When I was a kid, maybe 6th or 7th grade, my best friend, M, proclaimed that we were going to keep Happy Books, lists chronicling things that made us happy. I think there was some impetus for this, we’d heard about it somewhere or read about it somewhere, but I can remember the seed of it anymore. What I do remember is that we tromped up to some stationery shop on Broadway to buy these books and were so enchanted with the idea — or perhaps just being preteens loose on Broadway on a pretty day — that we managed to leave my M’s giant standard poodle tied up outside the shop until, back at her house probably eating tuna fish and shovels, one of us asked “Hey, where’s Misha?”.
Anyway, the books started out as a list of all the ways we had crushes on our summer camp counselors that year. At least, that’s what I remember being in mine. Knowing M, her’s was probably more profound, but mine stayed pretty close to home, more like a list of words and phrases that served as tabs for larger memories of scenes or stories or feelings.
We numbered them, and took turns writing in each others. I even remember there being something magical about the numbers, the slow accumulation of tiny pleasant moments, piled like pebbles to build a mountain. M moved away in high school but I kept that Happy Book going. It’s funny that phrase, Happy Book, which used to roll so easily out of my mouth now feels too bright, almost tart.
I went through a bunch of books, actually, chronicles heavily spiced by moments with who I happened to be in love with at the time and tempered with the handwriting of my friends. A friend even gave me a book of someone’s published Happy Thought list, the book and the idea of the book was something that wreathed me.
And then I stopped. I don’t think there was any particular reason. I grew up, or I thought I was supposed to grow up. I went to college and tried to reinvent. There’s a lot to do in life, so maybe I just forgot about it.
Recently, I’ve been struggling with things. Nothing major. Trust me, I’ve had far worse years than this, but little things seem to be stacking up on the wrong side of the balance. Career doldrums, the overwhelming enormity of trying to consider myself a writer, all the anger and lunacy coming from the people who are supposed to be the adults in this country, that perpetual question of “Am I really where I want to be? Do I even know where I want to be?”.
I used to be known as the happy girl and now listen to myself and wonder, who the hell is that doing all that whining? There’s got to be another way. I don’t think what’s wrong with me is a matter of situation, but an error of perception. There must be another way of looking at things, things which are generally very good.
That’s what reminded me of the Happy Books, perhaps a different lens might make late November a prettier place. So, I thought I try the old trick. Humor me.
1) Fall bearing raspberries
2) Passing 35,000 words in my first draft novel
3) A hard drive full of new music, all of which, so far is wonderful to write by
4) Plane tickets to Milwaukee
5) Thank goodness the dog was okay
6) Thanksgiving turkey: stuffed with sausage, wrapped in bacon
7) Exercise-induced endorphins
8) Christmas lights, white ones, at night
9) The crazed rapture of students when snow starts to fall
10) Finding things that can be controlled, organized and ordered an otherwise disorganized world.
There, that’s better.