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Buy sociology dissertation online do my great pyramid no capstone make literature review on cold war plz Oprah Winfrey Presents: O's Little Book of Happiness (The Editor's Best Collection - Full Audiobook) O's little book of happiness from the editors of O The Oprah Magazine read by Alison Elliott Cynthia Hopkins Helen Litchfield Joanna Adler and Scott Shepherd you can never be happy living someone else's dream live your own and you will for sure know the meaning of happiness Oprah Winfrey simple pleasures each moment in time we have it all even when we don't melodie Beatty the way home Christy Ashwin Dhin the walk is not negotiable no matter how full the day's agenda we go my husband my cow dog and I down our rural western Colorado Road past the neighbor's property to the dead end up the old dirt track grown over with sagebrush and pinion saplings to the top of the hill where the path ends under a red sandstone cliff I've watched sunset after sunset from this private perch and each is the most beautiful I've ever seen as an Air Force brat a competitive ski racer and then a journalist I lived in three countries in more than a dozen cities trekked up and down the Alps through Central American rain forests and along Mediterranean coasts seeking novelty and adventure but a kind of loneliness lurked in my perpetual motion I could fit in anywhere yet I belong to nowhere seven years ago I fell in love with cedar edge the small town where my husband Dave yearned to settle and together we decided to put down roots on a 16 acre homestead still I refused to retire my passport there were so many faraway mountains to climb and foreign cultures to or tying myself to a single place felt confining until finally during a particularly irritating flight delay it dawned on me that while I wasted time and crowded airport lounges the life I'd dreamed of was waiting for me on the farm later that week I told Dave that I would spend the next 365 days practicing the art of living in place never venturing more than a hundred miles from home it was my version of a Benedictine monks vow of stability in which he promises to remain in the same monastery for life resolving to accept his assigned home as it is although part of me believed I was making a sacrifice I found that when I narrowed my boundaries I expanded my horizons the friendship I forged with my octogenarian neighbors taught me that a shared commitment to place can create ties far stronger than age joining my library's board introduced me to bibliophiles I would have otherwise never met and with a local activist whose politics make me cringe I found common ground in her passion for growing raspberries but it was my dog who finally showed me the way home Oscar inspired the ramble that would become our ritual and after treading this little path for hundreds of days I've stopped longing for far-flung adventures here I have the aroma of sage and the Bluebirds and the craggy peaks surrounding me like an embrace I share this space with the beings whose footprints I see in the mud coyotes turkeys elk and mountain lions and my presence has turned me into a creature of the habitat just like them it has taken me most of my life to learn how to inhabit a place and I learned it finally by walking up the hill and around the backside of our farm day in and day out the repetition is the point my journey home was not a whirlwind excursion but a geological process my sole mingling with the soil step by step over time lumps are treasures Patricia Volk I love the dark film that forms as cocoa cools in the pot break it up with a spoon stir it in and you've got dirty hot chocolate unsmooth an imperfect hence complex there are those who will tell you dirty food as little to enhance presentation but a brisket sandwich would be torment without pan scrapings I like seeing and eating something that shows it was made by human hand in a slow old-fashioned way when I'm eating a lemon mousse discovering a bit of Pope exhilarates you never have to strain anything for me lumps are treasures and so are little bits of black fat at the bottom of the roasting pan if onions are in it and Yiddish these carbonized fat silk threads are known as grip nests people families have been known to fight over them in France burnt crumbs that collect at the bottom of the skillet when you saute floured food is fond grimness and fond are why we have lipitor congeals anything stuff that leaks between the bread and gets frazzled on the panini maker hard bits dried bit soggy bits crunch gloves gobs and flecks anything you might toss even though it has more taste / concentrated morsel than the star of the meal I say bring it on there's a reason the word incredible contains the word edible book lust pamela aaron's i've been a passionate reader since childhood print is beautiful to me my eyes automatically seize on any text in the vicinity whether a danger high voltage sign or the side panel of a box of Cheerios some grown-ups remember the times they swam in a cold pond or erase their bikes along a country road as children i remember going out to the beach one morning with the once and future king and looking up to find the Sun was setting I remember the time I read the outsiders a book about disaffected teenagers from cover to cover wild draped upside down over a kitchen chair my body hurt like hell but I would have had to stop her eating to get up I can't read with that level of absorption anymore in fact during much of the day there are things I can't read at all the newspaper a book review a lively magazine profile are all fine but even when I have the luxury of complete solitude I'm unable before the hour of 10:00 p.m. to read a novel or a reflective essay only after the children have gone to bed my husband and I have performed triage on our to be discussed list and my schedule for the next day has been organized can I sink into language with a capital L I get into bed adjust my thin pillow against my fat pillow I put on my socks it's no fun reading with cold feet I opened my book and the following thought allows me to begin no one needs me maybe no one even remembers Who I am it's too late in the day for me to make any more mistakes disappoint anyone complete any uncompleted tasks however I may have failed or fallen behind I am off the hook until sunrise and time which all day has pressed like a tight band against my consciousness slackens the clock finds a thirteenth hour sometimes I do stock my bookshelves in the middle of the afternoon during an unexpected windfall of free time i scanning the unread novels essay collections ruminations on god and love and history all the biggies my heart beats rapidly I grow excited with possibility I'm in love with many things that I have yet to feel and know I am experiencing the idea of reading which is generally so stimulating that I discover I can't begin at all but when the bedroom light is dimmed and the telecommunicator ehum of universe has been smothered behind the closed door I'm ready for the reality of reading which is less exalted but ultimately more satisfying I find it in myself to begin I open to page one a man is standing in a bakery on a hot summer afternoon I see the shirt the man is wearing note the fact that his tie is folded in his pocket I see the Baker's wife at the cash register suddenly I'm sheltered by a thicket of detail the sights and sounds and smells of the book pull me in and slow me down in a way that those of the real world oddly often do not I'm no longer at the wishing fearing planning pace of my day I'm not running but walking and where I wind up book after book is an unmatched state of bliss paradise 17 cents a spoonful mark Lehner imagine condensing the evolution of gastronomic pleasure from the very first mammalian sip of mother's milk to everything savored and swallowed over the millennia into one single elementary act sound crazy if so you've never had pudding and friends I'm not talking about hot steamy Christmas puddings bread puddings figgy pudding z' creme brulees or zabaglione x' i'm talking about the store bought ready-made pudding you find in the refrigerated section of your supermarket I'm talking six plastic four ounce cups of cold thick dizzyingly sweet pudding for around two dollars I'm talking Swiss Miss I'm talking cozy Shack and actually I've refined the act of pudding eating even further down to its Eucharistic essence a single spoonful two ounces seventeen cents worth here's how it's done scoop out tablespoon of pudding from the plastic container butterscotch is regarded by putting Illuminati as the epitome of flavors put it in your mouth do not move it around or disperse it in any way with your tongue swallow the glob intact and let mother gravity slowly draw it down remember this is as much about how it feels as it is about how it tastes anticipation of that single sweet glob is the fuse that drives me through the day a tablespoon of pudding is the perfectly titrated dose it's a fugitive pleasure swallowing a syllable that sweet thick syllable PUD the egg is simply the slide down the throat the PUD as it bids adieu the parting of the pudding is all sweet sorrow a cowboy shot of whiskey in a saloon sends the cowboy west far from mama toward trouble exile and ultimately into the sunset but the spoonful of pudding has a completely opposite vector it sends you back back east back to mama toward the dawn all the way to Eden before the fall of mankind paradise at only seventeen cents per glob that's what I'm talking about tall tales victoria Radel somewhere after farce in wyoming my sons grew restless in the back seat who could blame them we'd been traveling all day and well into the night driving out of Utah to Thermopolis Wyoming home of the world's largest hot spring just go to sleep we commanded from the front seat already exhausted by this vacation tell us a story they said and so began the adventures of extravaganza and her sidekick and more or less true love cowboy Pete from that night on they became part of all long family car trips extravaganza rides her horse with a diamond tiara shining in the light of the moon or hobo style she jumps trains to Detroit to win a few hands of cards while searching for the parents of the lost boy or she and cowboy Pete crack treasure from a sunken lobster boat they used the goal to help the lost boy and the change is spent on strappy sandals our car rides are a means of going on vacation of course but now they've also become a way to go on a wild adventure even when we're still strapped and buckled in a slice of summer Abigail Thomas my grandmother lived in a big house on a ghost of a road at the end of which laid the Atlantic Ocean her house had once been an inn was reputed to be haunted and had been purchased for $11,000 in the late 1940s once a year from wherever we were living Baltimore New Orleans Minnesota my family made the trek back for summer vacation the place was always the same always the same bright green grass the big gray front porch the huge Elms flowering privet and roses and salty air always the beach at the end of the road always summer at big mom's the smell of camphor and old books mingled with whatever was in the oven there was always something good going on in her kitchen the first thing I did when we arrived was run and look in her icebox there as I'd hoped were glass ramekins filled with custard each with a sprinkling of nutmeg this silky treat was my favorite and I was allowed to have two or even three in a row sometimes she made applesauce hard green apples cut up and cooked in orange juice which she pressed through a fine sieve this thin delicious substance was served with heavy cream her recipe for fudge now lost contained the instructions cook until the bubbles look as if they don't want to burst my mother poured it over marshmallows on the back of the old stove was a pot of broth thick chunks of beef cooking with rice in water even though this was meant for Winston the ancient ailing english bulldogge i would stand at the stove and secretly eat spoonful after spoonful the earliest aroma of the day was big moms coffee percolating at 5:30 and I tiptoed down the wide front stairs and into her kitchen where I sat in the old rocker now in my living room and talked about what I can't remember for an hour my grandmother was all mine she let me have a cup of coffee with sugar and cream and I felt alive with the possibilities of what life might be like for me I guess this was because she appeared to take me seriously our coffee was accompanied by buttered toast cut into long strips she called soldiers when the rest of the household woke up wheat kids went to the beach we grew up there as much as anywhere on that beach in that water stopping for lunch at noon eating our chicken sandwiches white meat plenty of butter and salt the crusts cut off the bread or red onion sandwiches on tiny rounds of rye hard-boiled eggs everything eaten with the sand you could never quite keep off when the Sun was over the yardarm we trudged our sunburned selves back down Indian Wells highway to her house interesting grown-ups were drinking their pink gins in the library to the left was the parlor filled with mysterious objects under glass domes and always as hushed as church we raced one another to the shower her upstairs bathroom had a skylight with an old metal chain and then back downstairs avoiding the room where our parents were happily occupied our winter lives were harder schools and cities changed almost as soon as we got settled somewhere we were moving again but summer was always summer my grandmother died and the house was sold but for years and years afterward whenever I returned to Amagansett I felt at home this was where I belonged any time I walked down that half mile of road to find the ocean glittering at the end I was a child wind sand and sardines Monica Ali one year I took the children on holiday to Morocco where we spent much time feasting either with our eyes in the market our with our bellies in the cafes and restaurants one meal in particular marked a highlight we were staying in Essaouira a town with such an atmospheric and photogenic Medina that it has remained a popular film location since Orson Welles chose to shoot there for his a fellow setting out from the fishing harbour we took a camel ride up the coast along vast deserted stretches of windswept golden sand past the ruined forts and castles which are said to have been the inspiration for the Jimi Hendrix song castles made of sand camel rides are notoriously uncomfortable except this one wasn't we lolled back on hugely overstuffed Palin Keens going with the motion as if rolling with the waves after a couple of hours we branched off at a small River and rode inland seeing nothing but the occasional house and a few tree climbing goats when we stopped for lunch our guide quickly swept together some leaves and twigs as kindling while the children collected bigger sticks from somewhere in his saddlebags he produced two dozen sardines which he had caught that morning and grilled them on the open fire there was fresh bread and heavenly tomatoes for dessert we ate dates it was the simplest of meals and the most delicious why it had been a long ride for one thing food tastes better when you're hungry how easy that is to forget everything was fresh and tasted of itself no need for dressing up and there was time for a doze beneath the Acacia s-- while the children fed the leftovers to the camels personal growth Lara Kristen Herndon two years ago as my better divorce dragged on and on I moved out of the high-rise apartment my ex and I had shared and into a small walk-up with our daughter I felt like a shipwrecked survivor glad to have washed up on dry land traumatised to be starting over from scratch a few days later a package arrived I opened it to find a beautiful green stalk sprouting several glossy emerald leaves it was a lemon tree a gift from my mother my first thought it was the dead of winter in Manhattan how would I keep this thing alive but caring for the little tree proved easy all it needed was water in a warm window so when it blossomed white waxy stars with sunshine yellow centers whose sugar and honeysuckle scent my daughter and I gulped in by the lungful our cramped apartment felt transformed the flowers dropped off in early March leaving in their place tiny green lemons in the months that followed all but one of those dropped off to the lone survivor grew and grew bending the whole plant under its weight we harvested our enormous lemon in August it was sweet enough to eat whole like an orange but instead we made a small delicious batch of lemonade that we drank on our stoop in the late summer Sun both of us aglow with the singular exhilaration of starting fresh bliss in action happiness is not a station you arrive at but a manner of traveling Margaret Lee run back my Blue Heaven and Gloucester it usually happens after the tenth lap the weight of my body is released where it goes I'm not sure dispersed through that particular light Bluegreen of chlorinated pools scene through goggles dissipated by the steady back forth back forth of body through water the first few laps are often dutiful even agonizing but when that lifting occurs it's all suddenly different I'm alone in my a quarter capsule my carapace of skin if all goes well no one else to close ahead or on my heels behind I become enmeshed in the water no care no worry body and mind so often split through alien entities are for at least this brief time one for me the world is to present in an aerobics class the sight of other people the thump of the music and I never much wanted to compete to chase a ball or be on a team it's not that I'm a solitary person on the contrary I love people which is all the more reason to regularly disengage to disappear from the hurly-burly of the world for a while growing up I enjoyed jumping waves in the ocean and an occasional swim in a Bay but nothing more then in my late 20s I became friends with a woman I later called coach she swam obsessively a mile every night after work and on the weekends too she never made dinner plans for earlier than 8:30 because that's when she was