Tag Archives: happiness

Looking Up

9 Jun

She pulled the small, square paper out of the bucket, slowly unfolding the brightly colored sheet to read the next question aloud.

“Okay,” my student said.  Continuing the pattern we’d followed all evening during our TOEFL conversation club, she started her sentence hesitantly. “What would you do if you never had to sleep at night?”

She smiled and shifted in her chair. My student “A” loves these sorts of hypothetical, what she calls “goofy” questions. You can almost see her synapses firing, her thoughts pulling together and forming a clever, imaginative response. If it were up to her, every class period would be spent discovering what life would be like if we were 3cm tall, or what she would do if she had 10 eyes, or deciding where to go if she could live anywhere in the world.

“What is the question asking you?” I said, encouraging her to re-word the question to ensure she had the full understanding.

She started to respond when my other student, “N,” jumped in. “I know,” said N. “Every night, if you could not sleep, what would you do with time?”

We all nodded, a collective “oooooh” settling throughout the classroom.  My two students smiled, ready to consider this newest ridiculousness as they had the other questions throughout the evening.

Up to this point, their favorite question had been “What would you do if all the houses in your city were made of chocolate?” These young professionals, in their early 20s, could not help but giggle as children when imagining a sweet, edible city at their fingertips.

“We could eat all day long!” A had said. “I never bring a gift when visiting family again – we just pull off the window to share!”

“Everyone would have – how do you say – really bad… acne,” N had added. They loved it.

I personally had been rather interested in their responses to “What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and there were no longer any laws?” After pulling through the difficult verbs and getting to the heart of the question, my students answered quickly and surprisingly.

“Oh I know,” A laughed. “I would drive a car,” she said.

“Me too!” N added. “And then I would go to another country, where I wouldn’t have to get a visa. It would be easy!”

Their responses, sincere and honest, came out so thoughtfully and happily it made me nearly wish for this lawlessness, to live in their dystopian future where women drive cars easily and young adults can travel where they please.

When it came to our last question, though, “What would you do if you didn’t have to sleep at night?”, they were slower to respond.

“Maybe,” said A, “I would spend a lot of time on Facebook. I would study my Spanish and learn another language, like France.”

N agreed, nodding slowly. She paused, and then said. “I would watch movies. I’d have to. I don’t like this question. Why would I not sleep?”

I wasn’t sure if I had offended them or if they just didn’t want to imagine this world.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Why does this question bother you?”

N thought. “At night, I sleep. If I were a man, I would go to the park or visit my friend. But I spend this time sleeping.”

“Yes,” A added, tugging at her long, curly black hair. “I would be sad to be awake all night, staying at home. I like to sleep so I can wake up to the sun.”

“Well,” I said, “what if you could go anywhere? If you never needed sleep and could visit anywhere in the evening, what would you do?”

“Maybe,” A said, “we could go the cinema, if we had a theater. Or even to a pub!” she laughed. N agreed, then thought some more.

“I would sit outside. I sit outside and stare at the stars. I did when I was child!”

“I did that too!” A added. “I remember when I was child, I would stare up. I would stare up and try to count each and every star. I would count and count and get so mad. I remember getting so mad and crying because I try so hard, but there were too many. I count and count but I never count them all.”

“Why were you mad?” said N. “Isn’t that big? There are so many stars. I’m happy because I can never count them all.”

We all smiled in response and a heavy pause fell over the room.

“It is good we are friends,” A said to N, several moments later. “Now we can just look at them together.”


Just a Little Rain

26 Feb


After what feels like weeks of dark heavy skies, this evening all broke open into a soul washing downpour of spring.

On the trek to the bath house, it was cool and dark and damp and perfect. And the scent! Nothing announces spring better than that deep, full smell of rain in the air.

It couldn’t have picked a more perfect day, either. With all the great things that have been moving and shaking, and with our clubs picking up momentum, a smooth re-beginning is exactly what we need to push us through til summer.  And what could announce that better than rain showers and buds on the trees?  So glad they have made their return to our city.

And, so as not to miss a day: yesterday I received the closest to a compliment I have ever received – and probably the closest she’ll ever get – from my counterpart. After a long hour of conversation lessons with my group of teachers, she looked me in the face and said, “You worked hard today.”  With a nod, she took off.  I’ll take it! Glad for that, my friends.

Collecting I traverse the garden the world, but soon I pass the gates,
Now along the pond-side, now wading in a little, fearing not the wet,
Now by the post-and-rail fences where the old stones thrown there,
pick’d from the fields, have accumulated.    – Walt Whitman


Free-Writing and Open Questions: Days 10 &11

11 Nov

(I realized just today that The Daily Prompt and other great NaBloPoMo prompt sites do not offer ideas for Saturday and Sunday because these days are delegated as “free-writing days.” No prompt to push today, so  here’s to mini-updates and sentiments on our waiting-for-Peace-Corps-news life.)


As this post is labeled 10 & 11, I clearly fell behind again on posting, but I like to think I have a legitimate excuse,  maybe?

