Category Archives: Just Me

(Good) changes abound

After more than a month of not posting, I’m back. If I may write frankly, the time period from about the time I last posted at the end of May to the present has been a transformative one. It has been filled with both endings and beginnings that have brought a lot of pain but a lot of positivity and peace of mind as well. I have always believed that there is no such thing as the black and white concept of good and bad/good and evil. I think all things have both a dark and a light side to them, I guess sort of like the Chinese philosophical principal of yin and yang. The universe, though we may not be able to believe it when we are knee deep in some situation, will always even itself out. Nothing really is ever purely wonderful or truly terrible. I think that is the biggest concept I’ve had reaffirmed for me this past month. When I was thinking that the past year was simply terrible, being in the wrong place, attaching myself or being forced onto the wrong people, and dealing with some pretty wicked inner demons, it wasn’t ever all bad. I’m also one of those people who, although I don’t choose to believe in a higher deity, chooses to believe that most things happen for a reason. In my own life, all the bad stuff over the past year has happened for reasons that, oddly enough, have only become clear over the past week or so. It’s an amazing feeling too when you realize you’ve been walking around in a pretty dense fog, and that fog suddenly lifts, putting you back on the main road.

One of the most enlightening experiences I’ve had thus far this summer is getting an opportunity to intern at the museum. I am very disappointed to say that I let the past several months or so beat the passion and love I once felt for the museum field out of me. I got fairly lost in the what-do-I-want-to-do-with-my-life department and gave up almost entirely, something I have never done willingly in my life. I let myself go from being a very driven, vibrant young person to someone who just didn’t care or, rather, didn’t know how to care anymore. This is the attitude I had coming into the museum this summer. However, in dealing with the turmoil extant in my subsurface, I neglected to realize there was something deeper, waiting patiently, keeping warm in the glow of the fire in the core of my being as the storm raged overhead. This was an old childhood friend, a true friend, the kind that never really abandons you even when you act like a complete idiot or you lose touch for a while. This friend was my love of history. I had seen it peek out every now and then over the last months when I would get a rare chance to discuss public history in my classes or if I had a moment to read a good history book in my spare time. Then something would inevitably go off to the contrary and it would scurry back down to its hiding place. One of the strongest moments like this, though, occurred this past spring and very nearly helped pull me back into the boat.

I took a cultural history class last semester. It was pretty good as far as history seminars go. Somehow by a very fortuitous coincidence one of my favorite historians of all time, Peter H. Wood, came to visit my school. As a freshman in undergrad I read his seminal work Black Majority, and it was one of the largest contributing factors that made me want to become a history major. I remember thinking his rice thesis was the most brilliant idea I had ever encountered. The book, pardon the cliche, changed my life. We read his recent work Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War in the seminar and discussed it the week before he came. It was a short but interesting read. Our professor wished us to go to the public lecture Dr. Wood was giving and also to the private informal talk reserved for those in the history department. Unfortunately a very inopportune shift at work kept me from the evening lecture, but I had the absolute pleasure of attending the talk earlier that day. As an outsider I sat towards the back wall while the more senior history grads controlled the conversation. Most of them were interested in the future of historians in the academia, of which he did not have the most positive words for the future. I gave up my idea of going into that arena long ago so my interest wasn’t really peaked until he began discussing the possibilities of public history and how promising that avenue was looking for young historians. He lamented the gap that exists between academia and the museum and historic site. He echoed the words I had had rattling in my mind without a forum for expression for months and months. My heart felt light and when the talk was over it was all I could do to keep from running up and hugging him. For the record, Dr. Wood is an incredibly effervescent and kind individual. Instead I resolutely marched up to the front of the room, pushing past the history grads who all looked at me like a foreigner and introduced myself to him. I told him my situation, how glad I was to hear what he had to say about public history, how I had been racking my brain over the problems that exist, and how passionate I was about trying to fix them. He was warm and encouraging and genuinely wished me luck on my path. I then asked him with a shy smile if he’d sign my book, and he did so gladly. I thanked him profusely and quickly scooted out giddy as could be. When I got back to my apartment I eagerly opened the book and found this inscription:

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It felt great reading that. Unfortunately, I was still scratching my head trying to figure out how I could do that. Well, like I said, being at the museum revived my desire to do this, and I believe it has helped put me back on the track on which I need to accomplish it.

