Serenity and the Artist’s Eye

This week I’ve experienced moments of serenity. Wonderful, singular, restful moments of tranquility that have been calm ports in the storm of the normal.

I arrived early for a late-afternoon meeting in Woods Hole and entered the fray of seeking out a parking sport. I say fray because there is limited parking in this coastal resort and scientific village. I was lucky and did find a spot, a lengthy distance – but good walk – to my destination. After parking I glanced around and noticed that I had landed across the street from a picturesque scene – a very small park with beautiful wood benches overlooking the mouth of Woods Hole Harbor.

As it was late afternoon, most of the big boats had berthed, but the smaller sailboats were out, maybe from a local yacht club, going back and forth, sailing a short distance and coming about, passing in front of each other and then back again. It was beautiful, almost choreographed.

You may have noticed that I enjoy taking pictures of single boats in calm seas, and this was no different. I did have my camera with me but chose to try my iPhone camera. Building excitement, waiting for that perfect shot is fun. You feel in the moment and the result is something you can look at later and remember the complete serenity of that exact time. It was almost like borrowing an artist’s eye and seeing scenes with a singular vision – looking only for that specific moment that you need to capture.


I experienced deja vu when I visited an art gallery yesterday where the works left me blown away. Specifically, I felt like I stepped into a cloud of serenity when I was viewing landscapes and seascapes by Joseph McGurl.

His works were so real I had to search for brushstrokes, which were carefully camouflaged under strokes of brilliance. The quiet scenes drew me in as if I was a part of the painting. I had to give myself a mental shake when I was done viewing the works as if to reel me out of the dream world back into reality. It was kind of a rush.

When you need to relax, try to hone in on a single peaceful moment. Cast about for the serenity of the scene and latch onto it. Capture a snapshot for your memory gallery and bring it out from time to time. Sink into it. Breathe in the peacefulness before returning to your normal.

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It was a Lucy N. kind of day. The art teacher where I work paints breathtaking portraits of sky — beautiful blue with wispy white cotton clouds, and my sister and I felt like we were in one of her paintings as we walked along the warming sands and picked our spot on this perfect summer day.

The water’s surface was disturbed only with the barest of ripples from a sailboat skirting along the horizon. The tide was just past high and on its way out. The temperature was 85, no humidity. We set up our chairs at the water’s edge and let the waves tickle our feet. We slathered the lotion, adjusted the seats and closed our eyes.

When the heat warmed our bodies, we gingerly tap danced across the rocky flats to reach the cool water. We went in to our knees, then up to our hips, then bravely to our shoulders, waiting until the shock subsided. I dove in first then broke the surface and turned on my back.

I floated. It was just pure heaven. I’d forgotten how utterly lovely that feeling is. You’re weightless. You give in to the blanket of soft, cool water. You close your eyes and let it take you where it will.

Concentrating on the nothingness, the only sounds I heard were the dull mention of a motor and my own breathing. I drifted where the water took me, slowly being pushed this way and that.

When we were young, my sister and I could float all day. We had plastic rafts specifically for this purpose. We planned our weekends around the tides. We set up our “base” with towels, chairs, coolers and the radio. We met our friends at the beach, floated and planned our evenings.

Those were happy days and we can’t bring them back. But we could float today and it was perfect.

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Work Sisters

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently, allows you to grow.” William Shakespeare

We have friends in all walks of our lives: school friends, gym friends, work friends, and people who become friends for any reason.

I have two friends that I have worked with for 16 years. I call them my work sisters. We work with others in an open office where there are no cubicles or walls. We have learned to respect each other’s “space” and, consequently, hear the others’ lives as played out on the phone.

We have become close not only because each became intrinsic to our jobs but also,  as a result of being in close confines, we have been in each other’s pockets relating to life issues.

Over the past 16 years, one’s husband died, one got married, our three mothers died, two became grandmothers, our kids had accidents, school-related issues and medical issues. But through it all, we stuck together and served as each other’s support systems.

One of we three is leaving this week. She was told her job was being eliminated. After 26 years, she was asked to leave.

