Archive | July, 2018

Happiness And Success

13 Jul

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Oprah recently had a podcast with the author Sarah Ban Breathnach.

Sarah is known for the bestselling self-help book in the 1990s called Simple Abundance where she talked about how gratitude can transform your life.

The book transformed Sarah’s.

It sold over 7 million copies and soon Sarah was buying Manolo Blahnik shoes, employing nine assistants, and renovating the home in the English Countryside that Isaac Newton once owned.

She had it all. Money. Adoring fans. A wildly successful career.

(Newton’s Chapel.)

Years later, Sarah showed up at her sister’s house with only a suitcase. She had no money. Nowhere to live. A deeply broken heart.

Sarah’s story is the age-old story that I know, I KNOW I know, and yet it’s a reminder.

Sarah lost her money through a series of bad investments, a costly (and awful) divorce, and being ill-prepared for fame, wealth and all that comes along with it. She learned the very hard way the thing that we all learn the very hard way. No amount of

money

followers

books sold

can make your husband kind.

No amount of

success

awards

designer shoes

lead to inner peace. Good decisions. Love.

It just doesn’t.

We all know about Princeton’s study on money and happiness by now.

I don’t need to recap it fully, but I do think about it a lot.

Basically, the study found that after a certain point ($75K), no matter how much more money you make, you aren’t any happier.

Of course, money makes a difference when you can’t pay the bills. When you desperately need it.When the lights don’t turn on.

It’s a privilege of mine to not be speaking from that place.

But I never forget about that 75K.

It’s baffling!

Give me a few million dollars and I’ll SHOW YOU how much happier I am!

Gimme the house in Santa Barbara and free me of the student loan anxiety and I’ll TELL YOU in no uncertain terms your study is wrong!

Except.

Big sigh.

Big breath.

I know that it’s right.

Lauren Graham, in her graduation-speech-turned-book In Conclusion Don’t Worry About It said this:

The fun of doing the daily crossword puzzle with my TV children between shots on the set of Parenthood rivaled any awards show I’ve ever attended. The “success” parts of life look good to others, but the best parts are actually the simple, daily experiences. This is true whether you’re an actor or a teacher or a waitress. I know this because I’ve been all three.

It’s always about the looking good to others part isn’t it?

It comes back to wanting to be seen. Wanting to know you’re worthwhile.

The Fault in Our Stars tackles this beautifully.

Augustus is worried about death because he hasn’t done anything “big” in his life. He’s only 16. The world doesn’t know him.

His girlfriend tells him

I don’t care if the New York Times writes an obituary for me. I just want you to write one. You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you.

That’s it, isn’t it?

I know about you.

I do the crossword with you.

I’ll take you in when you have nowhere to go.

It’s the reminder I need fairly often. The reminder when I’m wishing I had more

money

acclaim

books sold (any books sold!)

That that won’t be the answer.

One of my favorite bloggers wrote about living in small-town Idaho while her husband went to grad school. She hated her job, her pet was sick, they had very little money, and she was trying and failing to get pregnant.

She was miserable.

Eventually they left Idaho for New York where she finally had that baby she had so long desired. Her life changed. She was out of it!

And then.

Her husband took a job back at that same University back in that same small-town.

This time she had the baby. They had money to buy groceries. They had no sick pets.

And yet.

She puts it this way

I am here again, mis-er-able, with none of those ingredients in my kitchen, and yet I am STILL baking that miserable cake!? AND YET!???!!

And yet.

I am quite the gourmet baker of miserable cakes with none of the same ingredients.

Open me a bakery, I’ve got this on lock!

I’m so very good at picking something in my life that will finally make me happy and pinning all my hopes and dreams on it!

When my parents moved after I gradudated high school it was their return that would do it.

(They moved back. I’m so glad they did. It didn’t do it.)

For a long time it was about a romantic relationship that was fairly awful. If that was fixed, then I’d be OK!

I now have a kind, wonderful husband. (I’m so glad I do. And it didn’t do it.)

If I quit this job, or move to this place, or or or.

It’s never done it.

I think I’ve learned this lesson and then I realize that I’m doing it all over again.

That I’m doing it now.