There are many changes beginning personally and professionally/academically now. I’m not sure what the months ahead will bring, but I am sure about my newly minted plans and resolve. I care again. I’m going to make history museums stronger because I am the face of a change in tides and a representative of a new generation, that contrary to popular belief, does give a damn about our past. No one and nothing will ever take that away from me.

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A little piece of calm

Things seem to be settling themselves down a bit finally. I am back home in Tennessee for the summer having left Gainesville this past weekend (and not a moment too soon, I might add). I have a couple of weeks to do as I please before I start my eight week summer internship. It will be nice enjoying home life until then. Irv seems to be happy ruling the third floor again and having people around more frequently. He will be living at home with my parents while I am away in Nashville during the week. I will miss he and the dogs, but we will have the weekends. My mom has taken it upon herself to make Irving become friends with our two goldens, Orrie and Boris, this summer. I told her lots of luck.

Sadly, it has been a month of loss. There was one fewer happy, wagging furry body to greet me when I walked in the door Saturday. We lost our female golden, Kel, last Tuesday to cancer. It was a very sudden death following what must have been a long and painful last few months for her. I did not get to say goodbye as I was still away in Florida. It was the first death of a family pet for which I was not present. It was devastating to be away, but I had gotten to see her in March and she was suffering far too much for us to let her stay until I could get in. My mom, who was Kel’s human, got to say goodbye to her, which is what mattered most. She was such a wonderful little girl, full of sass and love and always ready to greet with a smile and a lick. We’re feeling her loss here acutely.

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This was Kel in the last few days I got to spend with her.

I spent my last free day in Florida at the beach with two dear friends. I always thought I should have been born on a coast. I never feel as calm and happy anywhere as I do near the big water. Sadly, this was the first time I’ve been to a beach since moving to Florida, and it was actually the first time I have been in over five years. We went to a little public beach outside of St. Augustine. It was lovely to stick my toes in the Atlantic again and walk the surf. Luckily, as a family, we have decided to go to the Florida Keys again for a restorative trip over the winter holidays. We haven’t taken a family vacation in a couple of years, and, quite frankly, the past two years have been so full and stressful, in good and bad ways, that all three of us could use a couple of weeks to disappear. There’s something about being in the water that puts us right again. It was nice Thursday to have my brief encounter with the ocean again as I tried to keep my mind of the lad who was starting to make his way across the world.

There was a bit of a storm that blew up. We waited it out over a pitcher of beer and sea food at the little beach shack restaurant nearby.

The clouds were beautiful.

And the sandpipers were out in full force.

Yes, Ryan is spending the next two weeks in India. He has spent the better part of the last three months planning this trip (his first trip outside of the United States). Unfortunately the Indian cellphone he bought did not work out as planned in the touching-base-with-his-worried-girlfriend department. I finally heard from him today. He is in Agra currently taking in the Taj Mahal after spending the last two days in New Delhi. He is on to Varanasi tomorrow…er…today. I’m still trying to adjust to the time difference. According to his emails, he seems to be having a good time, which is good even if I am still a bit jealous. Unfortunately I won’t see him again until July when he comes to Nashville for a weekend. I’m hoping we will both have such busy summers that the time will go by quickly. Until then, we will just brush up on our electronic communication skills.

I put this together for him.

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All things go

I have been thinking a lot about loss lately: what it means to lose, how it feels, what it causes and why. Being the factually-minded scholarly type in my quest to understand loss I turned to my trusty OED, which told me:

loss  n 1 the fact or action of losing something or someone. 2 a person, thing, or amount lost. 3 the feeling of sadness after losing a valued person or thing. 4 a person or thing that is badly missed when lost.

We all lose things: keys, remotes, cell phones. This is an everyday, mundane occurrence. Ah, but it’s that third definition that really makes us human. The feeling of sadness after losing a valued person or thing. The key word there is “valued.” This understanding of the word, like the first, is something that every person will feel at some time in his or her life, but unlike the first understanding of the world this will usher in unprecedented change and the greatest agony he or she will have known to that date. To feel human is to feel completely lost and powerless in the face of change and time. Funny how language works; the same word can take on two completely different meanings. It creates the differentiation between dropping a contact lens on the pavement and having your heart shattered.

