Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wilder Pictures + Musings: A Few Things That Make Me Happy (and) On The Pursuit of Happiness


Years ago, when my family still had a kid's table where we young ones would mash together all of our thanksgiving dinner and call it dog food, I asked a question. I asked each family member what they were thankful for. I don't think this was a ground-breaking exercise, and I'm sure there are many tables across America on Thanksgiving where people do this. But I love that it brings us back to the reason we're all gathered together on a Thursday in November in the first place. It also allows each of us to be more honest than we would be in casual conversation; I learn something new about people I thought I knew very well each time we go around the table.

So this year, I'm bringing the tradition to this internet-table. I want to share with you what I am grateful for. And I hope, in the comments following this post, that you will do the same with me (after the jump).

I am grateful for: family, friends, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Our founding fathers kind of nailed it, didn't they? When you add family and friends to the list they gave us, that's really all there is in this life that matters. Though I think I often forget the importance of that last item: the pursuit of happiness.

A lot of people my age are geared to the future: will this job lead to a career I want? Will I ever fall in love? And if I already have, will it be forever? Will this degree give me the credentials I need to achieve my dreams? What are my dreams, anyway? Where should I have dinner next Thursday? Why doesn't the liquor store have good wine for cheaper than $15? (that last one I just threw in as an honest question--if anyone knows of a great, cheap bottle, let me know).

I know that I, at least, have been worrying about the future far more than is necessary, healthy, or productive over the past six months or so. So a few weeks ago, I decided to try to actively stop. The people whom I admire most are the ones who are able to inhabit the present more than they stress about the future or dwell in the past, and I want to be like them. I want to be like the girl I saw sitting outside Main Street Cafe in Concord, reading a book without having an existential crisis because she isn't writing one yet (though to be fair, she could have been. I just know that she seemed totally engrossed and wasn't checking her phone every other minute, which is an unfortunate habit of which I am also trying to break myself).

This isn't to say that dreams, ambition, and planning don't matter. They do. They are critical. But when the planning starts to overtake the plan I'm currently trying to execute is when I go a little bit nuts. The future-focus was beginning to manifest itself in trivial ways, even, such as in my anticipation of the response to a text message I'd sent or a tweet or Facebook status I'd posted; the idea of someone reacting to me or reaching out to me in the future was becoming more exciting than the present, even if it was filled with great people and conversation.

I got frustrated with myself. And I hope I'm actually beginning to change my focus. I didn't set out to write this post, for example. I really did want to make a list of things I'm thankful for. But this post began to happen, so I went with it (the number one rule of writing is, after all, don't set out with an agenda...thank you, Colby creative writing department). 

I do, however, still want to give a shout out to the little things for which I am grateful: good, loud music in cars, docks and porches warmed by the sun, Maine, Rosie The Dog and Snug The Cat, Walden Pond, cheap sunglasses, roast sweet potatoes, Porter Square Books, the cobblestones on Beacon Hill, Keurig coffee machines, and my new Frye boots.

"Happiness" is a vague term, but these days, because the future is so unsettled, I'm interpreting pursuing it to mean stepping outside myself and inhabiting the present. And whether that means actively appreciating how fuzzy and sweet the dog is as I pat her, or just realizing that I'm breathing as I sit by Walden, it's something I'm learning to do.

Most importantly, however, I'm grateful to love and be loved by family and friends.They're the truly important parts of every moment. Even when I'm alone, knowing that I have such a wealth of support in my life is enough to keep me from being lonely. Most of the time.

I'm also grateful for really good bottles of wine when I go home to my parents' house (in the words of Kristen Wiig: "help me, I'm poor"). And for anyone who reads this blog. Because the fact that it gets read at all still surprises and thrills me, and fills me with gratitude for the first grade teachers who taught you all how to read. Without them, this would fall on deaf ears (blind eyes?). But in also seriousness, thank you. Happy week-after-Thanksgiving.

And now, here are a few of the things I've been enjoying recently.


My grandfather was an opera composer who would have been 100 this year. So my whole family met up in NYC for a concert of some of his works, sung by Lauren Flanigan. I took the photo above while walking around the reservoir in Central Park, and below is the program from the concert. One of my cousin's pointed out that he looks a little bit like a Ninja Turtle in that picture. Which is something I repeat with all due respect, love, and accuracy.  


I'm also thankful for beautiful sunrises. 

The thanksgiving spread. 

And the dessert. 

The fact that they sell Pop Rocks at Paper Source makes buying stationary an explosive experience.

There are few things better than coffee and a classic. Especially when your mom is making you read the book as fast as you can because she won't let you see the movie with her until you've read the book, and you can't not see the move because Kiera Knightly is in it and it looks spectacular from the previews.


This interview with De Niro in last weeks' NYTimes Magazine was awesome. I mean, yes, he's my celebrity crush, but I swear that's not the only reason it was good. Casino is also an insane (and bloody) movie. if you haven't seen it, do so.  

This lamp at our family friends' apartment in NYC is a lightbulb with pokey things sticking out, from which you can hang pictures or papers. They filled theirs with poems. I loved it--especially the line from Dickinson's "I Started Early."

As if. 

This license plate was made all the better by the fact that it was on a mini van.

And with that, my friends, I bid you a happy belated thanksgiving. May you pursue your dreams without forgetting to be happy now. And please do tell me what you're thankful for in the comments. I'd love to know.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Wild Person:

    I have been lurking out here without posting since I complimented you on your dawn photos several years ago. I have enjoyed so many of your posts and I hate to see you winding down. The sailing posts put me right back on a sloop off the Farallones in a confused sea (E-Ticket). I saw that no one had responded to this Thanksgiving post and I wanted to thank you for the warmth that it provides. Not all of us out here have the network around us that you have.

    All the best,

    Dorian Cullen


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