finished at the pool she probably got her lean wiry body from her genetic code but her toned shoulders and well muscled arms could have come only from those endless chlorinated miles I didn't understand her devotion until I accompanied her to the pool as a guest one day I was smitten I loved the feeling of my arms pulling me along the texture of the liquid all around me I slowly acclimated to swimming culture learning the lingo of length in lap how many to a mile how to use a kick board the way a flip turn improves your time I never got terribly speedy or even approached coaches diligence but I did swim I joined her pool assembled my swim gear bought a good pair of goggles and when I did my first mile 36 laps in most pools I was inordinately proud it sounded so grand an entire mile there was a ring of completeness to it an aura of virtue slowly my arms developed a hint of muscle I got my mile down to 50 minutes a good time for a slowpoke like me I settled into a schedule sometimes doing just 3/4 of a mile with a half mile as my bare minimum as I stroke up the lane I count one on the way back I repeat one and I proceed from there two-two three-three thoughts and ideas may crowd into my head but they are all eventually banished by the slow steady rhythmic need to keep count four four five five and soon that amazing lifting sensation comes the reward when I take off and begin to flow everything I need to know I learned from a horse Jane smiley a few days ago I found a photo that was taken of me at 43 sitting on my new horse then 14 I look a little disheveled but happy he looks thin even emaciated with very little tail and several scars where other horses have taken pieces out of his hide what you can't tell from the photo and what I didn't know at the time was at the horse whom I named tick-tock after the ticking of our biological clocks was about to take me on a life-changing adventure that has been more fun sometimes more troubling and always more interesting than I could have possibly imagined I was a fearful person then the sword who sneaks into the baby's room during naps to make sure he's breathing the sword who imagines every late comer in a traffic accident I had always loved horses though had ridden as a teenager and thought riding a horse might be a more fun way to lose the last 15 pounds of pregnancy weight than riding a Nordic track with my eyes glued to the Weather Channel watching for tornado warnings I lived in Iowa then the horse had been around most recently he had lived in a field with a bunch of other horses and before that who knew but he was kind and easy to ride and most important the second morning that I knew him he Nick heard at me that was flattering like having a nice man call you darling but without any overtones of sexual harassment I meant to ride three times a week I had a baby and other children and a husband in a career but there I was four five six days a week not just riding the horse but taking lessons asking questions hanging around the barn buying equipment I was right about the pounds they were gone in a month but I was wrong about everything else namely that I was an established grown-up who had it all figured out the first thing I had to confront was the same thing all adult riders have to confront fear was he going to step on me yes if I didn't watch where his feet were was he going to run away yes if something scared him might he bucked me off unlikely but possible more embarrassingly was I going to fall off once yes I was unbalanced out of my element weak stiff beneath the fear I soon saw was a long-standing habit of not actually paying attention to what I was doing it spent years thinking about one thing while doing another I had in fact prided myself on this but if I didn't know what I was doing and neither did the horse he acted confused nervous a little scary I had to learn quickly but was surprising difficulty how to pay attention and then there was my body I would think sit up straight but not be able to sit up straight I told my instructor that it didn't seem as though my head was connected to the rest of me he agreed how embarrassing was that it was as though my nerve impulses ran through Cleveland on the way from my cerebellum to my heels this weight-loss project was turning into a challenge of my every habit a challenge to the unconscious way I had been living but the horse loved me he nikkor dat me every day came when I called paid attention flicking his ears when I talked and when I did everything right even for just a moment or two the fear the preoccupation an awkwardness gave way to grace and pleasure unlike any sensation I'd ever felt a pure physical sense of rhythm and strength that the horse communicated right into my sinews as with all positive transformations the right moments accumulated into right minutes and subsequently into delicious stretches of time that didn't feel like time at all what's unique about writing is that the horse is always right there and not only physically tic TOCs personality his intentions and his willingness were always palpable I learned why out riding alone is an oxymoron an equestrian is never alone is always sensing the other being the mysterious but also understandable living being that is the horse that's what gets me out every day in weather I would never jog in my body is different now I have triceps and biceps i gallop and jump and ride with intense pleasure I'm also more patient self-confident ready for fun I'm more daring my old what-if has become more of a why not I'm ready er to believe that if something comes up I can deal with it even backing up the horse trailer but the greatest change is my constant sense of an unfolding relationship and growing knowledge I used to pepper my trainers and vets with questions why is the horse doing that what does that mean at bottom who is he I discovered that the horse is life itself a metaphor but also an example of life's mystery and unpredictability of its generosity and beauty a worthy object of repeated and ever-changing contemplation Do It Yourself Jessica brooder I am a lover of power tools in my gas station coveralls I've wielded welding torches hoisted chainsaws and whiled away afternoons with a belt sander I've mastered the plasma cutter the nail gun the grinder but I believe the best tools are the ones that come standard at Birth our two hands working with your hands is a big part of humaneness and for me happiness a day in the woodshop or craft room or garden reconnects you with your body which is a nice break from staring at screens plus calling a plumber will not give you a sense of power and autonomy stopping your leaky pipe from leaking will lately I've been using my hands to fix cars and grow tomatoes unscrew lug nuts and screw together planter boxes jack up a chassis and haul bags of dirt to the roof of my 4th floor walk-up I'm still a little shaky on the auto shop stuff but I'm excited about the tomatoes even though the hands in question don't have green thumbs and once killed a cactus no matter the results the experience will be meaningful our culture rewards expertise and efficiency my tomatoes will reflect neither with the cost of growing taken into account they'll be more expensive than the ones at the supermarket they may be less aesthetically appealing too but they will be mine born of my hard work and gentle care and that achievement that joy is something nobody else can create but me enchanted forest Joyce Johnson I was seven or eight when my favorite aunt Rose Wallman who often borrowed me from my parents came to take me for an afternoon mushrooming expedition in Forest Park in the borough of Queens aunt rose was equipped with a basket from Woolworths and a copy of the little golden book of mushrooms Forest Park was as close as you could come to a real forest in Aunt Rose as much a neophyte mycologist as I was delighted me by appearing to rely on my judgment in matters of life and death we would spot a mushroom and consult the little golden book searching for a matching illustration mushroom or toadstool years later I would find myself on a blind date with a dour tax attorney who interrupted my story at this point with a withering pronouncement there are no toadstools only toxic mushrooms to me at 8:00 they were toadstools i said firmly and shortly afterward left alone anything Aunt Rose and I both designated mushroom was promptly picked by the end of the afternoon we had gathered quite a variety some were golden the rest in various shades of brown they lay nestled in aunt Rose's basket with clinging bits of moss and pine needles my aunt was planning to saute the whole lot in parsley butter but said she could not take the responsibility of inviting me to share the feast all evening I worried about her until the phone rang not only at Aunt Rose survived she reported to me that the mushrooms were delicious and ever since I've regretted not sampling that dish seasoned as it was with a bit of danger I thought of Aunt Rose often after I bought a small cabin in Vermont on the edge of the woods she would have been pleased that I finally had my own forest park complete with deer moose porcupines and a bear or two where my lawn ends there are wild apple trees and blackberry brambles in the fall after it rains I'm likely to find bullets in the garden my friends and neighbors up there are experienced mushroom hunters who wisely collect only what they're absolutely sure of and eat everything they gather strings of dried mushrooms hang from the rafters of their kitchens if you're out driving with them they're likely to stop the car to harvest giant speckled pheasants backs jutting from dead Elms along the roadside or the slightly phosphorescent Shaggy Mane's that show up at night luminous in the headlights I've heard tales of giant puff balls big enough to serve six and if certain outcroppings of morels and hillside cow pastures if you ask but where exactly do you find your morels you won't get an answer such secrets are respected by all but you will get an invitation to come to dinner and try some I bought an enormous Illustrated tome on mushrooms full of Latin names and stern warnings and symbols representing degrees of edibility I studied the picture of the lovely white mushroom known as the angel of death learned how to make spore prints on paper towels and felt properly nervous but still eager to proceed finally I went off to the woods without my mushroom Bible which is far too heavy to carry I was a middle-aged city dweller still unaccustomed to being alone in the woods and sometimes I thought I had to be crazy as I scrambled down the ravines and over a fallen tree trunks and wrenched my sneakers out of losing mud if I broke my leg who would find me perhaps days would pass before my friends worried after my rescue they'd ask what were you thinking the truth would be somewhat ridiculous I wanted chanterelles I'd been told they grow everywhere in Vermont and even for a beginner like me the delicious little saffron trumpets were easily identifiable I found only three or four that first day growing out of rotted logs but still it was a victory I put them in an omelet I like the way the urge to seek them cleared out my mind brought purpose and suspense to my rambles I thought of nothing in the woods but of spotting a few dots of cadmium yellow one day wandering contentedly in circles I lost my way I headed toward the sunlight and found myself in a strangely familiar place that turned out to be my neighbor's yard there was a lone chanterelle growing in his driveway where the twinge of guilt I picked it my city cat had come to Vermont with me I'd kept her in the house but finally she made her escape through some torn screening I ran after her tearfully calling her name but she melted into the woods as I walked back to the house I found myself in a stand of birches near the road only a few yards from my door the ground was covered with small yellow trumpets more than I'd ever hoped to see him spot they've been hiding in plain sight like the cat as it turned out she materialized on the porch at 5:00 the next morning ravenously hungry and full of fleas so thanks to her I have my own secret place I can only guess at what makes the chanterelles so abundant there is it a particular amount of sunlight filtering through the trees the birch bark and decaying limbs on the ground mixed with just the right proportions of maple leaves and pine needles my chanterelles keep coming back year after year and I gather them reveling in the mystery of their bounty varied treasure lisa Congdon years ago My partner and I were walking past a garage sale in San Francisco when I spotted a piece of mid-century Norwegian enamel where a bowl in a Blue Lotus pattern it's really rare a great find the asking price $1 the bowl was worth about a hundred and fifty dollars but it's not about the money I love knowing I was the only person around who understood its value I've always loved that when I was a girl in upstate New York I made my grandmother take me to the dump to look for treasure she was a collector too when I was told to clean my room I would instead arrange my collections arranging was always my favorite part there's something so appealing about an array of light things so orderly and pretty my advice is to find something special to you and start seeking it out it doesn't matter if it's worth money it just needs to be something you want more than one of and it should be hard to find because the hunt is half the fun I like collecting the way I like crime novels I want to awaken my inner detective the longer the search the sweeter the find horizons expanded Heather Greenwood Davis we arrive in Chengdu on a pitch-black morning on the overnight train from Xian as my husband dish our two young sons Ethan Cameron and I stumbled groggily out of the station we sidestep poorer travelers huddled on flattened boxes on the freezing concrete China's 11th largest city home to a famous panda research facility feels lonely and uninviting it doesn't help that we've forgotten to have our hotel's name written down for us in Chinese and the taxi drivers swarming us don't speak English they pull at my sons who are clutching my waist suddenly a man carrying a laptop approaches where are you trying to go he asks soon he's negotiating with a driver and not long after that we're laughing with him over breakfast at our hotel he turns out to be a visiting professor from Singapore I couldn't just leave you out there to fend for yourselves he tells us as we're coming over pictures of his baby daughter I lock eyes with ish across the table we know this would never have happened back in Toronto in 2011 when ish was offered a sabbatical from his job as a public health inspector we set out to see the world for a year with our kids as a journalist my job has always been flexible we aren't rich or crazy we just saw an opportunity to live our dreams and seized it selling our car renting out our house and exhausting our savings over the next 12 months we visited 29 countries soaring in a hot-air balloon above King Tut's tomb riding ostriches in Vietnam and scrubbing four ton elephants in Thailand but the moments we'll remember most involve people not places when we joined in a moonlit game of ping pong and a Cairo alleyway with our city guides neighbours for example or dined on duck confit in the minimalist home of a worldly Parisian family for whom we'd snapped a photo in Seville or sat cross-legged on the floor of the one-room home of a Cambodian tuk-tuk driver who wanted his kids to meet ours we'd expect it to be for alone in the world but in these moments when we relied on instinct and trusted strangers we became a part of it I'd always taught my children to be wary of anyone they didn't know but in Buenos Aires I watched with pride as my shy seven-year-old gathered his courage and marched into a soccer game some local kids were playing in the Galapagos Islands I beamed when my picky nine-year-old tasted and loved lobster tail on the advice of some new friends in our tour group as for ich and me we learned that people are kinder than we'd given them credit for we stopped seeing the planet as a list of places to visit and started daydreaming about whom exactly we'd meet next back home in Canada we now chat with a grocery clerk who's Portuguese accent we can place and share a joke with the taxi driver whose rear view mirror flag we recognize we linger to make a friend or once we might have rushed by and we get a glorious connection a world size dose of happiness in return the joy of discovery I believe that if you just stand up and go life will open up for you Tina Turner burning questions Katy Arnold Ratliff remember when you were little and you felt you might explode because you had so many questions why is the sky blue why are zebra-striped how come I can't have another popsicle and remember how good that felt to find the world so fascinating that you had to learn this second and in great detail exactly how it worked how did we lose touch with that desire to ask ask ask was it when we became busy distracted overwhelmed grown-ups feigning expertise acting like we know everything all the time no everything were we even listening in intro to philosophy did we miss the part where Socrates who supposedly said I know that I know nothing developed an entire method of figuring out stuff based entirely on inquiry and that all knowledge exists precisely because people have persistently and for centuries asked tons and tons of questions have we established that questions or marvelous momentous things and if so can we agree that asking ourselves the right can have life-altering effects because have you ever noticed how questions prevent us from settling for less than we deserve that asking ourselves could it be better is a great way to make things well a whole lot better that a bunch of our breakthroughs triumphs and Joy's occurred when we asked a few big bold paradigm-shifting questions don't we owe it to ourselves don't we deserve to live an examined life can it be said that asking questions is what keeps us honest drives us to aim higher and is the very thing that makes us human in a word yes no question about it the eye of the