Sunday, October 3, 2010

Practice at Being Alive

I have recently had the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and put one timid little toe into the big scary world beyond the safe little life I have created for myself. The safe little life I have created for myself is an excellent little life, based on the four pillars of happiness - writing, reading, walking, friends - with every day carefully crafted to include five episodes of happiness, all governed by my favorite little mantras of happiness: "Be intent on the perfection of the present day"; "It if is to be, it's up to me."

When I teach Epictetus the Stoic, my freshmen all have the same response: they don't want to live a life without emotion, and not just without happy emotion, but without sad, angry, scary, violent, passionate, disturbing emotion. They tell me they want all those things. I tell them that I wanted all those things, too, thirty years ago, but sadness, anger, fear - they all get old. You bang your bloody, battered head against a wall for a few decades and you start to think, hey, maybe this isn't, well, so very much FUN. Maybe there is a lot to be said for quiet, calm contentment. Maybe there is a lot to be said for restful evenings at home knitting in the company of a cat.

But then recently I began to think that maybe my students, after all, were right. That there is this thing called being alive that we're called upon to do, however sad, angry, and scary we may feel as we do it. I thought I'd give it another try, maybe. One of my similarly older-and-wiser friends said I could chalk it up to practice at being alive.

But now I'm not sure. I'm just not interested in anything except for happiness, just to be happy, happy every single day, happy walking through a beautiful mountain meadow looking at golden aspen trees, as I did yesterday with my friend Maureen, happy curling up to write another book, happy brushing Snickers.

I'm going to go knit another row on my next little afghan square and think about all of this some more.


  1. I'm with you. I'm very happy to have gotten past the sad, angry, fearful stuff. I relish my peaceful days, which are many. I thank God for them and I don't tire of them. --Carol Linda

  2. I feel the same way. Of course, if my characters had nothing but happy days, I wouldn't have a story, but for me, I'll take 100% happy!

  3. I'm with you, Claudia! I live in peace and happiness most of the time. Life is too short, isn't it?

  4. Thanks for chiming in on this one, friends! I've sort of tentatively decided to take this risk - but only because I'm thinking that maybe it WILL make me even happier. But yes, happiness is the way to go!

  5. Hi Claudia, I've just been catching up on your back posts and I agree with you one hundred percent. I want that excellent little life every hour of every day, too, and I'm getting there. The sort of happiness you're talking about is so conducive to ideas pouring in and creativity pouring out.