That agony I mentioned a sentence ago comes in the form of grief. Grief is the stuff that emits from the deep pit that is left when your loss (see definition 4) is ripped from you. That hole or wound, if you will, seems to appear at the center of the place where your soul meets your corporeal presence. You ache uncontrollably with such a fierce intensity, with a longing so desperate, you feel as if you will never be whole again. That wound suddenly becomes a black hole, engulfing all other meaning in your life, incapable of being filled, and it leaves you only with the irrepressible longing. This is grief.

Medically, I suppose, grief is the psychological and, yes, physical reaction we have to loss. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross famously introduced the Five Stages of Grief in her book On Death and Dying. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They come in no distinct order nor are they experienced the same way for everyone. No one goes through the grieving process at the same rate either. I think it also gets typically associated with the death of a loved one, but it comes into play where any loss (definition 2) is experienced from losing a job or moving somewhere new to ending a relationship. The real rub about grief is that no one has the ability to ignore it. No amount of distraction or avoidance will make it leave more quickly. Grief is something one has to face. I think as humans we all have a natural inclination toward self preservation which includes an immediate desire to flee from pain and avoid ever after that which we know will cause pain. Grief is all about forcing you to embrace the pain whether little by little or head on all at once. There’s no running from it. It is there to be worked through, waiting until we are ready, but it will never go away on its own.

I think it is interesting that grief elicits a physiological response from our bodies. I found a list on the BBC website (of all places) of physical symptoms that can be brought on by grief. The list included the expected symptoms such as extreme fatigue and uncontrollable crying, but it also included heart palpitations, recurrent infections, hair loss, and disruption of the menstrual cycle, among others. Grief actually directly effects our nervous systems. When we experience an intense loss our nervous systems go into hyper drive creating a tremendous stress response. It releases enormous levels of natural steroids and throws the body into a heightened level of awareness. Essentially the body experiences what happens in the fight or flight response. Our hearts then have to react to keep up, increasing our pulse and blood pressure. As they said in the BBC article, “Even if the person seems slow and down, inside they’re in turmoil.” Our physical appearances change too. The eyes and cheeks seem to recede and sink in the face due to a number of other physical reactions such as sleep loss or lack of appetite that can occur, as mentioned our hair can thin, or our posture changes. When we see people affected by grief, they always seem like ghosts of themselves worn away by anguish. The effect can be quite striking.

What is further interesting is that many studies have now shown, and I personally agree with them, that other animals apart from humans experience grief as well.  There are numerous accounts of species such as elephants or certain primates exhibiting grief-like behavior over the bodies of their dead offspring holding vigil or carrying the body as if it were alive. Some primate offspring who lose parents also grieve. Jane Goodall famously observed the case of Flint, a chimpanzee, who lost his mother. He then withdrew from the other chimps, stopped eating, and died. Certain avian species like the grey lag goose have been known to exhibit signs of grief as well. Grey lags have actually been observed displaying outward symptoms similar to humans after the loss of a mating partner including the appearance of receding eyes and the drooping of the head and neck. It fascinates me to think that grief is potentially yet another way all fauna can be connected as living, breathing life forms. I find some comfort in that.

I am not a doctor nor am I a psychologist or any sort of professional, and all my thoughts on loss and grief are purely amateur conjecture, but thinking has always brought me comfort. Contemplation has always helped. I think in the cases where we lose people whether through death or separation in life, we are never really able to stop loving them. When love occurs between two people, in whatever capacity, it never leaves. I think it is a form of energy, and being as such it can neither be created nor destroyed, it can just exist. This is at once both beautiful and incredibly depressing. Eventually we are able to move through the grief and pack away our memories of the person to be stored in our own mental attics, but, in those boxes, also gets packed our remaining love for that person. We can somewhat push away the memories of the intensity of that love in our everyday consciousness, but when we accidentally stumble on those boxes while shuffling around in our own minds, we remember that it is still there, flickering faintly always. We can let go of everything else, but that.

When I grieve, I turn to words. I read those of other writers and try to collect my own on the page. Words help me work through things, understand, and cope.  Writers have been writing about love and loss since words were invented. It helps when I can find those particular configurations, which seem to speak directly to me.

Neil Gaiman, as I have mentioned before here, is a favorite author of mine and one that just seems to be on a similar wavelength. He wrote this in The Sandman and it pretty well captures it, all of it whether you lose someone through death or the ending of things. On that note, I will leave you all for now in the much more capable hands of a wordsmith vastly more adept than myself.