beholder sister Wendy Beckett how can I describe what happened when I encountered for the first time the spiritual power of great furniture in all my visits to museums I've usually walked past furniture on my eager way to the real thing paintings sculptures and ceramics but in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts some years ago I had the good fortune to meet Jonathan a curator of American decorative arts and sculpture and my eyes were opened I saw as he did how furniture can have a majestic sculptural beauty that can stop one in one's tracks one such work was the Cogswell Boston bombe chest on chest of 1782 it swells in a stately curve up to a surge of mahogany drawers and climaxes in an insouciant pediment crowned with the American Eagle this was early Boston remember I was looking at glorious works of art furniture indeed but even more they were pieces shaped and crafted by a master hand beauty came at me from all dimensions from unexpected angles offering an enlargement of spirit I still cannot wholly comprehend what if the poki really is what it's all about sooo fleece while heading to the grocery store one morning I stopped at a light behind an old Chevy sorely in need of a paint job a teenager was driving blaring music with the windows down her bumper was scuffed one taillight was crushed but she didn't seem to mind her manicured fingers tapped the steering wheel like red tip drumsticks her hair lifting in the breeze she's saying at the top of her voice ignoring the audience around her I liked her just before the light changed and she drove off I noticed her car had a bumper sticker what if the hokey-pokey really is what it's all about then I thought wait what if it is it could have been my mood that day or it could have been destiny but idling behind that Chevy all at once it occurred to me that I'd left no room in my life for simple delight I scheduled penciled in or planned everything from my kids playdates to dinners with friends months in advance just to get it off my mind which more and more was swamped with a non-stop fire hose like onslaught of obligations where were the moments when I could rap on the steering wheel with my hair blowing in the wind so now I'm trying to make time to enjoy the sweet simple inconsequential bits of life wherever and however I can we just celebrated my son's 11th birthday at a laser tag arena if you've never set foot in one it's loud crowded and smells like feet the old me would have gladly opted out waiting in the birthday party room setting up the pizza and cake checking email the new me got suited up chose a laser tag handle mom inator and ventured an alongside a dozen of my son's friends with vest laser gun and survival instincts in tow it was awesome I didn't even come in last it also turns out that when I'm not obsessing over getting things done getting to the next destination getting my point across and moving right along I hear a lot more yesterday my 9 year old wanted to tell me his side of an argument had with his brother please mom he said just listen before you say anything so I did as he asked I listened and I had a revelation the outcome of the altercation didn't matter to him as much as being heard by me did I chose to be in that moment with him for as long as it lasted I want more encounters like that I'm starting one foot at a time to put my whole self in my own best friend Robin rom in my early 30s I moved from a small bungalow in the Bay Area to a hippie barn in Santa Fe to take a new job the barn with its tin doors and weathered wood had seemed novel a radical change here my boyfriend and I would explore our mellow sides walking the dog on dusty horse trails eating dinner at a picnic table it sounded romantic but soon after we unpacked he left for a month-long writing fellowship in another state I found myself in this new rural place alone and I panicked though I'd grown up an only child I no longer knew how to sit with myself for long stretches of time and honestly my childhood had been lonely my parents both had busy demanding careers and a penchant for budget babysitter's who did little more than watch television and talk on the phone I spent great swaths of time inventing games by myself in my room as soon as I was old enough to drive I hung out constantly with friends a habit that persisted throughout my 20s it wasn't all that interested in reclaiming solitude during the first week alone in the barn I called every person in my phone even people I barely knew but after I talked to everyone after my eyes nearly fell out of my head from watching TV I realized I couldn't keep this up for four weeks so I did something I'd always wanted to do I signed up for banjo lessons at night I practiced looking out at the sunsets over the chimney so flowers the jackrabbit sloping by when I got tired of the chord progressions I'd knit or read and though I expected to be dogged by loneliness that mortal childhood enemy I felt instead a surprising calm all this time I'd been working so hard to avoid myself but as it turned out I liked being alone me and myself had so many shared interests so much to say to each other if I'd permitted it I was good company that felt like such a revelation the longest relationship we have with anyone is with ourselves and yet that relationship is often the first one we let slide maintaining it brings such comfort though liking your company means that you always have at your beck and call a person who gets you so if everyone departs and you're left feeling lonely and adrift or if you never allow yourself to be alone ask yourself what you'd do if you had a friend over you'd be curious about her you'd engage with her you'd be compassionate why not treat yourself the same way seeing in the dark selma adams during the New York City blackout of 2003 on the 8.2 mile walk from my Midtown Manhattan office to my Brooklyn brownstone a trek that included to Mister Softee I scream stops and the crossing of one immense bridge I had four unmapped hours to take stock of where I stood at 44 and spontaneously consider how my life needed changing when I was in my 20s and single I'd had similar moments in airplanes flying coast to coast on either end of the journey life flowed in all its chaos and complexity its conflicting desires and demands but airborne in the pause between departure and destination strapped in beside strangers I often found myself contemplating my life as a whole and reaching big decisions about it after the lights went out in New York as I headed south in velvet slippers I'd bought months earlier in Chinatown my high heels tucked into a bag slung over my shoulder I walked the same streets I'd come to as a young woman from California I passed the Strand bookstore the Little Italy apartment where a friend had shared a bathroom wall with the gangster John Gotti the bar where my husband Ronald and I practically floated the brilliant autumn day that we declared our love for each other that's weltering August afternoon people crammed the sidewalks in moods that ranged from joy to apocalyptic panic among the frazzled the communal worry was that this was not simply a power outage but a repeat of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 the beginning of the end again for me something snapped that day although I didn't hear it for all the noise in the street darkness fell while I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge I was tired and the soles of my slippers were wearing thin I wondered if I would make it home if my family was all right if the surprising piece of the afternoon would be preserved until I crossed my threshold nearly 20 years had passed since I first came to the city I was the mother of two small children when I wasn't working writing a still unpublished novel and reviewing movies I walked the streets with an over packed stroller dreading the subways for their steep stroller hostel stairs and Ronald who had moved to New York for me had debilitating asthma which worsened to the point where he was allergic to the city itself the moles in the subway the cockroaches in the basement the dust a year later inspired by what I saw in my heart on that long walk on that dark night I changed direction we moved to a hunting lodge on 14.5 acres in upstate New York and if I had misgivings at leaving behind hard-won friends and perfect pizza slices they vanished in the wonder that is country life in the country blackouts are a more common less public occurrence a tree falls lightning strikes a stream floods its banks the computer crashes mid-sentence the washer halts mid-cycle the electric lights dim in then go out entirely we leave the refrigerator freezer doors shut in hopes that the power outage won't last too long and we can keep that terrific lamb curry Ronald made for the last hours of daylight we hang on cheerfully reading and coroner's by the windows sweeping the kitchen floor bundling the newspapers but as twilight falls and we migrate toward the screened porch in the last shreds of light and the color begins to wash from the brilliant gold finches at their feeder Ronald curses the fact that we didn't buy a generator 11 year-old Trevor experiences computer withdrawal we draw around the stubby white candles buy in bulk for just such an occasion and though I'm well aware of my son's aversion to performing I suggest the impossible why doesn't Trevor get out his guitar and show me what he can do after a year of lessons he drags out the left-handed instrument I haven't heard him play since the lessons began he runs through his repertoire the chords G C II and his favorite g7 we get a bit of melody a random made-up tune his even features are serious and keen and focused over the frets and strings and I see why guitarists make girls fall in love after Trevor plays his song he picks up the flashlight making wide abstract arcs like ribbons against the blackness Lizzy begins to dance stomping her heels on the cement Trevor flashes the light on his little sister around her above her so that her shadow falls on the scrim of the screen outside a bull frog croaks the finches prattle at the feeder the kids are still playing together tied by the ribbon of light when we notice a revived glow deep within the Forgotten house Ronald goes to check the temps in the fridge freezer Lizzy turns on the TV Trevor reboots his computer and I head to my office to check email we scatter in the light but in my head I can still feel the rhythms of my son's newfound chords my daughters shadowy flamenco there is no big decision to be made now my life doesn't need changing but it is extraordinary to realize that this infinitely happy moment framed in time not the memories not the expectations or ambitions is my life and in this moment I changed tense I stopped becoming and just M the lesson Hellena flans bum I am NOT an optimist I don't believe that the glass is half-full I am the granddaughter of four Eastern European Jews who fled Poland to escape the pogroms when it is sunny I look for rain when the phone rings after 10 p.m. I start planning the funeral my favorite joke is Jewish telegram start worrying details to follow I tell you this so you will not think of me as a perky upbeat person in denial of every dark emotion she has ever had nor am i religious or even sure I believe in God I am dark my hair is dark my eyes are dark and so as both an intellectual and a cynic I have trouble admitting this but here goes having breast cancer changed my life for the better lots of survivors say something like this I have even heard some say breast cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me I had always viewed this remark with skepticism boy that must be one great antidepressant I had the bad mammogram on March 13th 2001 the first day of spring break I was 42 years old and had two daughters 6 and 8 the year before the technician had taken one picture come back and said simply you can go home I can I asked I had expected worse in 2001 I got it the technician took the first picture and came back for another and another and then they made me wait for a sonogram then they made me wait to talk to the radiologist he was unsympathetic grouchy even and unmovable you were gonna want to have this looked at he said he didn't say it's probably nothing but that's what all my girlfriend's had heard but he wouldn't say that instead when I pushed him for any comforting words he said gruffly well if it's cancer we've gotten it early I have nothing cheerful to say about the next three and a half months it was all horrible the waiting was the worst after the initial mammogram I waited three weeks for her biopsy I know it was cancer but your mother never had breast cancer friend said I knew I had cancer just as I'd known I would not just lose the 40 pounds I gained during my first pregnancy oh it just slips off women said slips off I thought on me it is not going to slip off and I was right my mother's friends said Oh she'll have a lumpectomy and radiation and be done with it I didn't believe that either and I was right after two attempts to get clean margins I had a mastectomy on the right side the following year when the tech found three cancer cells on the left side I had one on that side so after having a double mastectomy by the time I was 43 where is the bright side first I noticed that I was noticing my life it was as if someone had stood next to me in the supermarket line and yelled in my ear in the loudest voice imaginable wake up I stopped sleepwalking through my days I started paying attention I won't say cliche things like color seemed brighter or flower smelled sweeter I am Not sure they did I just felt a new sense grow in me I became conscious of time I was alert in a new way second benefit I realized I spent too much time in my life doing things I didn't want to ooh when my in-laws wanted the family to fly across the country to celebrate Thanksgiving I actually said to my husband no I am tired and I don't want to spend my vacation traveling I am NOT doing that I joined a highly compensated committee where a belligerent and simple-minded colleague bullied me and get this I quit just like that I don't care about the money I'm not going back I said to my husband and I didn't third my husband and I stopped quarreling why did we ever bother what could have been that important my relationship with my sister got better half a lifetime of sibling rivalry evaporated like smoke most important having breast cancer focused me on my children like a laser I was always an attentive mother but no working one and a conflicted one the feeling that I should always be in the other place trailed me like a whining dog now I want to spend every minute humanly possible with my children they are far and away more important to me than anything on earth I want to spend time looking at their faces building their strength and courage and since cancer I have without the slightest twinge finally and best of all I have stopped expecting the worst worrying should prepare you for disaster but it doesn't I learned that nothing prepares you we spend so much time in our lives suffering we don't need any dress rehearsals the worst will find us and you know what we will have to deal with it when it does my life is better now more heartily felt last year I returned to writing poetry all the poems are about the possibility of finding joy this past soccer season I met my breast surgeon at the field where his children play alongside mine we embraced like survivors of a catastrophe who meet again after a long while who is that my daughter asked afterward you really like him yes I replied I do really like him he was my doctor when I was sick he is a wonderful wonderful man and I am better for having known him would I have chosen a life where I did not get to meet him yes would I've been happier in that life no I don't think so awed and amazed you must have it yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life Walt Whitman walking with devotion Mary Oliver when I walk out into the world I take no thoughts with me that's not easy but you can learn to do it an MD mind is hungry so you look at everything longer and closer don't hum when you listen with empty ears you hear more and this is the core of the secret attention is the beginning of devotion graced by her present Megan O'Rourke like many people I want serenity in my day-to-day life yet I'm obsessive enough about the smallest details that a moment of calm is hard to find in my 20s I worked as if focus could be some kind of salvation endlessly worrying about my next project and missing family gatherings and forgetting to buy Christmas presents in the process once when I managed to make it home for a visit my mother who had her bird-watching books out put her hand on my arm and said I don't want you to just go from Hill to Hill Meg you should stop to enjoy the view after my mother died at the age of 55 I thought a lot about what she'd said and I came to realize she'd given me an important gift her presence as my father put it one night when we were talking your mother just had a way of being there and it made everything better listening to him I knew I wanted more of that way of being there in my own life losing my mother as painful as it was has brought with it a blessing I could not have anticipated it has led me to realign my sense of focus my values my attention light nutmeg my mother like to say when she saw how easily I became blindsided by anxiety now I try to honor her example by learning to relax into the daily chaos by keeping in mind the majestic strangeness of the world and the smallness of my place in it being present is easier said than done of course presence requires letting go of old habits complaints and hangups in my case it also required recognizing my competitiveness and impatience I had to step back to notice the ways I'm hard on people judging them when I should just support them insisting things be done on my punishing schedule today I make more time to sit and listen when a friend is troubled by something I climb fewer Hills my mother is a great gift giver at once thoughtful and sly one year she put little bottles of energy drinks in my stocking but her greatest gift remains the way she