Today, on some level, I believe if my writing career were where I want it to be, if I was publishing bestselling, acclaimed novels, if I was known and regarded and loved for my writing…

That would do it!

(It won’t.)

(It never will.)

Interestingly, Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote a follow up book about her experiences post Simple Abundance success.

She called it Peace and Plenty: Finding your path to financial serenity.

On the podcast, Oprah said something like, “Well, it’s not about the money.”

And Sarah kept insisting it was about the money.

They went back and forth a little and I thought wow.

After all this.

Wow.

I think, perhaps, the answer lies in Lauren Graham’s original quote. She says

The “success” parts of life look good to others, but the best parts are actually the simple, daily experiences.

I am conflating success with best. Best with success.

Anyone can have simple, daily experiences. I should be different and special and successful!

Success = best, hello!

 

Except.

Big sigh.

Big breath.

I know that she’s right.

 

The Elevator Question

11 Jul

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Dolly is, simply put, an unreal creature sent from heaven gracing our lives.

An otherworldly ethereal thing, I’m afraid to get to close to because she might disappear in a cloud of glitter.

I don’t know. Maybe there’s a more succinct way to say it. Maybe I didn’t do her justice.

Dolly is so cute that a friend told his wife, “Hey you know our cat we think is the cutest? Actually Dolly is cuter.”

TRUE STORY.

I swear.

I was there.

She has her little mannerisms, her little personality. She’s a stuffed plush toy with fur as soft of as a cloud and here she comes. Sitting next to you in the bathroom, just because.

She wants to always be near us.

I wake up in the middle of the night and she’s pressed against me. Curled under my legs. She can’t get close enough.

Our little shadow.

She only loves her bed and her mama, she’s sorry.

My Mount Rushmore is Dolly with four different expressions.

Drake himself has written about Dolly, you see.

Things change.

Dolly is proof of that.

I’ve always been wary of animals. Scared of what they might do to me. Scared of what they have done to me.

And if you’re in the same boat as I was, I want you to ask yourself a few questions.

Are the things you dislike about animals:

  1. Fear they might attack you

  2. Picking up hot poop

  3. Jumping/licking/biting/barking

  4. The smell

Well, it turns out, that dogs aren’t for you! And that’s OK.

In the immortal words of Amy Poehler, good for her, not for me.

Get yourself a cat. Preferably a 5 lb rescue thing who looks more like an anime cartoon than a real life creature.

You’ll love her and write glowing things about her.

You’ll change.

Things change, you see.

In writing school we were taught to be hard on our characters.

Put them in difficult situations. That’s where the interesting stuff comes.

One teacher talked about the elevator question.

If your character were to be stuck in an elevator for hours on end, who would they be most uncomfortable with?

Their parents?

Their ex?

The person they confessed their love to who did nothing?

GREAT!

Put them in that elevator. Make them have those conversations. Make them uncomfortable.

That’s the good stuff.

The stuff we want to read.

The elevator question is a great dinner party question. I’ve used it many, many times. Of course, you need to know your dinner party guests well if you’re going to get an honest answer.

This is a dinner party question for your closest friends. The ones you can be really vulnerable with.

And then boom.

Let it all out.

I was thinking about the elevator question recently and I had a bit of a shock.

My people have changed!

For a really long time the same few souls came up when I asked myself who I’d be most uncomfortable around. They were those of the Big Hurts, of the Unresolved Pain. For a while there, years even, the thought of being trapped in a small space with them was enough for me to run fleeing.

For you see, in life, you don’t have to put yourself in that elevator.

What makes for good story in fiction you can, and often should, protect yourself from in reality.

Boundaries and all that.

But.

Change.

I remind myself this with my current hurts. With my current elevator people. The ones who twist my stomach in knots when I imagine confronting them.

I remind myself that 10 years ago I felt this way about different people. And nothing really changed with us. Most of us didn’t get resolution or that important conversation, or, frankly, the very needed apology.

Time happened.

Time heals.

It really, really does.

Things change.

One day you have a little puff ball of a cat sleeping at your feet and you love her and you write odes to her. And you can’t wait for her to wake up so you can play together.