This is what he wrote about love:

“Have you ever been in love?  Horrible isn’t it?  It makes you so vulnerable.  It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.  You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life…. You give them a piece of you.  They didn’t ask for it.  They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore.  Love takes hostages.  It gets inside you.  It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart.  It hurts.  Not just in the imagination.  Not just in the mind.  It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain.  I hate love.”

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I’m not home today

Today, as I’m sure all of the cheesy green plastic shamrocks and drunk joke posts on Facebook have shown you, is Saint Patrick’s Day. Tonight, in a basement-turned-well-furnished pub in a small town in middle Tennessee, my parents will host their semi-annual St. Patrick’s Day fete. Dear, old friends and new faces alike from all across the state and from states beyond will gather and enjoy good stories, food, and my dad’s homebrew. However, one thing will be missing this year: me. Sadly, my change of schools changed the timing of my spring break as well, and I was unable to attend. This is something that is actually upsetting me much more than I thought it would. I do not celebrate this holiday very enthusiastically as I am no longer Catholic and I feel that America has bastardized the holiday to the point of complete embarrassment.  We, like many families in the South, are Irish-American (among other things since we’ve been over for a long time), and my parents always tried to make sure we celebrated that heritage in an appropriate way, one that never involved a perpetuation of stereotypes but did celebrate one of the cultures from which we came. I’m proud of that, and it is for that that I always loved helping my parents prepare and host our gatherings. To me, they are the be all and end all of St. Patrick’s celebrations, and anything else is nothing in which I would like to participate. I plan not to join my friends who are all going out to local bars and clubs to celebrate tonight, and I will instead make a quiet evening of it, and perhaps make a live appearance in the basement of my childhood via skype. It is will a heavy heart that I wish all of those loved ones gathering tonight a lovely, warm evening filled with fun and laughter. I’m missing you all.

NPR posted this wonderful interview today with Frank Delaney who shared a poem titled “Drowning the Shamrock” calling the holiday as he sees it here in the States. I must say, since I am already sick of seeing the slew of negative stereotypes reinforced across Facebook as I make my morning perusal, I completely agree with him. You can listen to him read it here.

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Spring Break

Hello again, everyone! Hey, did you hear that 500 new fairytales were recently released from an archive in Germany? That’s pretty exciting for every lover of the fantastical like me. I just wonder how long it will take for Disney to ruin them ha ha ha.

But anyway, enough of that side note. Spring break is in full swing. I am, as tradition holds, watching Netflix while avoiding the mountain of school work that needs attending to. I’m back home in Tennessee for the week trying to enjoy a little r&r and ma famille. The weather is divine as well, sunny and cool, just as early March should be. We’ve had two fires in the fireplace since I got in Sunday night, and I get to shuffle around the house in sweaters and thick socks. It’s lovely.

It’s actually been a rather eventful past few days. Mom and Dad came down to pick me up in Gainesville on Saturday having dodged then braved storms all the way from Nashville to south Georgia. That night they officially met the lad for the first time. I don’t exactly have a great track record for picking guys that pass muster. I could not have asked for a more different and exponentially better outcome this Saturday past. Both parties enjoyed each other immensely, and we all had a lovely dinner. It was quite adorable because both sides asked the next day what the other thought of them. I was happy to give satisfactory reports all around.

As much as I hate to admit emotional weakness and general gooey-eyedness, I am miss the lad a lot. It’s our first significant amount of time apart since we started up. I’m starting to wonder how we’re going to make it through three months when I leave for Nashville come May. Oh yeah, I’ll be living in Nashville over the summer completing an internship at the Tennessee State Museum working with some photography collections and getting to work on some of the programs done across the state. I’m looking forward to it very much. Although I will be very busy and close to my friends and family again, I will miss Ryan greatly. But what’s that Rochefoucauld quotation, “Absence diminishes small loves and increases great ones, as the wind blows out the candle and fans the bonfire.” I’m banking on that being the case.

Enough of that business, though. I got to spend the entire day yesterday in the studio. I was also on fire. Out of seven plates, only one turned out slightly less than what I wanted. That never happens. I will freely admit I have expended five or six plates just to get one shot perfectly. I have a senior picture shoot with a local student Thursday so I hope the winning streak lasts.