approached life she didn't let anything fragile her to the point where she didn't have time to listen and laugh with us sometimes I picture her face and feel the sting of loss but then sorrow blossoms into the happiness of knowing how much she gave me a joy spreads like sunlight and it's as if I can hear her saying lighten up Meg finally I know what she meant everyday magic Kathryn Sullivan I used to live a few hundred yards outside the Johnson Space Center in Houston each morning I Drive about three minutes to the center that was my commute on October 14 1984 I was technically off for the day since I just landed from my first space flight the night before but I wanted to see all our photos I'd had this great experience one I'd dreamed of forever and worked toward for ages and it had lasted only seven days I kept looking at the sky still wishing I was up there on my drive in that morning though I noticed a bunch of migrating birds flying in various V shapes forming and reforming as they do crossing in front of the last bit of sunrise color in the sky now that's a good reason to be back I thought surprising myself sunrise and birds nothing out of the ordinary but not something you can see in space suddenly it was nice to be on earth again an extraordinary machine Lila Carrie I swim lean vigorous strokes through an alexandrite blue ocean I laugh and dive and let the Sun wash over my face i sprint and swoop and ride the waves and then I wake up my bedroom develops like a Polaroid getting sharper as it comes slowly into focus there on the night table are nine different pills and a syringe I've set out for the morning beside them are the sterile gauze and betadine I used to clean the catheter that's sewn into my chest the bottle of betadine not only disinfects it also serves as a paperweight for the Dozen insurance forms that need to be filled out and mailed before the weekend on the other side of my bed hangs an IV drip for nutrition and hydration what doesn't kill me sure does keep me from riding many waves I've had cancer for a third of my life I've watched people get well and I've watched people die while I scramble from standard drug to new procedure to experimental protocol buying time till the next big breakthrough these treatments chip at my body bit by bit they've screwed up both my kidneys and damaged my heart they've made the soles of my feet burn and my fingertips numb there's no vision in my left eye my digestive system shot and become severely prone to depression unable to have a baby or a frozen margarita or any long-term plans what's that old joke about the ad for a lost dog blind incontinent no teeth missing right leg tail and part of an ear answers to the name lucky I'd love to say that you've caught me at an off moment but the fact is I whine a lot a fellow patient once told me he'd never heard anyone complained so much and he'd spent 19 months in the Hanoi Hilton it seems one of the unspoken side effects of cancer at least for me is extreme crankiness my body has betrayed me and I'm mad as hell but wallowing in righteous indignation only gets a girl so far so these days I'm focusing on what this decidedly soft slightly used utterly ridiculous 41 year old body can do and what I can do is make the best kid I know laughs hysterically simply by feigning shock and revulsion at the sight of a plastic tarantula I can pitch a baseball the word on the street is that I throw like a girl or worse like Chuck Knoblauch I can cook a chicken Marbella that makes people from Marbella okay Brooklyn beg for the recipe furthermore I have what can only be described as a superhuman gift for picking ripe pineapples I can listen closely to my friends my instincts and Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations which I'm told Bach wrote for a Russian count with severe insomnia on my better days I can do laundry dishes and all things sexual I can hold down a full-time job hold up my end of the conversation and shop with the kind of frenzied abandon seldom seen outside of Times Square on New Year's Eve control isn't always possible but feeling and imagination and a touch of transcendence are I've taken to grabbing a cup of tea and heading for the roof of my Lower East Side apartment building on when sleep doesn't seem to be an option last Thursday at 6:40 a.m. it was pouring the drops of rain pelting against Tim flowerpots sounded like bacon frying the air smelled like geraniums and lasagna the old Italian restaurant on the ground floor was already prepping for the lunch crowd my sweat pants were soaked my hair was dripping one of my slippers was floating away but lights were starting to switch on all over the neighborhood boy stur coloured trench coats and black umbrellas were beginning to make their way down second Avenue here were people and puddles and pigeons and trees and taxis and I got to experience every deliciously drenched inch of it I have cancer but I also have windy summer mornings in the rain and an active sense of awe at all that I can still touch and taste and see and hear and breathe in at any given moment I have the crystal clear understanding that recovery is worth only as much as the life you recover the big picture Neil deGrasse Tyson throughout their lives stars turn basic elements like hydrogen and helium into richer heavier elements when they die some stars then scatter their remains full of those enriched ingredients into gas clouds across the galaxy where they'll later regroup and become part of a brand-new star system it's poetic the next generation of stars benefiting from those that came before to me that's a powerful message instead of worrying about getting older and whether we're as athletic or pretty or thin as we used to be we can focus on leading a brilliant life that will be remembered make an impact even if your job doesn't help save lives you can create art or do something that will bring joy to someone else you should celebrate each day that you're able to leave a lasting effect it means that even as you get older the universe will someday be a little bit better because you've lived in it oh what a thrill all I can say about life is Oh God enjoy it Bob Newhart the cheering section Valerie Monroe I'd accompanied my four-year-old son in a crowd of similar couples to a showing of Peter Pan we were a rowdy group lots of running and screaming in the aisles seat jumping and general expectant disorganized Glee but once the movie began we quickly settled into a quieter mode many of the kids my son among them climbed comfortably into their parents laps so there we all were cozy wrapped when Tinker Bell's light started to go out and Peter turned towards us with his plea to save her clap clap if you believe in fairies instantly my son and all the other children began to clap what sweet innocence at first in a light helpful patter but as tinks light flickered and grew they clapped with increasing enthusiasm and at Peter's expectations they clapped heartily with great serious determination very soon we moms and dads were clapping too and many of us also stamping our feet and whistling till when tink regained her radiant spark the whole place exploded in a triumphant ear-splitting crescendo of unanimous rejoicing and I wept an ordinary Sunday afternoon a theater full of fancy kids a story I had heard a thousand times who would have thought there would be opportunity for such surrender and celebration but I shouldn't have been surprised for the longest time I have been falling face-first into it everywhere puddles of awe as I noticed the intricate patterns of rain blown against my window rivers of it as I paddle in a kayak beside the city and turn to see a range of towering skyscrapers peeks of sparkling glass majestic in the brilliant autumn Sun maybe you have these moments too commonplace in every way except for your active when engagement floods your senses drenching you in pleasure when there's no past to regret or future to worry over just the shining magnificent or inspiring now naked and laughing Amy bloom the first time I really thought about nakedness about my own naked body in particular about the fact that animals were always naked and people almost never were I was in my neighbor's swimming pool I was around 8:00 and the older kids had gone to get snacks and towels the adults were doing adult things I was the only person in a 50-foot long blue Basin filled with 80 degree water I slipped off my shoulder straps and suddenly rolled down my suit caught it with my toe and flipped it onto the cement edge of the pool I did the breaststroke for one lap and my own myopic lifted head crawl for another for however long it takes three kids to make bologna sandwiches and fine beach towels I was in a new world like the first man on the Moon had Neil Armstrong been given - giggling no one had mentioned this world to me I went from pajamas to underwear to clothes every morning and back the other way every night and somehow no one had said anything to me about what a good time was to be had between pajamas and underwear after my Saturday of nakedness you might think there'd have been no stopping me there was plenty stopping me my parents both of whom appeared even in my dreams fully closed school boys cold weather but when I could I'd lie under our willow tree shielded by its long green curtain and read PG Woodhouse and Dorothy Parker in nothing but my socks naked and laughing best naked Saturday since I was eight the man I love is standing in front of me in our bedroom he's not naked he's actually more than naked he's wearing an undershirt very wide white and necessary mesh and velcro lumbar support wrap and the navy blue socks that are usually hidden by his suit trousers his boxers are off because he's coming to bed his undershirt and socks are on because his terrible back pain makes both the reaching up and the bending over difficult he looks at himself in the mirror and laughs out loud he puts his black fedora on his head and models the whole look for me naked and laughing can't beat it my unplanned adventure Catherine price it was a Friday night in Shinjuku a Tokyo neighborhood famous for neon signs subterranean shopping malls and rent by the hour lodgings known as love hotels in crowded bars people tipped back beers and sang karaoke young men with black jackets and gelled hair stood on street corners offering menus of available escorts to passers-by in the midst of the action was a store window covered except for a narrow strip of glass if you were to a stopped and look through it you would have seen something strange my legs submerged to the ankles with 600 flesh-eating fish feasting on my feet this is the story of how I got there like many people I approach vacations with a level of preparation appropriate for a medical licensing exam poring over internet reviews reading guidebooks cover to cover and studying maps so I'm oriented from the moment my plane touches down I research I plan I strategize transforming my trips into long to-do lists I must conquer in order for them to be judged a success this tendency was in full effect during a recent week my husband and I spent on kawaii when I broke the island into quadrants and made long lists of every activity we should do while relaxing in paradise it was exhausting and somewhere in the process I started to ask myself why I was doing this what was I trying to accomplish what if instead of meticulously planning I were to just show up in a new place and let the experience unfold by stage-managing every detail I realized I was ruining one of the best parts of travel the adventure so I decided to take a different approach I would go on a trip in which I relinquished control no guidebook no internet research no list of things to see or do instead I would base all my activities from where I stayed to what I ate or saw on the recommendations of strangers even the destination would be chosen by someone else I started by approaching a woman in the fiction section of a San Francisco bookstore and asking her to tell me the most interesting place she'd ever been she responded I love Tokyo and two weeks later I boarded a flight I had a map that was it the ambition of this project didn't fully sink in until the plane took off and I realized I was going to have to ask a stranger where to bunk at first that made me nervous and strangers the same people who steal wallets and kidnapped children but then I looked at the passengers around me a woman in the next row were a bumblebee neck pillow the girl in the seat next to me had adorned each long fake fingernail with a plastic Hello Kitty charm as if worried a customs agent might demand a finger puppet show these I realized were not the strangers my mother had warned me about I asked a flight attendant to recommend a hotel for the night and he consulted the rest of the Tokyo based crew several minutes later he found me in the darkened cabin and handed me a piece of paper with suggestions including Asakusa this is my neighborhood he said introducing himself as Yuri and this he pointed at a different word is a hostile popular was backpackers I hadn't even arrived in Tokyo and I had already learned two important lessons first it's not that scary to ask people for help second I should dress better one hypothesis for why we love guidebooks so much is that relying on experts alleviates our fear of the unknown and makes us feel more in control it's an approach that makes total sense except for one thing it's an ineffective way to plan a fun trip the problem with guidebooks has to do with what psychologists call affective forecasting our ability to predict our emotional that is affective reaction to a future event it's a skill at which we're not particularly good we overestimate how much a positive event will improve our lives we underestimate our ability to bounce back from hardship and when it comes to travel we're likely to be remarkably bad at predicting how much we'll enjoy the very experiences we so carefully planned instead of basing our decisions on our own analysis we should just ask other people whether they had a good time there's ample research to back this up but I still fall into the large camp of people who find it hard to believe that strangers could be better than a guidebook at predicting what I'll like so I was surprised when I emerged from the train station at Asakusa the Northeast Tokyo neighborhood would never have jumped out at me on a map but it was perfect instead of the high-rise as an endless brand name stores that characterized downtown Asakusa was filled with charismatic pedestrian streets lined with small shops and restaurants and was home to the Sensoji temple the oldest in Tokyo after dropping my bags at the hostel which was clean if basic I asked for a restaurant recommendation in English from a young mother on the street and ended up in a small restaurant that specialized in tempura soon I was digging into the waitresses favorite dish a bowl of fried shrimp on top of rice it wasn't the best temp where I'd ever had but I didn't care alone in a strange city on my first night in town I felt inspired by my experiences thus far and excited about what might happen next before collapsing in the hostel I asked a woman who had helped me find a towel what I should do if I woke up early a likely scenario since 2 a.m. in Tokyo was 9 a.m. the day before on America's West Coast she suggested the Tsukiji market this wasn't particularly creative Tsukiji is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city as well-known as the Empire State Building or Times Square but at 4:00 in the morning what else was I going to do when I awoke at 3:30 Sean's alarm clock I was tempted to stay in bed on principle but I fought the urge and headed into the dark the streets were deserted the subway uncharacteristically empty and I was surprised when I walked out of the station into a stream of people sweeping me toward the cavernous market Tsukiji operated at the speed of a stock exchange motorized carts barreled down it's wet streets in unpredictable directions forklifts hoisted pallets of sea creatures onto trucks and no matter where I stood I was in someone's way worried about meeting my doom under a box of soft-shelled crabs I stuck close to a row of parked trucks and soon entered the main area of the market rows of stalls displayed Styrofoam containers of fresh seafood eels mackerel tightly coiled tentacles of octopus each booth presided over by vendors wearing overcoats to keep out the cold the Sun had barely begun to rise but at the back of the market the daily fish auction was already underway dozens of enormous frozen tuna lay on the ground in a large warehouse each with a round steak cut from its tail and attached to its body by a piece of coloured plastic rope buyers and black galoshes moved methodically from tuna to tuna jabbing the exposed flesh of the tail with hooked tipped wooden sticks to determine the fattiness of the meat as I watched a man climbed atop a small box and began frantically ringing a small Bell then in a torrent of Japanese and hand signals he auctioned off the fish despite the other tourists packed around me I felt exhilarated as if I'd stumbled on to something secret I should pause here to explain my method of communication figuring that most people's English would be as non-existent as my Japanese I'd had a fluent friend translate an introduction and several key questions which I'd printed out on oversized cards and now carried in my bag if I wanted to ask people their favorite dish or sight to see I would show them the card have them write down the answer and have someone else tell me what it said it was an excellent system overall but beware google translate based on its software my introductory card read put fear my name is Catherine price we are forced to travel to ask your opinion of the residents there since the threshold and what to look funny or what should I do other than seeking variety I had no criteria for the people I approached the first person who made eye contact with me usually got a card such was the case with a woman selling greens in a produce market next to its Iggy Ji Won smile tossed my way and I thrust a question into her hands it read what is your