Recently I had a conversation with someone I have not known long, and after mentioning some of the activities I had planned for the weekend, they replied, “How do you do all that?” I made an offhand remark about making time by eliminating chores like laundry and dishes from my daily routine. (If only that were a joke…) I thought about what she said though, and why these varied activities are a part of my life. The reason is, they make me happy. In fact, one my earliest posts on this blog was about the capacity for happiness. We all have things we do because they enhance our lives – and if you don’t have these things, I’m willing to bet you’re not a very happy person.
That’s not to say that activities equal happiness. There is a yin to this yang – Antoine du Saint-Exupery (The Little Prince) wrote, “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Part of happiness is balance of doing and not doing. The list of things I don’t do is much longer than this humble list, in no particular order, of things that make me happy.
1. Improv. Tip of the hat to the Monkey for this one. Learning improv, playing and performing it, and watching others improvise, is one of the greatest sources of creative pleasure in my life. I consciously dropped other activities to allow time for this pursuit. Right now I rehearse twice a week (two different groups) and perform in stints that average out to around 3-4 performances every other month or so. I am pretty good at it and I love the challenge of practicing the skills and also yielding to the magic. I also love the community of it – there’s no such thing as solo improv. You must always have another person with which to share the scene. Improv is an exchange of spontaneous ideas with another person in which you’re totally free to choose the best script of all the possibilities in the world. And there’s the real magic – you don’t know going into it what the final product will be, but you trust that right mix of skill and luck will produce something beautiful.
2. Photography. Same thing really: the right mix of skill and luck will produce magic. I love the satisfaction of interacting with a subject and capturing in a single moment the life and spirit inherent within. I love that a camera sees those single moments in a way human eyes never can, and the image can be preserved indefinitely and experienced by those who were not there. And I love the art of making subtle manipulations to the finished product that reflect my personal aesthetic and vision for the reality that was when I imagined the picture and snapped the shutter. I am simply in love with making beautiful photos.
3. Blogging – This a relatively new development, but one I’ve adjusted life to allow time for. I include under this category both the writing of my own blog and the reading of others. I read blogs for two reasons: either because I like the person who writes it and what they write engages me, or because the subject of the blog is a subject about which I care and desire to stay informed. And I write for similar reasons: to share with and engage those I like, and to induce others to care about and be informed about issues I believe to be important. And I like to write.
4. Love & Sex – Sharing my life with the Monkey has made everything – everything! – richer and more worthwhile. On the list of “things I do” is protecting our time together from things that would take me elsewhere. While we both go about our daily lives in harmony, there are certain segments of time we hold sacred as being for each other. Both the day to day and the intentional times fuel the connection between us. I love brushing our teeth together before bed as much as I love a dinner or theater date. As important as time spent in companionship is time spent cultivating our sexual relationship. Our needs and desires sometimes differ or surface at uncoordinated times. Regardless, our needs and desires are centered on each other and we find the paths to satisfaction. Good sex makes me very happy. Hooray for the Monkey. I guess, like improv and photography, skill and luck combine in the art of good sex.
5. Food: gathering and eating. It’s odd maybe that I find as much delight in the gathering of food as in the preparing and eating of it. Making time for the pleasures of food, from purchase to the last forkful from my plate, is another satisfying creative outlet. There’s no doubt that good food has positive mental and physical effects (so does good sex!). The blend of healthful choices, delicious ingestion, and the bigger picture of influencing positive change in food systems by my choices makes the gathering and eating of food a worthwhile endeavor to me.
6. Homemaking. Though I neglect basic chores on a fairly regular basis, I do love dwelling in and being surrounded by my home. I love sharing it – both intimately with the Monkey, and socially with friends. I like to take photos of it when it’s at its best, and I grow food in it, love cooking in it and inviting others in to eat with me. I’ve improvised in it, I’ve edited photos in it, I’ve written my blog in it, and I’ve made love in (every room of) it. (Guests might not want to know that.) Maintaining my home is a part of my happiness.
There are other things I include in my list of important things -like riding my bike and getting exercise, having lunch with a close friend, visiting New York, sleeping in on weekends, and calling my mother – that receive a regular dole of the precious resource that is time. I try to stay mindful of the concept of perfection being achieved when all that is not needed is removed, and all that is needed is cherished.