Well, I think I have probably wasted enough time, and I should get onto my Ethics homework. I will leave you with two more things, though. Last Friday Ryan and I spent time listening to and sharing music with each other. The fact that we can do this is very important to me. We both share a love for La Blogothèque‘s Take Away Shows and, because we’re freakishly cute, we both think the Beirut ones are the best. So, as a last bit of gooey-eyedness here they are because they remind me of the lad (and they’re just amazing if you’ve never watched them). Enjoy.

(Okay, no more lovesick puppy nonsense again for a very long while).

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How could I not weigh in?

Well, today is Valentine’s Day, a day when, according to Time, people in the United States will spend approximately $126.03 per person on candy, jewelry, flowers, lingerie, stuffed bears that exclaim “I looooooove you!” in tinny voices. I’m not great with math, but considering that there are over 3 million of us, that’s a lot of dough.

Today, I am laid up in bed with a very wicked stomach virus my personal valentine, who is pretty pitiful right now as well, gave me, and I thought that while I rested I would meditate the holiday. We all know what Valentine’s Day has become as evidenced by the first paragraph of this post, but, being the history lover I am, I find the history (or jumble of histories, really) of the holiday much more fascinating and romantic than the swirl of consumerism that consumes our country every mid February. Here, then, is the quick and dirty history of  Valentine’s Day.

Like many holidays on our modern calendar, Valentine’s Day has pagan origins that extend beyond its Catholic ones. Each February 15, Roman’s would celebrate the festival of Lupercalia in honor of the god Faunus and Romulus and Remus. A goat would be sacrificed at the cave where the twins were believed to have been nursed by the wolf Lupa. The goat hide was then removed and cut into strips and dipped in the goat’s blood. Men would take the blood dipped strips around the city gently slapping women in order to ensure fertility for the coming year. If you know your Shakespeare, you’ll recognize this ritual in the first act of Julius Caesar. After the run the young ladies of the city would toss their names into an urn and the young men would fetch them out. Whoever got your name was essentially your new boyfriend or girlfriend for the coming year. It saves time and fuss, I can kind of see the appeal.

As Christianity spread in the Roman empire new origins for the holiday emerged. Many believe the Catholic Church adopted the date for the old festival of Lupercalia for the Feast of Saint Valentine in order to further convert the Roman people to Catholicism. As far as Saint Valentine’s involvement in the story is concerned, there are two major versions of the story. At this point it is also important to note that the Church recognizes multiple St. Valentines. They were all martyred as well. Hey, we’re talking Romans and the Catholic Church here. I didn’t promise it wouldn’t get convoluted. Anyway, one story alleges that a priest named Valentine helped young men marry their sweethearts secretly under the reign of Claudius II who wanted his soldiers minds on vanquishing the foes of the Roman Empire and not on their honeys back home. Valentine was discovered and put to death.

The second story, and perhaps the lesser known of the two, is of a Valentine who helped Christians escape Roman persecution. He, surprise, surprise, was caught as well and locked up himself. Apparently he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, and, as legend goes, sent her the first valentine in the form of a love letter signed “From your Valentine,” before he was also put to death. We know how much the Church loved to celebrate its martyrs with feasts back in the day so thus the Feast of St. Valentine was put in place to celebrate one or both of these guys.

Eventually this day of St. Valentine was moved to February 14th in the Middle Ages (because that’s apparently when scientific minds of the time believed birds started getting it on for the year). While some Medieval lovers chose to exchange tokens around this time, Valentine’s day did not become my widespread in it’s celebration until the seventeenth century. Europeans brought the holiday with them to the New World and there are reports of Valentine’s Day exchanges in the Americas dating to the 1700s. For those, like myself on occasion who bemoan the commercialism of the holiday, well, you have “the mother of the American Valentine,” Esther A. Howland to thank. She is the originator of the original mass-produced Valentine’s Day card. The daughter of a successful stationery store owner from Massachusetts began making her own gaudy, lacey, god awfully ornate versions of the English valentines (oh those Victorians) and pitched them to the American public with overwhelming success. The rest is history…