favorite restaurant so I tried to explain via hand gestures what I actually meant was I'm hungry for breakfast but already had a large bowl of shrimp tempura for dinner so could you recommend something a little lighter she shook her head shyly and handed it back a few days later a stranger recommended a restaurant called amour when I arrived I sat at the bar which was decorated with a model train set left over from the previous owner with one station in Asakusa and the other in a German alpine village the Train was an odd addition to a French Spanish restaurant in Tokyo but the food lived up to the boundary bending vibe I tucked into a multi-course meal that included everything from smoked salmon crepes - sea urchin consomme the chef and his wife hung out behind the bar as I ate telling me their life stories we traded email addresses and I encouraged them to contact me if they ever came to America she sweets lakelyn tongue I am very happy the chef said at the end of the evening so was i I continued to drift into experiences that I never would have had without strangers help I met a former Seiko board member who was celebrating his 76th birthday with his wife at a sushi restaurant called tuna people the man who spoke perfect English gave me careful directions to a temple in his neighborhood north of Tokyo where monks put on a theatrical fire ritual called a Goma ceremony several times a day that night I asked the head sushi chef for his favorite dish and after giving me both an unsolicited recommendation for an art museum and a plate of julienned raw squid he presented me with a row of negati topped with uncooked mollusks following the suggestion of a young television host I met on the street I sought out a public bath and spent a morning soaking in a pool of steaming hot water backed by a mosaic of a blonde mermaid I asked an artsy looking woman with highlighted hair and a fake leopard collar for her favorite lunch place and ended up in a hawaiian-themed burger restaurant where the staff greeted me with Aloha I never knew what might happen next I went to the Electric Power Historical Museum experimented with something called an aroma computer visited a climbing gym tried on a trendy wig took photos of myself in a subterranean photobooth arcade and wrote a subway train at rush hour yes that was actually suggestion I approached men women old people young people visitors from Taiwan and Australia a toy store employee Starbucks baristas art students bank tellers and a young woman dressed as a bunny rabbit and after each encounter I tried to do everything people told me to do if you talk to me before the trip I'd have predicted that my experiment would be stressful and indeed if it had lasted longer my excitement might well have turned to anxiety and annoyance but instead forbidding myself to plan for the future allowed me to be more grounded in the present I felt a level of calm I rarely do in my normal life where I'm supported not by strangers but by a loving network of family and friends why was this and how could I bring the feeling home my last night in Tokyo fell on a Friday I spent it in an area called the golden gai a dense grid of alleys lined with tiny watering holes the bar I entered had six seats and no standing room and I was presided over by a couple who led double lives as professional voice-over actors for cartoon characters I chatted with the bartender as her husband sat silently in the corner eating rice crackers what did you do today she asked in hesitant English I told her about my project as the bars other customers three men and messy business suits passed around my cards when I announced that I visited acento a public bath she laughed and interrupted me with a flood of Japanese that included two English words dr. fish It was as if I were listening to am sports radio I could tell she was speaking my language but I had no idea what she was saying you know she said seeing my look of confusion dr. fish she made a nibbling motion with her fingers to demonstrate eating your feet eventually I figured out what she was talking about a beauty treatment in which you stick your feet into a tank of water and let a special breed of fish nibble off your dead skin it got it started as a treatment for psoriasis but now apparently was attracting a trendy clientele this was not what I'd anticipated doing on my last night in Tokyo karaoke maybe feet munching fish not so much but what the hell I'd come this far on other people's suggestions why stop now I had only one question how to find a school of fish on call at 9 o'clock on a Friday night but that's the thing once you realize you can ask people for help it doesn't take long to find it the owner gave the name of the spa to one of the businessmen who made a call and found out the fish were not only on duty until 3:00 in the morning but we're about a block from the bar excited the owner led me around the corner and dropped me off in front of a glass window through which I could see a tank full of fish nibbling on someone's exposed toes I bought my ticket rinsed my feet in the locker room and plunked them into the tank then began the most ticklish 10 minutes of my life as fish swam beneath and between my toes quivering as they flicked their tiny mouths against my skin I doubt many philosophical treatises have been written in the company of doctor fish but as a japanese couple join me in the tank and we giggled at one another like love tickling needs no translation I had a thought learning to trust life is like learning to swim first you flail convinced you're going to drown then you notice that if you calm down as possible to tread water and once you let go and just relax you realize that the water was ready to support you all along - for the road Justine van der loon we owe it to ourselves to go on adventures my mother said she was dressed in a kimono drinking a glass of wine in bed I've always wanted to go to Santa Fe I said lying next to her in my pajamas eating a bowl of spaghetti we had no extended family and because we were weirdos in our straight and narrow Connecticut town I was a gangly 12 year old with a bad pageboy she spent her free time painting cubist windmills few friends Santa Fayed is my mother said with a flourish of her arm what's stopping us what should have stopped us was the soon to be discovered fact that my mother was a terrible Vacation Planner dumbly adventurous absent-minded and a little unlucky we packed our bags for New Mexico dreaming of winding mountain pathways and red deserts we rose at dawn and hit the road after a hearty diner breakfast we turned off the highway then off the main drag and then after traveling for miles off the trail to take snapshots of each other triumphantly claiming the flat desolate landscape as our own when we returned to the car it was locked we peered through the window at the keys dangling from the ignition the Coyotes will get us I moaned stand back yelled my wild-eyed mother as she ran toward the car pitched her arm back and through a tiny Boulder through the back driver's side window six months later we toured the northern California coast staying in hippie hotels and making friends with people who owned Volkswagen buses one day we strolled barefoot down an idyllic unpopulated beach gazing out at the cold Bluegreen Pacific hey I said hooking my arm and hers what's that big white thing floating in the water we got closer dipped our toes in and shielded our eyes from the Sun it looks like she began as her hair started to blow wildly several yards away a helicopter touched down and a team of men in yellow uniforms ran toward the water and hoisted out a dead bloated body wrapped in a tarp and strapped it on a stretcher as they filed back toward the helicopter a swollen foot poked out of the blanket bobbing up and down I don't feel good I said me neither she said one Christmas we drove through the lush and gloomy Irish countryside taking tea at Hillside manors and writing melancholy poems in the night my mother woke with a searing toothache the cheery hotel clerk gave us a locals incomplete directions to the hospital I'm not sure what the streets Namie's but it's by Malone's barn and after Dutch take either your second third or fourth right we navigated our way down foggy dark curved roads passing sign after sign with only large black dots on them what do those mean I asked looking at my mother's white knuckles and imagining her as a racecar driver they mean someone died here over the next five years we rented a house in Maine that could have been a set for any movie adaptation of a Stephen King novel and fled from a bed-and-breakfast owned by a new aged couple who beat drums in the back yard at dusk my mother caught bronchitis in Paris I fell off a horse in Utah when I was 17 we put on matching straw hats and boarded a charter plane to a tiny Caribbean island it would be our last trip together for a while I was leaving for college a few months later this will be tropical heaven my mother said as the craft sputtered onto a small landing pad strawberry daiquiris under an umbrella I said after traveling through dejected villages in the back of an open truck we arrived at a cheerless hotel owned by an unfriendly clan we trudged up the steps to a cement room with two cots and mosquito net when I stepped into the shower differentiated from the rest of the room by a drain in the floor I realized that to keep the water flowing one had to hold on to a chain I'm sorry my mother said hopelessly after dark we walked along the shore toward the brightly lit resort in the distance two dark silhouettes pulling heavy baggage along like smugglers in a clumsy attempt at gaining speed my mother swung her duffle in front of her and then fell face-first onto the beach instead of standing up she flopped onto her back sputtering sand I looked at her splayed out lit by the moon and began against my will to giggle she joined me I really do try she said next time I start to plan a trip stop me but I would never I lived for our disastrous exploits other people messed up and had to answer to their mothers my mother and I messed up together then we extracted ourselves from whatever predicament we'd gotten into other people I imagined lived boring lives always explaining themselves and staying out of trouble I preferred our terrible team of two slightly bruised and plainly silly getting into thrilling adventures that pushed the limits of absurdity each one more delightful than the last family rituals Mary Ann ginger every summer vacation my children and I returned to the cottage my parents built in the Blue Ridge Mountains 35 years ago our holiday is never properly launched until upon our arrival just before dark we scramble through the sloping drapery of foliage and descend the ridge behind the house to the meadow where seen Oh Yvonne's hang like circus ropes from a canopy of trees parents and children alike transform instantly we cut vines from the tangled roots and test them for swinging strength holding tightly we let ourselves loose upon the fragrant air soaring toward the distant Twilight mountaintops wreathed in Crown's of early stars the year of saying yes Patricia Volk I say no at the drop of a hat I couch it as knowing what is good for me then I have dinner with my friend Luisa who works in publishing late one afternoon her editor says Luisa on the keynote speaker tonight and I've got a scheduling conflict you have to help me out I found myself on a stage Luisa reports with no idea what I was going to say then it occurred to me Luisa you know more about this than they do and I started talking and it was fine I would have said no I say and wound up at home in bed with a book what's wrong with that you're not living Luisa says you're in a cocoon you're not stretching stretching I have to keep stretching haven't I stretched enough didn't I support a now ex-husband through Medical School while finishing my degree and raising two kids haven't I earned reading in bed with a bowl of great nuts for dinner peace my new drug of choice Luisa and I kiss good night heading uptown I argue with me me what's so good about a book in bed since when don't you take chances I I'm relieved about what I'm missing me but what are you missing how do you know I like arguing with myself everyone's a winner by the time the bus drops me off I've made a decision starting tomorrow for one year I'll strike no from my vocabulary tomorrow morning begins the year of saying yes congratulations it's a book having a book published is like having a baby no stretch marks but it's yours to nurture so yes - Spencer Town Book Fair in upstate New York even though it costs two hundred and ten dollars to rent a car and I only sell one book and yes to the Caltech Athenaeum high tea even though I spend more time flying to Pasadena than in Pasadena and yes to talking to my friend Patti's book club about my book I have a great idea Patti says since your novel deals with the importance of secrets let's everybody tell a secret we've never told I go first and tell a secret involving my ninth grade boyfriend Harry that once seemed devastating tincture of time makes this secret hilarious or so I think but the women sit there frozen nobody else will tell theirs I sell 11 books Broadway debut my friend Martin Coe produces a show at the symphony space uptown would you write something for it he asks I write a little ditty changing the words - how about you why don't you sing it Martin asks the big night arrives it's time for my Broadway debut so what if it's Broadway a 95th Street there are two shows 6:30 and 8:30 I print the lyrics on a doily in case I forget them during the second show I'm so excited I forget to look at the doily and flip my lines it doesn't matter I read somewhere that when asked why he chose to spend his life on the stage Sir Laurence Olivier replied by clapping I get it a blind date he picks me up in my lobby we're both wearing blue and white gingham shirts he's funny cute - even if I'm taller and out--we him at brunch he gets sad talking about his late wife he won't eat walking me home he asks what are you afraid of I'm afraid I'll never see a man in his underwear again I say right there in the street he Yanks the tail of his belt and starts to unzip I scream he says now if you hadn't yelled so loud you would have seen a man and as under where we take the long way home walking miles through Central Park he raves about his new TV equipment then offers to come check out mine examining the setup he says do you have some time we walk more miles to a Best Buy where he discusses my case with the salesman then we walk more miles back and he writes it all down three days later blind date breaks up with me before we hold hands if I ever upgrade my TV I'll know just what to get what next the year of yes isn't over looming is a boat trip down the Hudson cooking for a fundraiser a hat making class and ashram with my sister two speeches and participation in New York City International pickle day when yes here is up will I go back to know and grape-nuts maybe but perhaps less of both there isn't one thing I said yes to that I'm sorry I said yes to and look what I would have missed no means safety and the numbing stasis that implies unchanged the change has to do with the joy of being available to chance there is a thrilling difference between being comfortable and being too comfortable that difference makes you feel there's no better word for it radiant sharing delight to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with Mark Twain spread a little sunshine Martha Beck I'm one of those people who just want to make everyone's day I love humanity each man's joy is a joy to me let's be honest though I can't spend all my time bringing bliss to others I have work to do and bills to pay also someone has to watch all six seasons have lost on DVD and to be blunt I don't see you stepping up but I digress my point is I'm sure you two want to make other people's days you with your six page to-do list and your life devouring job and that will work for sleep expression on your haunted little face that's why I'm here to offer you not just seven ways to make someone else's day but seven ways to make someone else's day without getting up you may need to dial a phone but your torso can remain inert that is my kind of altruism as you read the suggestions that follow monitor yourself if your mind says great idea but your body says Oh too much work your body wins your mind will tell you it's virtuous to make someone's day in ways that make your own day stressful but trust me that just cancels out the overall benefit this is simple math people undertake these do good strategies if and only if they feel exceptionally easy one feel good around other people back in the 60s and by that I mean the 1660s a Dutch scientist named Christian Huygens realized that multiple pendulums mounted on the same wall always ended up swinging in perfect synchrony even when he had set them in motion at different times this phenomenon is called entrainment and in my experience humans are just as likely to fall in sync as Huygens clocks at the very least many neuroscientists believe that our so called mirror neurons can foster our ability to empathize with the emotions we observe in others one rageaholic can fill an entire office with anger while a truly happy person can lighten the mood for everyone around her I once spent several hours in a room full of large sleeping dogs who entrained me into such peace I now count that uneventful afternoon as one of my life's highlights to make someone's day all you have to do is stay physically near her while remaining in a state of contentment humor compassion or calm getting deeply happy around any loved one acquaintance or stranger refused to let go of your good mood you don't have to say or do anything else really it'll make your day to see how easily you can make someone else's and before you know it you'll be soothing entire stressed-out crowds like the ones you find a food courts and matador conventions to pretend people love you one of the statements that changed my life comes from spiritual teacher Byron Katie when I walk into a room I know that everyone in it loves me I