Samara O'Shea

Archive for January, 2009

Sporadic Journaling

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I came across this year-old journal entry while looking for someone’s phone number. Normally, I journal in my journal (as is appropriate), but there are times when my journal is not handy and I have to make due with the nearest piece of paper. In this case it was my notebook. My notebook is a small spiral-bound book I carry with me to write down phone numbers, Web sites, to-do lists, addresses, and sometimes actual journal entries. It’s a book of all trades. It’s much lighter than my journal and stays in my purse.

The problem is I’m never prepared to re-read my notebook the way I re-read my journal. If and when I re-read my journal, I mentally get ready to be embarrassed, shocked, and—on a good day—enlightened by what I once wrote. There is no such prep for my notebook because I always flip through it carelessly looking for something else. Finding a journal entry in there is like a finding a book in the fridge. It’s well . . . strange. So this is what I got when looking for a simple phone number the other day:

January 15, 2008

It’s so quiet here. So quiet that I wonder if I’ll ever again be surrounded by noise. I want to sleep but I can’t—it’ll ruin my actual sleep. I want to go into my room but its messy and I’d rather not deal with it.

Bob invited me out this evening. I lied and told him I was still in Boston. I want to go out but I don’t want to risk arriving then wanting to go right away—wishing I had stayed home in the first place.

Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Recession . . .

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

I fear someday we’ll talk about the postman the way we talk about the milkman: Isn’t it weird? Someone used to come to your house every day and actually deliver . . . mail! The Post Office announced today that it might need to go down to delivering only five days a week as a big bad cost cutter. I support this motion if it means cutting back hours rather than eliminating jobs completely. And I say we rally in support of the good ole USPS. For their years of service—delivering paychecks, summer camp letters, college applications, and postcards way back when the only was to send them was through the post office.

How about this: If you have something to send but it doesn’t need to arrive tomorrow then you send it through the post office. If it’s a gift or a note and time is not necessarily of the essence then let our friendly mailmen and women take care of it. If USPS cuts back one day and we up our sending of thoughtful, thinking-of-you parcels then we might get to keep this great institution.

Random Side Effects of the Recession

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

In early January, a friend of mine and I noticed an excess of infomercial-type commercials on reputable channels—like CNN and the History Channel. Commercials about penis pills and pieces of plastic that’ll make your life better somehow. We wondered if it didn’t have something to do with the recession. Low and below—it does.

I wonder what Super Bowl commercials are going to look like this year . . .

The Pursuit of Happiness

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

There is an excellent article in this month’s Psychology Today about happiness. It’s not as simple as just feeling good—but we all knew that.

For my second book, Note to Self, I wrote a section called “Let it (Loneliness) Be.” It didn’t make it into the book but I held onto it and posted it on my page a while back. I’m going to post it again here side by side with (or just above) a short section from the Happiness article. This is a little bit of a shameless juxtaposition because what I wrote is mirrored by the Psychology Today excerpt. Anne Lamott says that the soul rejoices when it sees the truth, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m seeing a truth that I discovered on my own written across someone else’s pages. It’s validating! And the rest of the article is superb. Do read.

Let it (Loneliness) Be (written by me)

As I mentioned earlier, I tend to be an in-clement weather diarist. Sorrow and uncertainty will get me writing like nobody’s business. As far as keeping a life’s record, this can be dangerous as it may someday appear that I was more miserable than not. However, as far as therapy is concerned, this is a great way to deal with pain. Writing has saved my sanity on multiple occasions. I’ve concluded in recent years that it does no good to fight off any emotion. We need them all. It’s the seemingly bad, counter-emotions that enable us to appreciate the positive emotions. Without sadness, happiness is taking out the trash. Without loss, gain is turning your right blinker on.

As we get older, we can ideally start to anticipate our reactions to certain situations and create an emotional equilibrium. Our emotions are on rotate and they all need playing time. In other words, you can never rid yourself of sadness, anger, disappointment, and hurt. You can, however, know that they will be back at some point and prepare yourself. This will sound strange, but I’ve made a point of feeling—really feeling—my negative emotions. Loneliness, for example: if I feel a bought of it coming on, I don’t push it away or tell myself I’m not feeling it. Rather I let it bring me down. I spend the afternoon with it. I write in my journal and listen to music that reinforces the emotion. I give myself deadlines when doing this—such as, You have until tomorrow morning to feel this way (longer depending on the situation)—so as not to run the risk of being a perpetual sourpuss. Here’s the upside: I’ve discovered that when I dig into my mushy emotions the same way I dig my hands into the belly of a pumpkin, I am granted the good stuff for extended periods of time. When I allow sadness to run a full course through me, then my days of happiness last much longer.

