathy towards them or show tolerance even when we do not understand fully why they do the things that they do, then suddenly our own lives improve because our lives are no longer consumed with getting angry at the driver who cut us off on the highway, resenting the boss whom we believe treated us unfairly, or complaining about the woman holding up the line at the grocery store.  If we understand that other people may have a bad day from time to time and that our reaction to them has the power to change not only our experiences, but their experience, and the experiences of all the other people who they come into contact with for the rest of that day, then our own happiness is inevitable.  We can enjoy our trips in the car, be proud of our careers, and be happy about our purchases in a store.  It is a small difference for each of us to make, but it has a very large return.

If we each do these things consistently and genuinely, then it doesn’t seem likely that anyone could ever be unhappy.  ~ Melissa  🙂