When I was young, I had a tall glass that had a jubilant Snoopy and Woodstock and the words: “Happiness is a root beer float.” This stein, even when filled with milk or water, made me happy.
For me, happiness hasn’t changed too much since then. I still delight in birthday cake, mom’s cooking, and afternoon naps.
Yesterday, as I was Spring cleaning my office, I observed how I display, for students and for myself, all sorts of reminders about the value of happiness: a poem by William Stafford, photos of celebrations and loved ones, favorite words, quotations, papel picado.
In tidying, I noted that one of the photos contained a person who has, over the past year, hurt me. He seemed to hang on the edge of an otherwise fondly-recalled celebration.
So I lopped him off the picture.
I immediately was not sure what to do with him, this quarter-inch-slice. I mean, I wondered if I should slip him into a book, throw him into the trash, slide him into an folder and file him.
All I knew was that I instantly felt happiness that he was no longer in my office.
So, I recycled him.
I have a sore throat. One of my friends says that a sore throat is from not saying what you need to say, but I’ve been to the doctor and it is just an end-of-winter cold.
Despite the fact that my voice was scratchy and tired, I told M last night, “I felt like a sixth-grader this afternoon. I cut X– out of that birthday photo of all of us on the patio. It made me happy.”
He laughed at me; he knows that happiness is sometimes acting like a kid who is not trying to make anyone else happy.
So early it’s still almost dark out.
I’m near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren’t saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other’s arm.
It’s early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn’t enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.
- My colleague, K–, recently did an activity with her students to make abstract concepts tangible. She shared some of the creative images her creative students concocted.
Lost: a sad song trapped in an empty jar
Chaos: a spilled box of dry spaghetti
Forgiveness: the sweet taste of a Sour Patch Kid
Joy: A free scoop of coconut ice cream
Despair: Writing a ten-page paper for days and forgetting to turn it in
Here are some abstract nouns for feelings, what do they remind you of?
Adoration, Amazement, Anger, Anxiety, Apprehension, Clarity, Delight, Despair, Disappointment, Disbelief, Excitement, Fascination, Friendship, Grief, Hate, Helpfulness, Helplessness, Infatuation, Joy, Love, Misery, Pain, Pleasure, Power, Pride, Relaxation, Relief, Romance, Sadness, Satisfaction, Silliness, Sorrow, Strength, Surprise, Tiredness, Uncertainty, Wariness, Weariness, Worry