At Christmas I received a book called “52 Lists for Happiness” from my daughter, Kristen, to use in my morning meditations. It has 52 weekly list-making prompts, and I found this one very interesting: “List the ways you think someone you love would describe you.” I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make myself write-out-loud what I thought someone would say about me. So I changed it up and thought of 3 people I loved that I saw yesterday and wrote down some words that I would use to describe them.
Tod Smith: Strong, lighthearted, athletic, fun, observant, witty, generous, helpful.
Joyce Cohen: Kindhearted, creative, resilient, gentle, wise, other-centered, artistic.
Mom/Dad (Yes, the 2 have become one!): Independent, nurturing, playful, responsible, loving, faithful, gentle.
It was easy to name people who loved me, which was a good exercise in gratitude. The question of “Who do they say that I am?” still remains. I went on a search for Jane Kenyon’s poem “Happiness” because my mind works that way. Tod calls it “drifting.”
There’s just no accounting for happiness, or the way it turns up like a prodigal who comes back to the dust at your feet having squandered a fortune far away. And how can you not forgive? You make a feast in honor of what was lost, and take from its place the finest garment, which you saved for an occasion you could not imagine, and you weep night and day to know that you were not abandoned, that happiness saved its most extreme form for you alone. No, happiness is the uncle you never knew about, who flies a single-engine plane onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes into town, and inquires at every door until he finds you asleep midafternoon as you so often are during the unmerciful hours of your despair. It comes to the monk in his cell. It comes to the woman sweeping the street with a birch broom, to the child whose mother has passed out from drink. It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker, and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots in the night. It even comes to the boulder in the perpetual shade of pine barrens, to rain falling on the open sea, to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.