It’s pretty amazing to contemplate how the holiday has changed over the years. I’ve never been one much for celebrating it. I always looked on in disgust when I was in school at all of the flowers, candy boxes, balloons etc. that my fellow students received during the school day. It was an ostentatious display of over consumption, and to this day the Valentine’s Day aisles that appear pretty much right after the Christmas aisles are dismantled in major chain stores make me wish to vomit. I’ve also been part of that not-so-enthusiastic portion of the population that finds itself without valentines with which to celebrate the day. I know firsthand the desire to just get through the day without taking scissors to teddies’ necks or pins to balloons and wake up with the general haze of puppy love cleared from the air on February 15. However, looking back on the somewhat murky but really kind of romantic and sexy origins of the Day, I think I might have come to a civil truce with it. I think, when you truly love and care about your partner, there is nothing wrong with taking a day out of an otherwise overly jammed and distracted year to tell them and show them how much they mean to you. Yes, this should be done year round, but, let’s face it, sometimes we can get caught up in the insanity of our twenty-first century lifestyles, and we forget to do so. While I prefer the more handmade, thoughtful, original, and private approach, some people really feel that the only way to do it properly is the opposite. That’s cool, if that’s your thing. We all just need to remember, it’s not about what’s in the box, card, or bouquet, but instead it’s about why you’re giving that to your special someone.

Now that I’ve given my treatise on Valentine’s Day, I will finally shut up, and leave you all with something that I feel is essential for a perfect celebration of the day, good love poetry. This one is by my favorite poet Carl Sandburg and is coincidentally the one I’m exchanging with my valentine this year.

“I Love You” by Carl Sandburg

I love you for what you are,
but I love you yet more for what
you are going to be.
I love you not so much for your realities
as for your ideals.
I pray for your desires that they may be great,
rather than for your satisfactions,
which may be so hazardously little.
A satisfied flower is one whose petals are about to fall.
The most beautiful rose is one hardly more than a bud
Where in the pangs and ecstasies of desire
are working for a larger and finer growth.
Not always shall you be what you are now.
You are going forward toward something great.
I am on the way with you and
therefore I love you.

I wish love and happiness to you all today and for the days to come.


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So this is the new year…

Well, we’re a couple of weeks into 2012, and, I must say (without any intention of jinxing it), it is proving to have a much more pleasant beginning than 2011 had an ending. I don’t know if I believe all of the Mayan calendar talk. Well, let me rephrase, I know I don’t buy into the John Cusack, giant tidal waves eating D.C., apocalypse bunk that some seem to fear will be the ultimate result of 2012. I do, however, think that there could be change coming, a paradigm shift, to borrow Thomas Kuhn’s phrase rather poorly. Maybe there will be a collective switching of gears in consciousness. Maybe we will all be positively shaped to continue on in a more enlightened state of being. Maybe we’ll all just be happier, or maybe the Mayans just said “Fuck it, we’re tired of calculating for now. We’ll pick it back up in the next thousand years or so.” Who knows.

I would like to think that 2012 for me personally, at least, means that there is positive change coming. Well, I sort of know there is, it’s happening already, and I couldn’t welcome it any more warmly if I tried. A great many people have asked me in the past couple of weeks if I have made any resolutions for the new year. I tend not to. I think it’s a bad idea to script and plan change in one’s life. Too many times have I made concrete plans for my existence only to watch them crumble or morph into something completely different. However, I think I am breaking with my usual cynical tradition just this once.

The last week of December or so, my parents and I were driving home from some activity and on our way to pick up a dear friend’s dog at the kennel to take her home as a favor to her family. The dog, Maggie, is a boxer comprised entirely of joyousness and springs. She has never met a stranger, and her enthusiasm is infectious. She also enjoys giving rather intimate doggy kisses to anyone’s face within reach. I was in the back seat with her, and I became the recipient of such affections. After the first round of licks ensued, I suddenly found something emanating from deep within me that I had not experienced in quite some time: genuine, deep, raucous laughter. I’m talking belly laughs, the kind that make your sides hurt. I couldn’t stop. The more Mags licked my face, the more laughter poured out of me in an almost cathartic, cleansing rush of emotion.

My mother even turned to me and said “My gosh, Bets, I don’t remember the last time I heard you laugh like that!” She was right, it had been years, and in just seconds, a dog, the most unadulterated being of raw happiness, had returned it to me. It was at that time that I decided upon my new year’s resolution: let happiness happen. I feel that so often, over the last couple of years, I’ve blocked myself from experiencing it, and now it’s become critical that I make a change and remove those barriers.

So there you have it, everyone, Betsy is making a shocking move to remove her cloak of melancholy and biting cynicism (well at least a little of the latter), and open herself to the possibility of happiness. I am going to endeavor to go the way of my new guru Maggie and enjoy life’s offerings with innocence and love. I hope you all can do the same as the year progresses.

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