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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Choosing Happiness

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
Butterflies are a sure sign of summer. Here's a photo my husband Kevin shot of a swallowtail on an island full of flowers in the middle of the river. There's a butterfly in my upcoming novel, too, although that one appears in a vision. And it's bright blue. More on that when the publication date comes closer early next year.

So, we're not quite at the dog days yet, since summer just officially started last week, but this month went by so fast! I can't believe it's the end of June already.

I've been plotting my next novel. Mostly in my head, but I am about ready to start outlining and I have a few scenes written. This story is quite different from my first book. It's a huge project that will require quite a bit of research to pull it off well. It's difficult to switch gears when I am still in the process of launching my first novel. Speaking of which, I decided to change the title HEARTLAND after I found out there was another book and a Canadian TV series with the same name. My publisher, Unsolicited Press, agreed and so we have a new title: WHERE THE HEART LANDS. I think it works just as well. I can't wait for you to read it!

WHERE THE HEART LANDS is a story about two women who learn how to make happiness for themselves, despite circumstances of suffering. Happiness, according to Marianne Williamson in her excellent book EVERYDAY GRACE, is an acquired skill. It is easy to get lost in suffering. No one really blames you for feeling terrible when something bad happens to you. Tragedy is all around us, after all. Williamson reminds us that "there is always something to complain about, even in the best of times. And there is always something to celebrate, even in the worst of times." I struggle with this all the time. I have a tendency to look at the negative side of things. In fact, I sort of crave melancholia. Gloomy days feel pretty good to me, for some reason. I guess because they give me time to think. I like to think about stuff. Too much of anything can make one bloated, though, and thinking too much is no exception. Too many people don't seem to think enough about anything. But, thinking can lead to suffering, if you don't choose your thoughts carefully.

Williamson also notes that "those who have learned to be happy are often those who have suffered most." But, she's not talking about dwelling on sadness. No, she reminds us that "gratitude is essential to happiness." Gratitude for any little good thing that happens, like noticing how nice the warm sun feels on our skin or when your child laughs or when your little dog does a happy dance just because you walked in the door. Or how good basil smells growing in your garden. Or maybe someone held the door open for you or your husband fixed your broken bike shoe cleat or the chair you're sitting in is particularly comfortable or a tree offers you shade on a hot day. Maybe you were able to hold a cup in your paralyzed hand today or you said your first intelligible words after a stroke took them away or you can still smell your spouse's scent on the clothes in the closet after he passed away or you are able to take a deep breath without pain. Stuff like that.

Good things are all around us. We just have to notice them. That doesn't mean that we have to give up our sadness. It doesn't mean that we don't grieve. But, we can choose happiness over grief if we want to. I am inspired every day by the people I see in my day job who have lost so much because of a stroke or traumatic brain injury or cancer or ALS or some other horrifying disease. The ones who have lost so much, yet pull through and thrive for whatever time they have been given. They take each day and make it as good as they can.

I invite you to notice the good things. Choose whatever happiness you can find. I am happy that you are willing to read my words today. Thank you for stopping by.