This weekend in our awesome Eau Claire was my dear sister’s bachelorette party. Last night, it was an unseasonably toasty 60° and we roamed downtown like it was the middle of August.

To a non-Wisconsinite, the freedom of bouncing out a door in mid-November without having to bundle up ten layers might seem like it ain’t no thing, but it was pure freedom.  This little heat wave (especially compared to the rain/snow mix and 30°-ish temps of today) made for a stellar evening.

I loved every little celebration we had for my sister throughout the evening, but my favorite moment came late in the night.  After moving like tipsy fools to dance songs I suddenly find myself too old to know, we migrated out to a patio, embracing the chance to kick off absurdly high heels and breathe cool, sweat-free air.

While nothing momentous or life changing happened, it was perfection.

There are these weirdly rare moments in my life where everything seems to fit together in absolute perfection and I am completely, utterly happy.  It is as if everything had been just slightly out of focus and a bit off tune, and in an instant snaps into exact synchronization with my life.  Or perhaps, I find a way to move in sync with everything else.

It happens most at times when I least expect it: walking across the campus bridge after work and hearing hour bells ringing in the distance; washing dishes in my Niagara street apartment and turning to face a completely spotless kitchen; standing outside the theater listening to a thunderstorm; even, strangely enough, watching your sister and her closest friends carousing and laughing too loudly outside a packed and smelly bar.

And then, just like that, the perfect happiness is gone.  I never feel resentful or sad afterwards; really, I barely notice its presence until I am left with it’s unavoidable absence.  I am left feeling neither happier nor lonelier, but life again becomes a challenge, though one  I am always eager to face.

Perhaps that is what keeps me constantly anxious.  Maybe my every-other-moments in life simply carry me along until I can feel that bigger something again, especially as I never know when to expect it.



And, this is about as far as I’ve thought this through.  Here on open writing weekend, I guess it should be fitting to leave this open-ended, too.  (Or maybe that’s just a pleasant excuse as I’m jazzed to catch up on sleep after sharing a hotel with seven other ladies.)

I’ve never asked for feedback or comments before, but I’m loving all the recent ones – and here might be a great first chance.  Maybe you’ve felt this, too?   Or am I just a total space-case? Because that could easily be plausible, too.  I’d love to hear some ideas.

Such Is Life: Day 7

7 Nov

Day 7 of NaBloPoMo, in the books.

Daily Prompt

Tell us about something you’ve done that you would advise a friend never to do.

I remember a conversation I had once with an old college roommate.  She had been recapping some unexpected adventure that had occurred the night before, and was explaining how, as a result, all her plans for the rest of the week changed dramatically.

When she finished unloading,  she sighed and said, “Well, ‘such is life,’ right, Liv?”  She smiled. “That’s what you always say, anyway.”

 I remember I kind of stopped – did I always say that?  Sure, it sounded like some total Vonnegut remark I would make, but I was sure I had only said it a few, maybe three times in my life, tops.

I laughed, but defensively asked, “I do?”

She rolled her eyes nearly out of her head. “My god. Seriously, all the time.”

I found another friend of mine who lived in our building and with no sort of set-up asked, “Would you say, by chance, that there is something I say, maybe quite often?”

Without even so much a second’s thought: “Such is life,” he said.


I recall spending the rest of the day vainly asking any acquaintance I ran across what phrase I may or may not use in relative frequency around them.  Classmates, friends, co-workers, even my boss… all the same response.  Some sounded nearly annoyed and pleased I’d finally realized, while others cheered my sinking ship with a quick “Hey, I like it!”

Either way, I’d decided, how the hell had I gone on so long repeating something – clearly many, many times – without so much as taking notice?  What a refrain.

Throughout that week, I caught myself repeating the mantra countless times:

“Wow, I really thought I’d get an A.  I worked forever on that stupid essay.”
“Well, such is life.”
“So, since everyone took off, you work Friday, Saturday, and a double on Sunday.”
“Ugh. Well, such is life.”
“I’m so pumped – we decided to head down to Florida for Spring Break.”
“Alright! Such is life!”
“The bar is closing.  Seriously, you need to get out.”
“Ah, such is life.”

The opportunities, it seemed, were endless.

While I didn’t want to become a walking slogan, it was as if people were just setting me up.  What else am I supposed to say to you?  “Such is life” just fit whenever and wherever it needed to.

For a long time after that, probably out of embarrassment, I kept my blasé reply in check: I tried to think of other ways to steer conversations; I replied with more stock, wholesome comments; when others lamented, I regretted the misfortunes of life with them.

But, after awhile, my determination sunk and I found myself slipping into the old pattern.  “Such is life” was my way of life.

Because it seems to me, people are spot on when they profess everything happens for a reason.  Who am I to tell you that you didn’t put enough effort into your exam?  Sometimes crappy work schedules happen! Life is great – enjoy that beach! And that’s okay, we’ll just go home and drink more beer there!

I could never deem any event in my life not worth experiencing, no matter how rotten it may have been. And for you, it may be life’s greatest.

Mistakes happen, amazing things happen, regret does nothing.

Such is life.

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