just don't expect them to realize it yet I'm by no means certain that everyone in every room loves me but I found that pretending they do works nicely when I want to make someone's day I spent much of my life wandering about armored against criticism and rejection unaware that my weary defense appeared to others as inexplicable offense and since everyone around me was also frightened their defenses escalated the moment they encountered mine which in turn ratcheted up to me theirs and so on this emotional arms race drives people apart in every home office subway car dentist's office rice field and square dancing school on earth but pretending other people love you flips that vicious cycle into a virtuous one imagine how you'd enter a public space say grocery store if you knew without a doubt that everyone in it adored you how would you move how would you look at people what would you say now imagine interacting with a loved one while feeling so sure of her infinite unconditional acceptance that you had no need for reaffirmation how would you behave you probably lay down some of your armor then she would loosen hers then you'd relax even more and so on and on and on try it right now you can do so without getting up pretending someone loves you right where you sit will begin a day making spiral of love 3 stop worrying about everyone Barbara sits before me fairly drowning and stress hormones her parents have come to the session with her would do anything to eliminate her anxiety disorder and the panic attacks that go with it well almost anything we're so worried says Barbara's mother Janice mom dad says Barbara please don't worry it just puts pressure on me Janice is imploring eyes stay fixed on me what can we do did you hear what she just said I asked he's suffering Dave Barbara's dad tells me and what did she ask she needs to stop being so tense says Janice actually she asked you both to stop worrying I say yes Barbara shouts well of course we'll keep worrying says Dave it's our job Barbara turns to me and whispers help mark this gentle listener love and worry are not the same if you believe they are I point you in the direction a blogger Jenny Lawson who says a hug is like a strangle you haven't finished yet think of someone you're worried about now replace worry with something else creativity perhaps or singing or pseudo coo I'm serious it truly will make that person's day for advise people not to trust you one of the first things I tell new clients is not to trust me why should they they don't know me my job is to be trustworthy while telling them to put their trust where it belongs in their own sense of truth people often tell me that simply hearing this is enough to make their day it's like taking spinach from a baby whoever coined the phrase taking candy from a baby never had a baby I also advised my loved ones such as you not to trust me it's not that I'm pernicious or false it's just that I'm fallible if you trust me before trusting yourself you'll rob us both of excellent counsel so please don't trust anything I've said here unless it resonates his truth count on your instincts to keep you safe they will doesn't that make your day five get someone else to help this may require a phone call so put a phone near your Barcalounger then arrange for a third party not yourself to help the person whose day you're trying to make ask her what she needs groceries delivered a cleaning person to detail the kitchen you needn't bankroll these services just be the one who makes the call many are the days folks have made for me by enlisting help on my behalf and I didn't have to feel guilty about burdening them because I know that getting help for someone else is way less arduous than asking for help yourself so go ahead tell a nutritionist about your husband's constipation schedule a massage for your tightly my own best friend use that phone make that day six gossip positively to praise people to their faces is to be disbelieved most of us doubt or discredit positive feedback chalking it up to politeness or brown-nosing or other social convention but what people say behind our backs really sticks my life changed in an adolescent moment when I picked up a phone extension not knowing the line was in use and heard a conversation about me me me I don't know what had gotten into the speakers perhaps a great deal of what can only be called alcohol but they were saying nice things about me this not only made my day it served as a foundation for emotional survival during some tough times thereafter today mistakenly copy someone on an email about his best qualities leave positive comments about your children on notes accidentally scattered around the house admire people loudly to third parties when you know the admired are eavesdropping praise be seven help a loved one play hooky this is an ethically gray area so I would never say you should do it I'm just hypothetically floating the crazy idea that one day you might happen to call in sick for someone you love well I think she'll keep the hand if the bacteria isn't antibiotic resistant but it may be airborne once she's free from school or work you could do something that would enrich her life forever if that's the kind of thing you'd ever do which I would never suggest one day my friend Alan called in sick for his girlfriend Jenny then took her scuba diving to a coral reef where he'd previously planted an engagement ring okay the diving involved getting up but the calling didn't now Alan and Jenny are married does she regret the memos she failed to receive that day the emails that waited 24 extra hours for an answer she does not go figure a river flows through us and really it was with a certain timidity that I began reading Tom Sawyer to my son Charles we live in Italy and Charles at 12 with a smudge of nascent mustache is one of those jaded bicultural kids now produced in such quantities by this shrinking planet half Italian on his father's side half african-american on mine he spends vacations in the States or traveling in Asia and Africa on a prodigiously stamped Passport he's a passionate reader both in Italian and English but compared to the sensational premises of the books he suddenly started devouring after James and the Giant Peach Tom Sawyer seemed parochial overly homespun just plain small yet it seemed to me that a childhood without this book had a dead spot in it I certainly didn't want him discovering it on a reading list for a college course entitled something myth and platonic motif and Mark Twain so I resorted to trickery one September morning as we waded down at the end of our driveway for the bus from the International School to appear down the road I pulled Tom Sawyer out of my pocket and said that though he was far too old to be read to I need to practice for an upcoming book tour as Charles gave me a cut the crap look I added craftily that it would be useful in his often described future career as dictator of the Western Hemisphere 12 is a power-hungry age as it was an American classic a key to the hearts and minds of future subjects then I quickly started reading not at the beginning not even at the whitewashing episode but at a point that instantly chimed with our immediate situation Monday morning found Tom Sawyer miserable Monday morning always found him so because it began another week's slow suffering in school my son his eye still clogged with sleep sat hunched on his backpack on the ledge by the driveway fiddling with a castor bean pod the dog gnawing the toe of his running shoes and listened to Tom's encounter with Huck Finn on the way to school say what is dead cats good for Huck good for cure warts with this is the kind of conversation that in spite of contemporary distractions posed by YouTube Borat and Andre 3000 still sings to the youthful soul I saw a glint in charles's I mark the page he commanded as the bus pulled up and he slouched out of the gate and the next morning he asked me to start all over again at the beginning after that our morning appointments with Tom Sawyer became a ritual I read aloud in the dank northern Italian fog that rises off the Po River at the foot of our hill on blazing clear days with a snowy line of the Alps gleams in the distance in the rain huddled soggy under an umbrella as weeks pass and the oak and castor leaves turned brown and fell around us and the school bus chugged past withering vineyards up the winding road we made our leisurely way through the white washing the pinch bug in church tom staged death and glorious resurrection at his own funeral the terror of Injun Joe the ordeal with Becky Thatcher in the cave the finding of the treasure I recalled my own first reactions to the tale which I read like many other books lying on a creaky glider on my Sun porch in a black bourgeois Philadelphia suburb that spiritually was nearly as far from Samuel Clemens as Missouri as our airy in the Italian Piedmont Hills my husband who was born in Venice during the Second World War and whose childhood experience of Americans was mainly limited to Gary Cooper movies and a standing maternal order to avoid GIS and their offers of chocolate was pleased by our reading and confessed that Tom Sawyer had been his favorite book as a boy when Charles and I challenged him as to what he remembered he listed everything precisely whitewashed funeral Becky cave treasure he said it reminded him of days he'd spent on the lagoon with his friends messing around in boats fishing swimming in canals Venice was cleaner then I always thought of the Mississippi is looking something like the Judaica he added dreamily it's well known that great books are universal but I was struck by the ability of this slender tale to delight any reader just on the verge of growing up one reason it does so of course is that it focuses on the friction between the safe constrained world of childhood and the terrible joys of mature freedom lawless adventure romantic love the heroic pleasure of cutting a figure in the eyes of the world I found unexpectedly touching the scene in which Tom and his friend Joe Harper who've run off to live in a boy's paradise on a Mississippi island begin to sicken of freedom to feel the pangs of desire for rules home the boundaries imposed by their mothers Swimming's no good says I don't seem to care for it somehow when there ain't anybody to say I shan't go in I've seen it many times at the end of the day how boys what the height of their energy seem like Superman with their alarming sophistication their rambunctious strength their overweening need to push limits suddenly almost pathetically asked to be children again both Charles and I sat riveted the morning I read Clemens is chilling expansion into oratory as he describes the dying villains futile attempts to gather drinking water from a dripping stalactite that drop was falling when the pyramids were new when Troy fell when the foundations of Rome were laid when Christ was crucified when Columbus sailed it is falling now it will still be falling when all these things shall have sunk down the afternoon of history and the twilight of tradition and been swallowed up in the thick night of oblivion sometime later Charles said you forget that all this stuff is happening to just one boy in a tiny little town it's a big story big that's just what I thought and at the end of our reading I felt triumphant pleased that an American River a small-town tale could reach over time and space the snug life Celia barber the nicest thing I ever did for my single self was to buy an apartment in New York City's West Village I'd been slumming it for seven years living in a fifth floor walk-up tenement and one day I decided that a proper home was no longer a self-indulgence I was as real a grown-up as I'd ever be and deserved a real place my lovely one-bedroom apartment had a park out front trees out back a working fireplace and at 575 square feet was just big enough for me and my cat and the occasional dinner party with friends no sooner had I settled in then I met my husband Peter and he moved in we felt cozy life was sweet sometimes at night we'd sit on the stoop with two jelly jar glasses of scotch and watch the people passing by a year and a half later George was born and I dusted off an old baby basket and placed it on the floor beside our bed when Henry came along sixteen months after that he laid claim to the basket and George was reassigned to our walk-in closet which Peter a proficient carpenter had transformed into a nursery then Sidonie was born switch switch switch George to a trundle bed built by Peter that rolled under our bed Henry into the closet the baby girl in the basket and so we lived snug as mice for a very happy little while last year we moved into a house built in 1900 it has three storeys eight rooms and five bathrooms plus an attic that smells like heat and a basement that smells like mold it has doors that close and hallways separating one room from another places to talk privately on the phone and to do yoga in the morning without having my torso straddled by a kid who has suddenly perceived my untapped potential as a hobby horse our house is not big at least by contemporary standards because it has no superfluous rooms devoted to leisure or grandeur no family room for example and no great room cowering beneath a cathedral ceiling we just have the basic LRD r BR K study which is fine despite the fact that the kids are growing like corn because all our rooms are living rooms by which I mean we live in the mall the only time I find myself wishing for more square footage is when I'm overwhelmed by stuff books faces wrapping paper hand-me-downs waiting to be grown into chairs and daydream about building an edition where the flotsam could comfortably reside then I think don't be crazy Celia a home is a place to do things not store things it's not meant to house your possessions but your life and it turns out that our lives together are quite compact yes during the day we eat might spiral off into the wide wild world the kids at school studying China or peninsulas bicycling around the neighborhood or sledding down the hill Peter and I dogged Li pursuing our careers but back at home we draw close this habit of being in one another's presence engrained unconsciously we collect in the same room even if we're each doing our own things the boys building Lego speedboats Peter replying to emails me reading Sidonie communicating quietly to her stuffed animals we may not be interacting with one another at all but having started out like pieces of a single puzzle nestled together so neatly we still return to that familiar configuration as individuals we may be big but as a family we are really very small married with other people's children Veronica chambers all my adult life I've had a passion for what I call OPC other people's children I love introducing my nieces and nephews and kid friends to my favorite books jump rope tricks and rhymes I tried to have my own relationship with the children in my life I write them letters call them for playdates go to recitals and plays and as I've gotten into my 30s I've upped the ante it took me six months for example to find a Hawaiian tiki hut slash lemonade stand and a pair of matchin grass skirts to ship to my nieces in Philadelphia for Christmas the year before I'd given my nephews a laptop I've opened 529 savings funds for their college education which turned out to be easy with a minimum of a $25 monthly contribution I could set up an automatic withdrawal from my bank account and after a while that $50 or $75 didn't hurt at all one year I sent my nephew Frederic to football camp at the University of Pennsylvania he comes from a rough neighborhood and at the time he was 13 and already getting into trouble with gangs he's a talented football player hence the cap but more than anything I wanted him to get a glimpse of college life I loved driving him up to the Penn dorms and seeing him fall in love with campus life the summer after that I sent Frederick's brother Jesse to a mountain biking camp in New Hampshire I was looking for a place where Jesse wouldn't feel like a fresh air fun kid but would still get a glimpse of a different life Jesse spent two weeks biking down ski trails riding through mud he also learned how to pitch a tent and surf and I became the coolest aunt ever this past summer Jesse came to stay with us for seven weeks for years we've been finding programs for our nephews writing checks but having Jesse lived with us for almost two months took things to a new level he had schoolwork to do and book reports to write on his break we had to learn how to be disciplinarians we also had to organize his social schedule the first day I had two 12 year old boys running through my house I thought I was going to lose my mind then came the day when I had four twelve-year-old boys running through the house and I realized I had no mind left to lose and that was more than okay I loved it there were hard moments times when Jesse let us know that we were not his parents and we could rot in hell for all he cared there were doors slammed and there were tears both my husband and I were trying to feel for the boundaries in the end we decided we could only do what real parents actually do wing it and pray that when we got it wrong we weren't doing irreparable damage and I'm guessing we didn't because the last night jesse was with us he was invited to a party where all the cool kids he'd met over the summer were going to be hanging out and he chose to stay home and hang out with us instead after Jesse left Jason and I had the conversation we've had a zillion times we would like to have a family and we would really like to adopt but our nieces and nephews are getting older each year these kids become more independent and interesting I have fantasies of taking my nieces to Paris and my nephews to Tokyo of showing the all the places I've been and loved some days Jason and I think why should we bother reaching into the ether for children we do not know when there are already these half-dozen children who stake their claim in our world again and again we get stuck there we love our friends kids we love our nieces and nephews we love being the relief pitcher parents