Posts Tagged ‘Happiness Project’

The dog and I just had a very long talk. The first 30 seconds were about her, and from there we got down to business: strolling down the country road, enjoying the blue-gray skies and green-yellow pastures, and talking about our favorite subject. At least, I’ll assume I am her favorite subject–she didn’t say any different. We did have to pause politely as we passed the neighbors (who were out on the porch crushing beer cans or shooting targets on the lawn), but were able to pick up the thread easily once we were out of range.

Here is what Mia helped me explore. Let’s say, hypothetically, that you’re a right brained person. You like to write. Or paint. Or decorate. Or whatever. You are fraught with likes and dislikes and are positively compelled to meld them all together in interesting ways that are — there’s no way around this word – expressive. Let’s say you’re that kind of person. And the adding and subtracting and combining and making of the [insert whatever floats your boat here] is a satisfaction unto itself. I mean, the process is intensely satisfying. Super! So, shouldn’t that be enough? You create the paintings or novels or wood carvings or whatever and line them up in the closet and … create more and … eventually expand to another closet? A warehouse? No. That is not what happens. The products want to be seen. You want the products to be seen. A tension has been introduced; a fly is in the ointment. You’re no longer creating for yourself but for an admiring audience, or a consuming audience and there’s now a measure of your work (quantity of praise or consumption) to contend with.

It’s a good thing we are talking hypothetically here!

So, let’s go on in this interesting conversation, to say you’re a left brained person. You like sequence, order and structure. The mechanical device that really turns you on? It’s a label maker. Nothing thrills you more than process optimization. You’re Type A, in fact. Competitive and controlling.

Assuming that said left brain and right brain are co-habiting the cranium of a single individual, then… wouldn’t you expect that the left brain would partner with the right? That the creative would bring the mystical to the tyrant, and the engineer would deliver marketing genius to the expressive?

I wish such good collaboration were so. I suspect that for some people, it is so. But how?

Mia did a poor job carrying her end of the conversation, and really had nothing to offer. But I think there’s something further to be developed. Something about not lettings the ends squash the means. Something useful for a happiness project to optimize.

Wait–was that the sound of a left brain talking?


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There is a posting hiatus going on due to the Happiness Project theme of the month:  financial stewardship.  We are surely talking the delayed form of happiness here, because rounding up and consolidating 401K’s, updating beneficiaries, rewriting one’s will, leaving written instructions for next of kin, and planning one’s own funeral are not fun-at-the-beach activities.  There is the sticky business of what to do with the 529 plan for the child who won’t be using those funds after all.  But all of these things are a) on my list b) the next right thing to do and c) nagging tasks one and all.  So I’m doing them. 

Mystery of the day:  why is it when I’m working from home I get up earlier, feel busier, stay up later, and make a terrible mess in every room I touch?

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Have you have ever had the feeling you’re making an ill-advised decision during the exact moment you’re making the bad decision?  A sense of reckless desire and plunging ahead; “I want what I want and damn the consequences?”  This is how I ended up with puppies – two puppies, a Miniature Dachshund and a Maltese — over the weekend.  They are outrageously cute and good companions I think for my Yorkie but – really.  Instead of an old lady and her cats, I’m turning into the old lady and her dogs.  As an ex- and two Lovely Young People have already pointed out, I am turning into my mother for whom I assure you, more was not better. 

Yesterday we had our semi-monthly Happiness Project meeting and I took a look at my recent non-tracking and resolutions non-progress.  I noticed that I’m not able to maintain a sense of personal mission and trajectory when the going gets tough.  I want to throw more effort at the difficulty, even while I can see looking back that some situations are neither solvable nor salvageable and a lighter touch would have made the ride more bearable.  More effort does not equal better results.

Thanks to FaceBook, I heard last week from a childhood friend (Julz) and an ex (Hank), both of whom found their way to my blog and directly into my heart, which is what I post here.  I reached out to several high school buddies, said hello and queried the status of other lost ones.  It made me wonder about this looping backward, why we do it, why the past is more comforting now than it was when we experienced it.  Are more bonds better?  Is the known more heartening than the not-known?  Like human connections, does faith increase only when you set your trajectory toward “more?”