My heart is heavy as I consider that we will still be friends, but not in such close confines. I am sad for the situation and for the atmosphere this has caused. I know that she won’t be there to be my sounding board or answer my questions at work.

In casting about for a positive, I am happy that she still has so much to give as she starts   a new chapter in her life. Another organization will be very lucky to have her and her passion for doing such a good job.

Life won’t stop because change is inevitable. Change can bring about things you never consider. Still, sometimes you like to be the change, not the other way around.

Good luck, my friend, and I hope your life continues to deliver the good things that you so deserve as you nurture a new garden of work sisters.

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The Happiness Army

Sometimes you need to gird yourself for happiness, like a warrior preparing for battle. There will be forces out there that try to derail you, but you can arm yourself with tools that help get you through the day. Confidence, joy, determination, spirit are all soldiers in your happiness army.

I had a really good day at work today. I’m an alumni director in a small private school, and we’ve been working really hard this year to increase the amount of alumni participation in giving and events. Today we met one of our top goals — doubling the number of alumni donors from last year.

On the personal side, I also received some really bad news about my oldest child. It was not unexpected.

A week ago, before this blog, I would have been terribly down despite the success. But I’m so glad I’ve been able to share my thoughts here. This conversation with myself really helps, especially when I’m able to rejoice in a success while dealing with the downer.

I have found blasting music helps as well. Singing loudly in the confines of your car with the windows up and the A/C on helps too! So what if people see you moving your lips?

Laughing at yourself helps too.

You need to be your own barometer. You can’t let everything consume you. You have to leave room for you. You have to give yourself time to ponder, rejoice, sing, and cry if you have to.

Happiness is not in the mind of the beholder. It is in you and up to you to pull it out thread by thread. Recognize at least one thing a day for its beauty or its humor or its comfort. That thought is for you and only you. Let it glow inside you and push back the downers. Let it become your happiness shield…and use it in your daily battle.

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Happiest Country in the World

Just a quickie here. I’ve just heard on the news that Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world. Hmmm.

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Show, don’t tell

It was one week ago that my boss told me he didn’t think I was happy and I began The Happiness Plan. Today, I wanted to go into his office and tell him how I’m doing. I wanted to say, “Look, I’m wearing a turquoise dress. I’m listening to motivating music. I’ve started walking again. I’ve begun writing a blog about happiness and have followers! (Thank you!!)” But I didn’t.

I think this would all be surface and I’d be telling him I was on the road to happiness. Better that I show him. I hope he’d be able to tell!

Happiness is, of course, a state of mind. You can read happy quotes and listen to happy songs, but that won’t necessarily change your innermost self.

With the music and the walking and the blogging, I am feeling a confidence resurfacing. Confidence helps you stand taller and believe in yourself. With confidence, you can face it when someone tells you something about yourself that isn’t true. You have the confidence to defend yourself.

The state of confidence is a good place to be. If you’ve got it, flaunt it, and you won’t need to tell anybody anything.

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Well, hello, shin splints

I started my workout plan today. I geared up, made sure my ipod had juice and set my phone to vibrate. Plugging into the Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling, I took the first step and off I went.

Turning left out of my drive way, I walked down the road. The beats pumped me up. The songs become ever increasingly faster and beatier. My breathing was good. My arms moved back and forth. My stride became longer. I pumped the air. I was approaching walking nirvana.

My shins didn’t start to hurt until I was about five songs into my playlist.

Ouch! I’d forgotten how this pain sort of comes out of nowhere and makes your stride war with your music. Your body wants to move forward in time to the music. Your legs want you to sit down and wait for a friend to carry you home.

A bench was calling to me just down the road on the side of a baseball park. My breathing calmed. I focused on the prize. I practically lunged as I got into range.

Heaven! I sat and closed my eyes and listened. A little massage and a Katy Perry later, the pain was gone and I began the return trip.

I didn’t feel bad that I cut short my first workout walk. I did keep listening to my ipod when I got home. And danced a little when I reached my house.

Walking = the opportunity to listen to music = feeling good = happy. So what if your legs hurt?

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