Contentment Diary 1/12/09–Another Project

Today someone mentioned the book, Happiness Project, and I thought, “Great. Another happy-go-lucky memoir meant to guilt people into believing they aren’t trying hard enough to improve their own lives (and into buying the book, of course).” Now that I’ve admitted publicly having that thought I’ll probably buy the book too just to ease up on my own guilt, but this is one of those gems I don’t have to read to write about. The title alone is enough to get me started.

With that, it occurs to me that my contentment diary is its own special happiness project, except that I started it as a form of mockery against the idea of what I believed at the time I understood a contentment diary to be. I mock it still despite the fact that I have every desire to do it.

Here’s why. It all comes down to emotional honesty. Contentment can’t be forced. Happiness can’t be forced. Telling yourself to write about contentment as a means of leading yourself to contentment is crazy and unworkable. It will only make you feel worse that you don’t feel more content, and that you can think of nothing else because you’re trying to make yourself write about it.

If you want to feel better, write about something else. Write about anything else that will take your mind off yourself, says she who is fully prepared to tell you how bad her week started off after she slept late and didn’t have any caffeine on the day she and her school registered more students in any single given day than ever before. Imagine the headache. Imagine the lines. Imagine the inability to go to the bathroom or fetch a Diet Coke. Imagine the total lack of contentment involved.

Yes, it sucked. But then it didn’t because all those students have classes now, and it was only one day of suffering after all. But suffer I did. And so did others. No contentment about it.

What did make me happy was leaving for lunch. If you want to meet some real contentment-challenged people, you should probably talk to the ones who didn’t get to leave for lunch on either day of registration. At lunch, I caught up on a little gossip, took pictures to post to the blog, and enjoyed some excellent vegetable tempura. It seems to me a good happiness project might be leaving work for lunch more often. There’s a time in between when you’ve finished venting all of your frustrations but have not yet finished your tempura that brings on the satisfaction.

Yes, I’ll probably read the book, but for now I’ll just go forward with the blog and the photographs as my own happiness projects. They aren’t about fixing anything. They aren’t about finding fault with anything. They’re just about taking time to notice beauty where I might not otherwise see it. That seems like enough contentment to start out with for anyone.

Poetry Tuesday: Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit

The idea of meeting God at the tangerine
is more than just your own desire
for color, texture, the intricacies of a pattern
you could not create on your own
beyond the lines your face makes
in the mirror as wrinkles gather
in the margins. It’s more than
the knowledge you’ve set the bowl out
for comfort, not food. Pretty and at
contrast with everything drab
in your day, a tangerine means
you are not on your last grain of rice.
You are not suffering even imaginary
scurvy in your emotional body
lost on a real sea. Such a bitter thing,
a tangerine. Your dog could swallow
it whole if he would. A dry one you could
bat across the yard for the dog to fetch.
Sit on one hidden in a school lunch bag,
and you’ll be sorry all day.

This isn’t about tangerines.
It isn’t about metaphor or faith
in any way you might define,
such bitter things until you want a bite.

Evil Love Laugh Owns You

Today I walked around campus for my lunch break, meaning I walked around campus after I came back from lunch and after I made myself sit still long enough to update some handouts for the spring semester. It was a good day for a walk. Someone will clean the graffiti out of the wisteria arbors soon, and right now it is excellent.

Here’s a little of what I saw:

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View campus photo set.