It is raining outside and silent inside the house this morning.  There is fresh coffee brewing.  An armload of puppies crowds sleepily on my lap.  For today, anyway, more is good.

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Look out.  Whenever my inner Don Quixote sets out on a quest like this, I’m fairly forthwithly be-smacked with hefty application of adversity, and this resolution was no exception.  On Monday, I decided that self-talk was my next Happiness Project theme and by noon, Tuesday I found myself wedged for four hours into an airport terminal seat next to a video-game playing, chair slamming jumping bean of an adolescent, right underneath a mega-decibel airport loudspeaker, across from a screaming toddler, and oh, so wondering what had become of my pleasant only-the-sounds-of-the-birds-singing-outside home office.  It was hard to think positively.  Or breathe.  So instead I put on my Really Big Headphones and turned up the volume on my iPod to Really, Really Loud, and buried myself in my laptop.

Earlier that morning, I woke optimistically at 5am, set my vision (I’m going to try every trick, recommendation, and strategy ever known to man for 30 days to improve my self talk), and sat myself down to earnestly Google for ideas on how to do it.  Here are my notes and some of the best bits I picked up:

  1. From a runner:  Reframe the thought:  So during hilly portions of a run, instead of saying “This hill will kill my legs”, reframe the thought to “This hill will make my legs stronger”.

 Another tip.  Three steps to improving self-talk:

  •       Monitor the thoughts
  •       Edit the unresourceful thoughts
  •       Seek fresh material and inspiration.  An example is this random phrase that I liked: “ A well lived life”

3.       How to “edit unresourceful thoughts?” Here’s another treasure that points to how.  For self-talk to be effective it must be action-oriented and

  •        Positive
  •        Specific
  •        Present tense

4.       What channel to play in your head all, day every day?  The Be Your Own Mentor channel.

  •        “Let’s see how I can handle this!”
  •        “What can I do right now?”
  •         “It’s probably better than I think.”

5.       Turn down the hyperbole and use mild – even objective — language to open up possibilities.  “I am annoyed with myself.”  Not “I’m a #!#@$% …!”

And my final note for the day?  Keep up the positive language no matter what the situation. 

With confidence and conviction, I snapped shut my journal, got dressed, and headed over to face my new client.    Whereupon I got the tiniest reprimand from the new client, waited a LONG time at the airport under the aforementioned conditions, and nearly missed my flight due to my not-so-positive coping strategies such as the Really Big Headphones (CATHY DAVIS, AMERICAN AIRLINES FINAL BOARDING CALL FOR CATHY DAVIS”  What!  Holy Cow…)  Eventually I landed safely  at DFW and drove myself home.

As I curled up on the sofa with the cutest dog in the world, I thought to myself:   “Improving my self-talk is probably going to go better than I think.”

Wishing you (and me) positive, specific, and present tense success with this,


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There is a long silvery band of mist floating lightly atop the Hudson River.  I know this because I am on the road again.  After 12 months of sleeping in my own bed, part of me secretly and somewhat magically thought I had put the solitary restaurant dinner, room service, and living out of a suitcase behind me.  But I am here in New Jersey looking across the river at the New York City skyline for a month. 

So what to do with my Happiness Project?  What about my blog?  The braces?  What about knee therapy?  The garden?  It’s Happiness Project re-definition time.

My first Happiness Project month was devoted to increasing social bonds.  In terms of meeting my resolutions, I had mixed results.

I strengthened my connection with the Lovely Young People through texts, calls, visits, shared experiences, dinner events and movies.  This brought me MUCH happiness and satisfaction, so much so I found myself burbling into my journal one night “my heart is full.”

I increased my connection to my family to some degree, initiating one decent conversation with each sister, my mother, one aunt and one uncle respectively.  In the absence of a physical visit, this is probably about as good as it’s going to get for family.

I went on one date this month and after that pretty much gave up dating completely.  Match.com, I’m done with you.  At some point all that effort to connect left me feeling too drained to date. It was as if I wasn’t able to expand outward on all fronts simultaneously.  I actually decreased my connection to my Plano friends and fellowship group—but at the same time I made spectacular new friends in my meetup groups. 