but the problem with other people's children is that you have to give them back then again a week after my nephew went home I walked into his room which had reverted to our guest room and for the first time all summer it did not smell like owed to 12 year old boy I put on a pair of stilettos and a sexy blouse and my husband took me to dinner alone for the first time all summer the waiter arrived with a lovely bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and we raised our glasses to toast the best part of OPC freedom you're welcome Lauren F winner last month my friend Mary and her sister came to visit from Virginia their three-day stay was my great chance to show that though exiled in Manhattan I could still haul out the southern hospitality I wasn't sure that I and my tiny dust bunny grad student apartment were up to it and it turned out that we weren't quite I had to ask my guests to bring their own towels because I owned only two well now I own for Mary sent me a pair of fluffy one 10 ply blue ones as a thank-you gift I grew up on biblical stories about hospitality in Genesis Abraham goes out of his way to welcome three guests strangers all they turn out not to be weary rumpled travelers but angels who have come to tell the childless Abraham and Sarah that they'll soon have a son this story is echoed in the Gospels which tell if two men who encounter a stranger on the road to Emmaus as they walk the two men invite the stranger to join them for dinner and while breaking bread they realize their guest is the Risen Jesus fatality is supposed to be something we do for others but whenever I have guests even those who don't buy me towels or turn out to be angels or deities I feel like I'm reaping the benefits hospitality involves sharing an intimate private place and letting someone in shows trust it shows that we're committed to lasting relationships with our friends not just quick coffees when convenient if Mary and her sister had stayed in a hotel when they came to New York we would have met up for dinner one night but I wouldn't have spilled my romantic woes to her at 7:45 a.m. while her sister was showering and I was curling my hair I wouldn't have counseled Mary over late-night tea about whether she should continue to scrape by as a writer or search for a teaching job there simply wouldn't have been time my mother a fine hostess when she sets her mind to it rarely has overnight guests because she feels like she has to turn her house into Martha Stewart Living to accommodate them she stalks the kitchen with home baked goodies dust floorboards that were dusted two days before and buys new hand towels soaps and lotions for the guest bathroom in the 1957 edition of etiquette Emily Post describes the endless trials of the perfect hostess if the cook leaves the hostess will have to organize a last-minute picnic unless she is actually unable to stand up a hostess must keep any physical ailments hush-hush the ideal hostess must have so many perfections that were she described in full no one seemingly but a combination of seer and angel could ever hope to qualify the first step to reviving hospitality is redefining it I can't imagine having time even to shop for dinner much less cook it but I can order in exotic Swedish food that Mary and her sister won't find in Charlottesville I can scan my crowded bookshelves for the titles they'll enjoy and leave them on the bedside table and I can make sure Mary's favorite Irish teas in my cabinet guests aren't looking for five course meals they're looking for a little comfort away from home a firm mattress a warm welcome and what they offer in return is the incomparable joy of closeness the Joan show Jessica winter my husband saw her first on a cold December afternoon the veterinary clinic down the street from our apartment sometimes Park stray kittens in its front window a scrawny calico with fur like dandelion fluff was mewling at him through the glass as if he were an errant teenager who just plowed his bicycle into her parked car he called me I hustled over when I picked her up her body relaxed instantly as if she'd been rigid with anticipation a long time and now could finally breathe easy she hooked her tiny white paws over my shoulder and snuggled close she purred dreamily she sighed a little kitten sigh half an hour later she was in our apartment now years later that moment to the clinic remains the one and only time I have ever gotten a hug from my cat first impressions to the contrary Joan my husband named her Joan as in Didion for her poison figure does not like being cuddled when she submits to petting it is often with the Wrigley distressed manner of a small child surrendering to the attentions of a grizzled old aunt with an ashtray kiss failure has touched much of my tenure as Joan's CO Guardian I failed to teach her to fetch I failed to convince her that the couch is not a potato that needs peeling I failed to sell her on her water bowl faucets only I can't change Joan or even slightly modify her instead she has changed me it never occurred to me before that I could love another creature so much without expecting reciprocation I must be content to admire Joan slightly from afar as one might admire a famous actor or athlete the upside is that I have year-round tickets excellent seats two for the Joan show spinning leaps through the air at a dangled dish towel vertical Sprint's along our living room walls heroic combat crawl missions into my parents garden from which she emerges with voles attached to her claws like finger puppets and once in a while should curl up beside us at bedtime or offer a friendly headbutt maybe I'll come home from work and she'll trot up the hall to greet me cooing like a Turtledove or maybe I'll be crying over something stupid and she'll place the comforting paw on my knee come to think of it she does that dainty paw pad every time and it always makes me laugh through my tears come on get happy it is not easy to find happiness in ourselves and it is not possible to find it elsewhere Agnes rep layer pleasure 101 gretchen reynolds if you're used to thinking of happiness as an elusive unattainable quality that arrives only when everything is absolutely perfect good luck with that you'll be glad to hear that you've got it all wrong as it turns out pleasure can be had quite readily provided you're ready to try a few of these simple steps chocolate can be a taste of ecstasy it not only releases good vibe brain chemicals but also feels pleasant in the mouth it speaks to us culturally of reward and indulgence then there's music try listening to a soothing piece a song that calms you close your eyes your pulse should slow and your muscles loosen not happening put on classical folk rock soul hip hop reggaeton whatever appeals let the music transport you make you forget where you are how long you've been listening and you were saying something about troubles go outside walk or drive to the nearest park or beach away from human hubbub sit quietly listen for finches gulls the whisper of a breeze the bubble and whoosh of a stream if someone is with you reach for that person's hand smile say nothing let the birds chorus look at something beautiful watching cnn's war and natural disaster coverage while good for your civic knowledge won't do much for your sense of well-being but there's an antidote switch to a slow soothing nature show lush landscapes and quiet scenes of ponds and streams quell distress find a room with a view especially if trees grass and sky any of you will help even of a parking lot to find pleasure look at life remember memories often carry melancholy too and that emotion also is bound up in our sense and our joys ask any mother of grown children who sniffs a newborn's peachy sweet head her pleasure will be plaited with loss it won't necessarily be any less boying for that though smell things sense can send you pleasure is wrapped up with remembrance as Marcel Proust knew but neuro scientists are only beginning to understand the smells that give you the most pleasure are tied to your loves and longings and your life's experiences think back to when you were happiest was it your wedding night or the day you got the job of your dreams how did that moment smell was your husband wearing a freshly laundered shirt did your new employer have roses in her office do some detective work visit fragrance counters and flower shops close your eyes breathe deep keep a journal of the smells that unexpectedly transport you then recreate them turn off the lights lie down and inhale a freshly picked rose or burry your nose in one of your husband's shirts preferably one he's just taken off as he slips into bed beside you could you be happier dan Baker PhD it might seem a little mood ring era to suggest taking a happiness quiz many people however are so used to being unhappy that they barely notice it says psychologist dan Baker PhD co-author of what happy people know it's like living next to railroad tracks after a while you don't hear the trains using the latest research Baker has devised an emotional checkup based on his theory that happiness develops from a number of internal qualities including courage love humor altruism and a sense of freedom and purpose although it's impossible to quantify precisely how happy a person is this quiz will give you a general idea of where you fall on the spectrum take a moment to grab a pen and write down how often you agree with the following statements never infrequently sometimes or frequently one I believe my life will truly begin when the right person or circumstances come along never infrequently sometimes frequently - I feel best when I give unconditionally never infrequently sometimes frequently three when I think about people in my life I focus on those who have hurt or disappointed me for when I think about people in my life I focus on those I care about and love five there is not enough time for taking care of me six I've helped myself through difficult times with a positive attitude 7 I take myself very seriously 8 I believe it's up to me to find meaning in my life 9 when things don't go well I feel trapped or overwhelmed 10 although life circumstances change my beliefs and capabilities will allow me to survive and thrive 11 who wouldn't rather receive a gift than give 112 there is a spiritual power that I can turn to for comfort whenever I need to 13 there are events in my life that have left me forever scarred and impaired 14 life is a big joke and it's often at my expense 15 fear keeps me from standing up for what I believe in 16 I've grown emotionally spiritually through difficult and painful events 17 without enough money or love I can't feel secure 18 I make taking care of my health a priority 19 people hurt my feelings 20 life is good and I appreciate what I have 21 I'm unclear about the purpose and meaning of my life 22 what matters most is enjoying relationships 23 I have too much to do 24 I feel fulfilled never infrequently sometimes frequently scoring for every time you answered sometimes give yourself a - for even numbered questions never and infrequently get a 1 and frequently gets a 3 for odd numbered questions never and infrequently get a 3 frequently gets a 1 add up your total results 50 to 70 - congratulations consider yourself a happy person 30 to 49 you're not miserable but your sunny side could use a nudge think about your strengths and the activities you love focus more of your life on them obvious yes but so is sleeping an extra hour when you're tired the trick is to actually do it 29 or less you could be getting so much more from life is your language including the dialogue in your head destructive over time a little lingo substitution can gradually lift the mood is your first impulse to find fault try seeking out possibilities instead do you know any happy people if so what can you learn from them when something bad happens do you fall apart that old cliche about finding strength through adversity is a golden rule for happy people finally are you assuming that money power or status will bring you satisfaction or that everything will be great when someone else changes if so and you get points for being honest try shifting your focus inward and take responsibility for your emotions bottom line and you've probably heard this every third day of your life but there's a reason for that only you can make yourself happy Cheers Lisa Funderburk many of us have a hunch though it hasn't been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that the only category of humanity more annoying than Street mimes is optimists you know them sunny pollyannas in denial about the world's harsh realities skipping along head in the clouds and no doubt we hope about to step in something unpleasant but optimism is much more than reckless chirping through our days according to experts is a high-voltage power tool in the life skills toolbox researchers have characterized it as everything from a coping mechanism to a physical patterning of neurobiological pathways established in our earliest years optimists know how to bounce back they can see a setback as temporary changeable if an optimist encounters a recipe she can't make work she's likely to perceive the failure as external and temporary and I'm having an off day while the pessimist makes it internal and indelible I'll never learn to cook victories are just the reverse optimist think of them as permanent and far-reaching pessimists think of them as fleeting and situation-specific if you nurture a sense of possibility and the expectation of positive results you're more likely to have a life in which possibilities are realized and results are positive you'll have a better chance of being promoted fighting off the cold that's been going around and attracting people to you platonically and otherwise pessimistic people are two to eight times more at risk for depression and researchers have found that optimists are less likely to develop cancer or to die from heart disease almost everyone can learn to be more optimistic even if that means distorting reality you can also begin to recognize and catalog the negative messages you give yourself then dispute those thoughts as if debating an external foe gradually the new responses become automatic according to some researchers each of us has a happiness set point we've each been dealt a happiness hand some of us with higher cards than others but we can increase our potential for joy by taking steps to get involved with people causes and ideas one of the hallmarks of depression is self absorption and so optimism with its emphasis on seeking and seeing what's good outside of ourselves and in the world helps us take those steps taking a chance on joy Roger Houston you know those moments when nothing special is happening maybe you wake up early one morning to the sound of a thrush outside the window or perhaps to the whirr of the traffic below your apartment and a smile spreads over your face for no reason you feel different aware of an ease in your body that wasn't there before with hindsight I've come to see that moments like these happen when I have forgotten myself when for a moment or two the plot line of my life dissolves and I am just where I am without the responsibility of playing the lead in my own fascinating story my dramas worries and concerns my aspirations and hopes and fears fall away I have no agenda nothing want to do nothing I want to alter or improve upon the air is lighter and so am i but then the world is not easy it can take all our time and attention to avoid hitting the shallows or landing on the rocks that seem to be such an intrinsic part of the human experience we have only to look at our lives or those of people we know to see that pain and suffering strike even the most fortunate so who has time to forget what we're meant to be doing and where we're meant to be going life is a serious business and someone needs to be there to steer the ship what is the use of gazing out the window doing nothing I think our difficulty in accessing happiness lies in large part right there we are usually preoccupied with being useful doing something with an outcome in mind rather than being open to where we are at this moment and we are largely convinced that nobody goes to heaven for having a good time we think pain is virtuous suffering can be a great purifier a forger of character no doubt about that but happiness can take us into the wide world beyond our own self preoccupations it can join us to the trees to other people to cows and to stones into the living pulse of humankind itself it can join us to the China mug of tea in our own hand strange then that it should seem so fleeting joy is weightless light is ether you communicate it less in words than by a savor you leave in the air it is our natural state it is the feeling of who we are when we are most at home in ourselves it means that there's nothing else to add to what we already have or to who we already are why would we ever want to resist it I suspect it's because not having a big story to tell can feel undefended tender there's not so much to hold on to less substance in our identity when we are happy in the sense of wanting nothing happy isn't so interesting to talk about as sad and it doesn't have a through it is for now without any future in mind most of our talking is about the past or future and when we are happy we are in neither the world is so full of sorrows you might say how can we deserve or dare to feel simple delight how can we afford not to the poet Jack Gilbert asks in his poem a brief for the defense sorrow is everywhere he says people are suffering deeply all over the world yet the women in the brothels of Bombay laugh out loud and women at the well smile and sing even as their neighbor is wasting away if we refuse our happiness we diminish in some way their deprivation no we must risk delight we must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world stop whining Roxane gay I have lived in rural America for nine years first in Michigan whereas getting my PhD then in central Illinois and now in Indiana where I'm a professor in a place where most people have lived the whole of their lives I feel like a stranger someone