nag nag nag nag nag

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

Seriously. Have you?

The corner of this bed—more specifically, the slipping of the clearly inadequate mattress pad that was previously on the corner of this bed—has been the bain of my existence for years. I’m not kidding. Years.

Night after night I’ve had merely to slip between the sheets to feel the clearly inadequate mattress pad pull from its tucked corner, causing the bottom sheet to slip, as well. Within 10 minutes the entire bed was nothing more than crumpled, uncomfortable mess.

(Don’t even get me started on the upper body strength required to make the bed the next morning.)

Whelp, no more. After reading The Happiness Project last January, it only took 13 months for me to enact one of Gretchen Rubin’s January resolutions: Tackle a nagging task.

Unfinished tasks were draining my energy and making me feel guilty.

Gretchen sat down and made a five page list of all those annoyances she just couldn’t seem to deal with, realizing their unfinished state exhausted her. Then she set about tackling the list.

Buy that wedding present. Mail that package. Fix the hall light.

GET A NEW MATTRESS PAD.

It took 10 minutes and $35 (yes, I splurged and went base model+ at Target), and for the past three nights, Tim and I have had the most peaceful nights’ sleep in a long time.

Partly due to the bedding, of course. But also due to the fact that I no longer fall asleep thinking:

One of these days, I’m going to need to do something about this #@%! mattress pad.

I’m so inspired I’m now going to work on the next item on the Nag Nag Nag List:

DEVELOP A SYSTEM FOR KNOWING WHAT SIZE KNITTING NEEDLES I ALREADY OWN WHEN I AM ABOUT TO SHELL OUT $19.95 FOR YET ANOTHER PAIR OF SIZE 10.5 CIRCULARS.

Oh, January. I do love you.

Rows and Rows

This is not the post I sat down to write.

The truth is I got sidetracked when I went to the bookshelf to reference something from one of my favorites.

Happiness Project, where are you?

I scanned the titles, and I have to tell you I had a bit of a moment. What a miracle it is, I thought, that those shelves don’t just collapse from the wonderfulness of it all. 

Okay, okay. There might be one or two I could remove from the lineup.

We’ve spent many a contented hour together, those books and I, whispering grand secrets, living braver lives, wandering worlds foreign to me. What journeys we have taken.

How quiet they are now. Sitting there, waiting.

 

Personal commandment #1: Be me.

Do you believe, as I do, that a wonderful gift of age is the ability to embrace—and celebrate—the things that make us different? It’s something that’s on my mind as I watch my own daughter, now 19, move beyond that overwhelming teenage need to blend and belong. She is a little more Eliza each time she comes home from college.

I think back to a gathering of my lifelong friends, the Wise Women, when we met last Spring at Primland. There was a moment late Saturday night when I looked around the room and into those familiar faces and I thought: How I love these women. How I admire them. How surprised I am we are here, all these years later, such an eclectic group.

Amy, Julie, Lisa, Suzann, Vickie, Cathy, Sharon

You see, we seven have been friends for 50 years. We share a unique history, growing up together in the 60s and 70s in the rugged mountains of Southwest Virginia, remote, isolated even. It was quite a time.

We were quite a group.

You might expect that we Wise Women would, today, have a great deal in common. And we do. Time together reconnects those links and offers a powerful, centering force. But we have also grown into ourselves, each of us, and have become a rather diverse collection. These annual gatherings are a celebration of those differences; they are the moments in which I feel the most transparent, loved not in spite of but because of the ways I have Become Cathy in my South Carolina life.

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Be Gretchen is the first commandment author Gretchen Rubin wrote for herself in her year-long quest for greater happiness. I found it to be such a profound concept I, too, put it at the top of my list. In doing so, I vowed to let go of some long-held (and constantly nagging) intentions in exchange for an honoring of those abilities and interests that come to me more naturally.

What a wildly liberating thought. How wonderful to release the burden of eternal expectation and to instead, simply acknowledge what is.

I will get organized; clean off my desk. I will launch a thousand good ideas into the world.

I will learn to love to run, dammit! I will stretch and strengthen with Pilates.

I will start less and finish more. I will have a little bit of everything, thank you.

When it comes to our Wise Women weekends—making reservations, planning meals, coordinating travel—I am not the friend tasked with “details,” you can be sure. But there’s no doubt I will drive up in a car loaded down with bag after bag of unsanctioned snacks, several knitting projects, a sketchbook or two, a stack of magazines, the last 10 books I’ve loved, a ridiculous assortment of outfits. And shoes. Always way too many shoes.

After all. How can a girl possibly know on Thursday what she is going to feel like wearing on Sunday?

Actually, we all take too many shoes. (We counted.)

 

My Very Own Happiness Project

Have you ever read a book that changed your life?

This one changed mine. And I don’t mean in an esoteric, it-made-me-feel-good-for-a-little-while kind of way. I mean it changed the way I function on a daily basis.

Author Gretchen Rubin starts The Happiness Project with this commentary that got my attention right away:

I’d always vaguely expected to outgrow my limitations.

One day, I’d stop twisting my hair, and wearing running shoes all the time, and eating exactly the same food every day. I’d remember my friends’ birthdays, I’d learn Photoshop, I wouldn’t let my daughter watch TV during breakfast. I’d read Shakespeare. I’d spend more time laughing and having fun, I’d be more polite, I’d visit museums more often, I would’t be scared to drive.

One April day, on a morning just like every other morning, I had a sudden realization: I was in danger of wasting my life. As I started out the rain-spattered window of a city bus, I saw that the years were slipping by. ‘What do I want from life, anyway?’ I asked myself. ‘Well…I want to be happy.’ But I had never thought about what made me happy or how I might be happier.

She goes on to say:

The words of the writer Colette had haunted me for years: What a wonderful ife I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner!

Count me in. I, too, live a beautiful, blessed life, and I am terrified to let one single moment pass in which I am not making the absolute most of all God has given me. Gretchen was speaking to me.

I learned so much in the year I spent with The Happiness Project, it’s difficult to decide what to highlight here. But I’ll start with the 12 Commandments I wrote for myself, following her lead. (The commandments with an * came directly from The Happiness Project. They are so powerful I simply had to adopt them. An immeasurable thanks to you, Gretchen Rubin.)

Cathy’s 12 Commandments

  1. Be me.*
  2. Identify the problem.*
  3. Do it now.*
  4. Give proofs of love.*
  5. Go ahead and use it.
  6. Find a way.
  7. Be present.
  8. Make it fun.
  9. Live generously.
  10. Do something new.
  11. Give thanks.
  12. Make room.

There is much to say about each commandment and how it has made my life (and those of my family and co-workers, no doubt!) happier, more peaceful, richer. Perhaps I will make these among my next posts. But for now, let me just encourage you to get Gretchen’s book. I can’t guarantee it will change your life the way it has mine. But I can promise it will bring a clarity to the daily and the extra special that will make it all more significant.

And isn’t that what we’re really after?

ps: The audiobook is also really good, delivered in Gretchen’s own voice. I confess I listen to it over and over, usually while I’m doing my chores.