So overall do I feel more connected?  Actually I do!  When I look at it from at one perspective only (did I or did I not increase my social bonds), I did.  And I’ve been happier.  I didn’t quite overcome the sense of failing as I went along, however.  Perhaps I was expecting a McKinney Golden Globe of Friendship award?  A proposal from the Bachelor?  I think next month I need to work on my self-talk.

Encouraging you (and me) to take it where you can get it,


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My house is where it’s at for stray dogs and hungry birds.  The weather said snow, and I reconciled to it — 12 snowflakes that melted just before they touched my lovely new flowers and shrubs.   Instead I got 8 inches of snow (an all-time record!) and a pit bull with jaws just the size of my yorkshire terrier.  Outside in the fluffy wonderland, the neighborhood birds have gotten the word around — hey, the yard at the bottom of the hill has six feeders out.  Come on!   There is a riot of cardinals, finch, mockingbird, and blue jays outside my window.  It’s nice.

Bessie the pit bull appeared on my porch early yesterday morning.  Large dogs roaming by are pretty normal around here, so I asked her where her mother was, gave her a pat, and went on with my day.   Toward the afternoon, the Lovely Young One came by and, being a little tentative in the presence of large unknown animals, skirted into the house with the question “What’s up with the big dog outside?”   Before long, the dog was inside, and she’s sweet, but she’s not staying.

Did I mention the Lovely Young One came by? For no reason?  We worked companionably in my office for a few hours… what a gift!   How I love and am grateful for this young woman.  I’ve started the Nagging Task of straightening out my financial affairs.  It occurred to me that if and when it is my unexpected time to go, my little estate with all its accounts and investments would be hard for the Lovely Young One and my little sister to uncover, no less straighten out and free up.  So I’m cleaning my financial house and getting my affairs in order.

The second meeting of the Happiness Project was yesterday.  I had the amazing, elusive, and wonderfully satisfying experience of spending time with a kindred spirit.  I shared that my efforts to scootch closer to happiness were not so very easy, and certainly not very even, and that I’d experienced some discouragement along the way.  In spite of my best efforts to make it so, life refuses to be linear.  The trajectory is not straight.

In the main I find that I am optimistic, grateful, and — there it is —  happy this morning.

Wishing you fluttering birds, stray dogs, and unexpected visits of happiness.


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Not that anyone has asked me, but my happiness project has hit the skids.  That is to say, after nearly two weeks, there has been no measurable change in my happiness level — and sometimes the opposite:   I “did something new” with a friend and got a migraine that lasted two days.  I had dinner with friends and did not enjoy my company or theirs much at all.  I lined up three dates, went to one, and never finalized the arrangements for the other two, in fact I’ve decided I don’t even want to date.   My resolution is to strengthen social bonds but I found myself retreating (literally) as much as I’m advancing.

If I flip it around and look for the successes, there are activities that align to resolutions 

  • Reaching out to my sisters, (invest in family)
  • Staying in touch with the Lovely Young People (invest in family) 
  • Volunteering to take some teenagers to the mall and to dinner when their parents weren’t available (invest in friendships) 
  • My flowerbeds look great and the boston ferns around the porch are FABULOUS!! (complete home staging and repairs)
  • The new steps to the front of the house are installed and they look very snazzy (complete repairs)
  • The braces go on Monday (tackle a nagging task)
  • I’ve made an appointment to have a specialist look at my bone-grinding knees (tackle a nagging task)
  • I’m working through the SP Profile project for work (do something difficult well)
  • Today I did a couple of meditation sessions (meditate).
  • and I could keep going!

Maybe my expectation that my happiness project will change my fundamental nature is a bit over-reaching (Be Cathy), and when I budget time to do something social I should also budget the time to re-charge.  I’ve also grown interested over the last couple of days in the whole mind/body connection… work on the body and the mind will follow? Work on the mind and the body will follow?    It seems I’m always looking for an angle, a fix to improve my basic outlook.

Sometimes I have a word of the day, and on more than one occasion the word of the day has been “AND.”  As in, I had a good time visiting my sisters AND I longed for Ryan Michael last Christmas.  That is to say, my happiness project is not going perfectly, AND it is … STILL WORTH PURSUING! 

Wishing you steady, steady progress, infinite patience, and faith,


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