Things change.

Except for my love for Dolly.

That is as constant as the Northern Star.

I Woke Up At Noon

9 Jul

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I woke up at noon due to blackout curtains and basement temperatures, but mainly due to insomnia.

I woke up at noon.

My mom and I went to lunch. Over salads and bread bowls we talked about my sister’s wedding and my wedding and how generally I hit the lottery with Rob.

(I really did.)

(I struggle to put it into words sometimes because I really, really did.)

We went shopping for the week and discussed what I want to do to be more environmentally conscious, and what ingredients I like in my smoothies and how the two overlap.

I ran into four people I know. Well three. And one who knew me, and I had no idea who he was all smiles and “Oh my gosh what are you up tos?”

That’s Utah for you.

My mom says when she’s in California it’s kind of nice, she can be anonymous. But in Utah you go out for a few hours and suddenly you’re reconnecting with old neighbors and making plans with friends and there is no anonymity.

There is only you in your mumu and wet hair.

I got myself one of those monster Diet Cokes with all sorts of tasty add-ins.

My parents and I watched the Great British Baking Show and laughed a lot.

It’s hysterical to watch television with my parents. We put on the season finale of the Good Witch together and between my mom’s commentary and my dad’s teasing the whole thing was next-level interactive theater.

Boo

Hiss

Mild conflicts

Some time in the middle of it all, a friend showed up with Mexican food.

 My mom baked us treats, like we were back in middle school.

And soon the kitchen filled with my best friends and we ate and ate and there were cheese puffs and movie theater popcorn and chocolate ganashe and we ate and ate and talked and talked.

We took the enneagram test and marveled at its accuracy.

I mean, the buzz words alone for me

Expressive

Dramatic

Self-Absorbed

Temperamental

There were shrieks of shock and a moment where we said, “I am understanding you so much more” to a friend and she responded “I am understanding myself so much more.”

And eventually it was late. Way too late, really, and we packed up and I promised to send an article on celebrities having babies in their 50s and I felt so known.

So known and so full.

I woke up noon.

It was a really great day.

A Big Gumbo Of New Orleans Thoughts

9 Jul

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I’m going to New Orleans and I’m exactly like you Jill. Where should I go? What should I do?

Well thank you for asking, Jill. I am an expert in all things Jill, one of my few real shining points. I don’t expect praise for this, but I do appreciate it

comma, Jill.

Here are some things you should do, Jill:

1. Eat the beignets at Cafe Du Monde. You can get them to-go so the line isn’t that bad. Eat them hot. Let the powdered sugar flutter down your breezy, natural-fabric dress.

2. Get a tarot reading outside Jackson Square. Choose a psychic with chairs and umbrella and 13 years experience working at a witchcraft store. Bring cash.

3. Watch The Princess and the Frog. Marvel how much it means now that you’re catching the little references. (Also, it’s Oprah! Oprah is her mother!)

4. Go on a swamp tour! Get lucky and get a tour guide who grew up playing in the swamp and who brings his pet alligator Alli on the ride.

5. Get a snow cone at Hansen’s. Top it with condensed milk.

6. Walk the Garden District. Check out celebrity homes (Hi Beyonce, Sandra Bullock, the Mannings, Anne Rice, John Goodman ETC)

7. While you’re in the Garden District, stop in Anne Rice’s favorite bookstore. Afterwards, grab a roast beef poboy from Parasol’s. Maybe the roast beef fries too? Those are really, really, really excessively good.

8. Speaking of really, really excessively good, New Orleans has queso! At many places! 801 Royal is a starting point.

9. Get tea at the Tea Witch Cafe while walking and vintage shopping on Magazine Street

10. Go to Bourbon Street at night and watch whatever parade is happening. Catch some beads. Dance.

11. Check out a Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. Buy some beads. Ask some questions.

12. Talk to the owner of Faulkner House Books about Faulkner and what he did during his time in New Orleans. Revel in all those little pieces of literary history you didn’t know about.

13. Try the famous turtle soup at The Court of the Two Sisters (This was also interestingly a room service option for me? From Court specifically?)

14. Never wear a bra.

Love you, Jill

Love, Jill