on the outside looking in there are a few things I enjoy more than complaining about my geographic isolation I'm a vegetarian so there's nowhere to go out for a nice dinner that doesn't involve a 50-mile Drive I'm black so there's nowhere to get my hair done that doesn't involve another 50 mile drive I'm single and the dating options are at times rather grim the closest major airport is two hours away I recite these complaints to my parents my brother's my friends I complain and long pathetic emails and essays it just feels so damn good to say I am mildly miserable behold my misery alas suffering offers more nobility than joy sometimes it seems like complaints are the lingua franca among my friends we're all decided was something back in Illinois my friends complained about the train to Chicago and how it's never on time my friends in bigger cities complain about the expensive rent and strange smells on the subway my married friends complained about their partners my single friends complain about the wretchedness of dating I cannot even get into my friends with kids complaining allows us to acknowledge the imperfect without having to take action it lets us luxurious in inertia we all have grand ideas about what life would be like if only we had this or did that or live there perhaps complaining helps bridge the vast yawn between these fantasy selves and reality but it also makes me lose sight of things while I may not love where I live there are plenty of people who are proud to call this place home recently at a party with some colleagues I was going on and on about everything I couldn't stand about our town when I noticed that they were mostly silent and shifting uncomfortably that humbling moment forced a shift in me complaining may offer relief but so does acceptance there is no perfect place there is no perfect life there will always be something to moan about by focusing on my grievances I risk missing out on precious startling moments of joy those times when during a long drive home from the airport I stare out at the Prairie flatness the breathtaking shades of green as tender buds of corn pushed their way through freshly tilled soil at the wooden barns their paint peeling and faded and at all a manor of farm equipment massive but there is poetry and how these behemoths rumble across the land when I get home I stand on my balcony and look up into the night sky and see all the stars and I know that I have absolutely nothing to complain about dare to play brené Brown a few years ago I noticed in my research that wholehearted people my term for men and women with the courage to be vulnerable and live their lives all in shared something else too they goofed off they spent their time doing things that to me seemed frivolous like gardening and reading I couldn't really wrap my head around it where they slackers then one day while I watched my kids jump on the trampoline in our backyard it hit me wholehearted adults play a researcher I know describes play as time spent without purpose to me this sounds like the definition of an anxiety attack I feel behind if I'm not using every last moment to be productive whether that means working cleaning the house or taking my son to baseball practice but I can't ignore what the research mine and others tells us play doing things just because they're fun and not because they'll help achieve a goal is vital to human development play is at the core of creativity and innovation play can mean snorkeling scrapbooking or solving crossword puzzles it's anything that makes us lose track of time and self-consciousness creating the clearing where ideas are born which means it's a mistake to restrict play to vacations there are plenty of ways to incorporate it into your everyday life create a playlist write down three activities you could do for hours on end mine are reading editing photos on my computer and playing ping-pong with my family now carve out time on your calendar even when I'm busiest I schedule unstructured time it's important to protect play time the way you protect work church or PTA meetings play well with others when my husband and kids made their own playlists we realized that our usual vacations which involved sightseeing weren't really anyone's idea of play so now we go places where we can hike swim and play cards things that make us all our most silly creative and free-spirited selves on crumbling my face Catherine Newman my son Ben peers over my shoulder at the photograph in my hand I love that picture he says and of course he does all he sees is his peachy six-year-old self in the foreground blurred with happiness and dancing with his little sister pantsless and laughing who wouldn't smile to see them well someone wouldn't whatever that thing is in the background hunched in its robe over a coffee mug even from here you can't miss my scowl lines like the angry stomp of a pterodactyl foot between the eyes it's the kind of face that would make you pedal your bike faster if you saw it in a window from the street listen I'm a feminist I'm not vain but I mind looking like a bitch remember Dorian Gray how he remained baby-smooth while an old oil painting of him magically wrinkled up into oblivion I'm like that but on opposite day somewhere in the Attic there must be a smooth portrait of me my face a glossy bisque to reflect the contentment I feel inside but my actual face looks as if it's been pressed onto the front of my head after first getting wadded up like a big Mack wrapper I'm getting Botox I joked to my husband Michael but not saw like younger just to prevent me from scowling at all of you I'm totally kidding and then suddenly I'm not what if I were physically unable to pull my face into negativity perhaps I would be paralysed away from my own bouts of bad temper studies have proved this or something like it a facial expression doesn't simply reflect your moods it actually shapes them frown and you feel sad laugh and your spirits left he's mood enhancement one of Botox his promises I can't say since i'm too proud and broke to consider it seriously also the word botulism unnerved me instead I choose a moisturizer from the mile of products at the drugstore but massaging it into my rutted forehead just gives me a scattering of pimples then in the bath one evening I suddenly remember the Old Farmer's Almanac i paged through in the tub as a child in particular the ads for those old-fashioned brownies beauty patches a kind of scotch tape for the face which pulls your wrinkles apart in hopes they'll stay flat the company still exists it turns out the website offering smiling headshots of women and guarantees of happy results plus they're cheap i order some you're supposed to separate them at their perforations lick them and stick them to your skin all in all they're about as high-tech as pebbles or cheese my family understands the beige triangle to be a symbol of my renewed benevolence when I sigh one night over a pot of borscht Ben asks if he can get me a frowny the way you might offer aspirin to someone with a headache my daughter birdie her own face aglow with toddler sweetness touches it with a serious fingertip and asks if I pulled this off then you'll be grumpy well yes maybe because however bizarre this ritual may be it's working taped into placidity I can't really scowl the more I don't scowl the more my family grins back and here's the only part of my strange experiment that isn't crazy the more the people I love most smile at me the happier I feel don't go changing Beth Lavigne recently a friend asked me if I'd ever been to Israel before I could open my mouth she added slyly oh that's right you can't get on a plane I think she was trying to be funny there was a time when I would have died a thousand deaths she knows my dirty secret she's making fun of me she thinks I'm pathetic I am in fact pathetic this time however I stopped the tape in my head and played a new one it said everyone has a screw loose somewhere and having a thing about planes happens to be mine you have no idea how hard I've worked to get here I've been a fearful flier since grade school once I grew up I could why knuckle of flight but the months leading up to it were full of panic attacks sleepless nights cancelling and rebooking and once we landed constant worry about the flight back along with fear came self-loathing I was defective weak chickenshit why could everyone else just do this my last flight was in 1986 a quick and uneventful trip on the shuttle from New York to Boston I haven't flown since oh I tried I tried cognitive behavioral therapy classes tranquilizers meditation workbooks everything seemed to make it worse I once got myself admitted to a Yale University airplane phobia study my first meeting was scheduled for wait for it September 11th 2001 when the World Trade Center was falling I was getting ready to leave for a fear of flying intake needless to say I didn't go to the meeting I didn't go to any subsequent meetings I gave up but the self-flagellation didn't stop look at all the amazing experiences you could be having you big weenie so I decided to go have some on a whim I auditioned for a show at a community theater much to my surprise I got the part then another that involved singing and dancing neither of which I do particularly well all my friends asked aren't you terrified that stopped me short I the queen of panic had zero anxiety about and took much joy in doing something most people fear in other words there were things I could do that other folks couldn't maybe I wasn't going to see the Taj Mahal anytime soon but how many of my friends could blithely play a ninety-year-old obese ex vaudevillian in front of an audience without an ounce of fear life wasn't passing me by because they couldn't get on a plane he was passing me by because I was obsessing about what I couldn't do instead of rocking the things I could fly or don't fly I thought but don't waste another minute whining about it not long after while poking around a gift shop I found a striated Brown with a word engraved in it gratitude it took my breath away that one word distilled my shift in attitude for me to pity myself not to celebrate the talents strengths and opportunities I have well that would be ungrateful The Rock now sits on my dresser I think about its message every day I am not my fears and my fears are not me my world is way bigger than that ask away Elizabeth Gilbert one morning in 1993 I walked into the offices of a famous magazine in New York City and asked for a job as a writer I had no appointment no experience and not a single published article to my name but I'd had an epiphany nobody was ever going to knock on my door and say we understand a talented writer lives here and we'd like to help her with her career no I would have to go knocking on doors so I did I just walked in off the street and asked to be hired as a reporter and guess what it didn't work of course it didn't work they weren't dummies and I was totally unqualified jeez how do you think the world works people but I still think of it as one of the most important moments of my life because it was the boldest when I went home that day I was still broke and obscure but at least I knew I was brave I wouldn't have to suffer the pain of knowing I hadn't tried nearly 800 years ago the Persian mystic poet Rumi wrote you must ask for what you really want he saw asking as a sacred duty and I think he was right not because your wishes will be granted automatically they won't but because the mere act of saying aloud this is who I am and what I've come for seems to awaken a powerful force within by articulating your wish you're making an announcement that you're serious about bringing the next great thing and real lasting happiness into your life the hurdle however is that asking for you really want whether it's a job as a writer or a discount on tires can be difficult especially for women first of all you must know what you really want which can be hard if you were raised to please others secondly you must believe that what you want is worthy again a tricky prospect for women long trained in the dark arts of self-deprecation thirdly you must face the possibility of rejection that's the worst one women don't like being turned down we get enough of that in our personal lives and so like trial lawyers we often ask only questions to which we already know the answers which means no risk which further means no reward the funny thing is that rejection is not so bad really this is something I think men have always understood but a glorious failure can sometimes be more life-affirming than a cautious win this is why men are constantly asking for stuff they might not even deserve or aren't totally qualified to handle I don't say this as an insult to men either I wish more women would do the same because sometimes you get a yes and even if you weren't prepared for that yes you rise to the occasion you aren't ready and then you are it's irrational but it's magical I can't instruct you in exactly how to ask for things it's not my area of expertise and there are too many variables to account for sometimes you have to be gracious and charming and other times you have to be brash and bold but generally speaking it's a surprisingly simple formula just freaking ask because the essential fact is that asking is the best way the only way really to get what you want to do list or not to do list Martha Beck on New Year's Eve when I was 21 I had a chat with a friend I'll call Vicky the last three months sucked Vicky said I had 10 pounds to lose so I didn't let myself leave my room except to go to class until I hit my goal weight she lifted her champagne this is a year I can really start living two days later Vicky was killed in a traffic accident I'm sorry if that story harsh your mellow it's been on my mind for decades since Vicky's death I've never been able to stop asking how would I spend the next three months if I knew they were my last sitting in a dorm room waiting for my thighs to shrink has never made the list our culture loves the phrase it's never too late we want to believe we can toss every adventure onto our bucket list and accomplish them all but life is brief there's a lot we don't have time for chief among them in my book is worrying about our bodies specifically wishing for completely new ones you can make alterations of course lose weight or gain it have surgeons perform anything from liposuction to mole removal ultimately you'll still have to face the fact that we each get one body per lifetime the one I'm in now is mine it's puffy little fingers it's strangely shaped skull it's inexorable mortality and the one you're in is yours Vicki spent her final months obsessing about her supposed physical imperfections it's too late for you or me to do the same instead consider this you have trillions of intricate cells performing a vast array of functions with phenomenal precision even if you do nothing but suck up pork rinds that's a miracle so enough with the self-loathing already and enough to with all the things you don't want to do but do any way to impress people what a waste my client Gloria is a physician whose first words to me were I hate people and I hate to touch them when I asked why she chosen such a people touching profession she replied so I could say I'm a doctor this is what I call ego candy the egos appetite for adulation is endless its capacity to create genuine happiness nil it's far too late to spend another minute starving your soul to feed your need for praise nor do you have time for the toxic people you've been trying to turn into healthy ones many people become wiser calmer and more emotionally healthy with age and experience while other people display neither psychological health nor interest in changing you may already have spent much of your life trying to get the love you deserve and need from someone in that second group I'm so sorry dear but it's too late that love will not be forthcoming here's an idea how's about you spend less time on relationships in which you feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football Lucy and Vera bleep pulls away and spend more time with people who don't leave you crushed and disappointed over and over and over go find the people who are waiting to love you because they do exist I promise you this the time you free up can be used in ways you haven't even imagined purging your bucket list creates space for all the little things that make up happiness like napping watching television petting the cat climbing trees or solving crosswords what sane adult has time for such activities you may ask when there are so many important things to achieve well I do I spent years working hard to accomplish important things only to realize that I get limitless joy from filling my bird feeder reading books about stuff that never happened and sitting still for hours at a time not even thinking our culture doesn't consider these acceptable alternatives to a hard-driving high earning important thing yet they're the very activities we turn to once hard work and self-denial have freed up a little time think of Vicky don't wait free that time now if someone accuses you of wasting time tell them that a doctor would be me I have a PhD has just informed you that you have a fatal condition life and don't have long to live even a hundred years is brief and say geologic time then go back to learning origami or watching cat videos it is too late to postpone these things any longer we are time starved people obsessed with fitting huge achievements into our few years in the process we often fill our buckets with things that don't matter or work but when we give up on trying to change what can't be changed and simply embrace what we love a miracle occurs we notice that the moment to be happy has already arrived it's here now thank you for watching this video my friends I hope you really enjoyed it make sure you leave a comment below and please subscribe to this channel I want to give them so much more thank you and I'll see you next time Oprah Winfrey Presents: O's Little Book of Happiness (The Editor's Best Collection - Full Audiobook) site dissertation philo gratuite Hostos Community College, South Bronx.