Journaling played a large role in my being able to endure each emotion, as writing about anything makes it more real. Once the emotion solidifies then you can see it, touch it, and experience it fully. Our emotions have minds of their own, but we can learn to work with them and, in doing so, have them work for us. In the middle of a distressing period, unforeseen or not, I like to remind myself that the heart is a muscle and, like all muscles, it needs a good workout.

Pain Is a Part of Happiness (from Psychology Today)

Happiness is not your reward for escaping pain. It demands that you confront negative feelings head-on, without letting them overwhelm you. Russ Harris, a medical doctor-cum-counselor and author of The Happiness Trap, calls popular conceptions of happiness dangerous because they set people up for a “struggle against reality.” They don’t acknowledge that real life is full of disappointments, loss, and inconveniences. “If you’re going to live a rich and meaningful life,” Harris says, “you’re going to feel a full range of emotions.”

The point isn’t to limit that palette of feelings. After all, negative states cue us into what we value and what we need to change: Grief for a loved one proves how much we cherish our relationships. Frustration with several jobs in a row is a sign we’re in the wrong career. Happiness would be meaningless if not for sadness: Without the contrast of darkness, there is no light.

And the Greatest of these is . . . Hope

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Have you ever been afraid to hope for something? Afraid to even entertain a possibility because the let down could be great? I have. In the past few years I’ve mastered the art of not hoping. What I’ll do is try for something—whether is be an article, a book, a man—and then once I’ve placed my number in the pot I’ll immediately start telling myself It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. That way when it doesn’t happen I don’t have to deal with being disappointed. And, of course, if it does happen the elation is even greater (or so I tell myself).

I’m in a tough spot right now, and it’s making me think it’s time to change my method. There is a thing I want—really really want! It’s a grant. It is a sum of money that would enable me to take off for an entire year and be nothing but a writer. No part time jobs. No unfulfilling full time jobs. Just me and my novel. The application for this grant was due in early December. I dutifully turned it in. A few weeks later I received a post card saying that my application was received and is complete. This is a big deal because the application was meticulous and many things could have gone wrong. The other option was to receive the post card with the words “Your application has been received but there is a problem, please call us.”

The hard part is over. Whew! Now I wait until June to find out if I am one of the recipients. There are a lot of applicants I’m sure, and the odds are slim. But I can’t help but think the stars will align for me. Reading the eligibility requirements was a small feat in and of itself because I met every single one. I feel so hopeful right now, and I don’t want to turn it off. I’m realizing what an extraordinary emotion hope is. All the possibilities in the world reside inside of you for a period time.

I’m old enough to know that I won’t always get what I want. I’m wise enough to know not to put all of my eggs in this one basket. June is a ways away and I have plenty of other goals to distract me between now and then, but I’m not whispering to myself that it won’t happen. It might happen. It just might! And if it doesn’t then I’ll be disappointed. Disappointment is a small price to pay for diving head first into hope.

The title of this blog is a play on words from the Bible. The verse (from 1 Corinthians 13:13) reads as follows: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I’m certainly not suggesting we change the way that it’s written, but I think we should rotate the importance of the three. Some days love can be the greatest, other days faith, and this day (or this week I should say) hope. Hope is in the air on a personal level for many of us, and it’s certainly abound on the national level. I never thought I’d see a black man become president in my lifetime. What has been hoped for for a long time is coming to fruition. And our new president is about to lead us into the age of hope—hope for the vast improvement of our circumstance. Enjoy tomorrow. Hope away!

My Dearest Daughters

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

I had to share: A letter from soon-to-be President Barack Obama to his gorgeous girls.

John Grogan and His Paper Trail

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Just something I came across . . . John Grogan (author of Marley and Me) talks about his second book, The Longest Trip Home, and how the paper trail he left as a young man was essential to writing this book. For a second or two it doesn’t seem like he’ll talk about it. He discusses the oral tradition in his family first, but wait for it . . . it’s coming.