on making happy

Medieval Angry Birds, Add MS 42130, f. 145r; via The British Library
Medieval Angry Birds, Add MS 42130, f. 145r; via The British Library

Dear Internet,

Now that my challenge for November of writing every day is over, I decided to start setting additional monthly challenges for myself to see how I will fare with those. For the month of December I decided I will attempt to spend most of my writing time on working out what it means to be happy, which I am sure you will agree, is no small feat. Philosophers have spent lifetimes decoding what the simple phrase “being happy” means and there is almost never any universal agreement. While I do not think I will have it figured out in 30 days, I do want to make an honest stab at what decoding it for myself entails with pure intent, without guile, and without a handful of snark.

That last bit will be hardest to overcome, I am sure.

Lest you be afraid of my cynical heart of getting in the way, I will have some help. I will be using Gala Darling’s DARE/DREAM/DO email seminar which I bought back in October and have not started yet. I do not remember how I found Ms. Darling, but I have been enamoured with her site for quite some time and appreciate how much she posits that to be happy means work. Hard work. She is not shy on giving you straight forward advice either, which also seduced me to her.

As DARE/DREAM/DO was designed to be a one a day thing, I will  be tackling and writing each day individually. Since I am starting this a few days after the first of December, the DARE/DREAM/DO sequence will go over into early January.

Additionally, I will also be looking at techniques from Zen Habits. If you have been following along with my posts on minimal packing, a lot of my inspiration came from Leo Babauta. Lastly, I will be also incorporating any articles, posts, or bits that I have stumbled upon along the way and adding them into the mix.

Because I fear this will be a massive month of writing, as I also plan to do other writing on top the making happy challenge, if you’re interested in following along with me, add the Making Happy feed to your RSS reader or just click on the Making Happy tag to see what is going on and where I am at. And as always, if you have any suggestions for sites, articles, books, or something else entirely you think I should read/view/hear, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

I was partially inspired to shape this challenge by a recent blog post by Theodora Goss and wholly inspired by her entry title, because it was a kick in the pants reminder happiness does not just come to you, it has to be worked for and earned.

But I believe that happiness is different: it’s a day to day, minute by minute thing. Whether I am happy at any give moment can depend quite a lot on whether or not I am eating a cupcake. If I am eating a cupcake, I am happy. (Depending on the cupcake, of course. I mean, I’m picky.) Happiness does in fact depend on things outside ourselves, so to make ourselves happy, we need to change things outside ourselves. (At least, that’s a lot easier than just trying to be happy, which I think is a very hard thing to do. Make yourself be happy, try to produce an internal state of happiness without changing anything external . . . Much easier to buy a cupcake.) Theodora Goss

She then goes on to list the things, simple things really, on what makes her happy. After reading her post, I tried to come up with a list of things off the top of my head in the same vein and found myself struggling with that list, but here it is:

  • Really good, dark chocolate. Sometimes all I need is just a bite to satiate me and make me happy
  • A fancy bubble bath with good smelling soaps and a book to read while I soak
  • Watching my stock pile of Jane Austen and related movies. Fictional, influenced, blatant rip-off – doesn’t matter. My world always seems to be brighter when I spend a few hours with Jane.
  • Wearing something from my collection of BPAL scents. I have a few non-BPAL oils but BPAL almost always wins hands down for selection, price, and smell.
  • I can listen to Elbow‘s entire catalog on repeat forever and never get tired of Guy Garvey’s voice. May I present their rendition of Beyonce’s Independent Woman, as played out by kittens.
    [iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/zSQDR1yF3uQ?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]
  • Listening to Cabin Pressure, as defined here.

Small list, but a good start.

It should be noted when I went through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) training for my Borderline Personality Disorder, much of the training concentrates on the purpose of self-soothing techniques for when I go into crisis, of which much of that training seems I have misplaced over the last few years. So this is a good reminder to stockpile those skills because there will be a point in the future when I am in crisis again. But it is also good to have this list of happy making readily available not for when I’m in crisis, but a reminder of what makes me whole.


This day in Lisa-Universe:

thank you for reading

The Vatican Secret Archive.  Courtesy of The Vatican Secret Archives, Vdh Books
The Vatican Secret Archive.
Courtesy of The Vatican Secret Archives, Vdh Books

Dear Internet

The other day I was checking my stats and noticed that a lonely/stalking/creepy/admiring soul had decided to go through my entire archive and read every single thing I had written. They went through 500+ pages ranging back to 1995 — and that is just what’s up online. If you go through the archive, you realise there are large swathes of time missing: months in some years, years in some decades.

I was both pleased as punch and alternately creeped out.

Conversation has been happening on Facebook about the steady stream of writing that has been coming from me as of late, and I responded to a friends comment with the following:

It IS true I get more commentary/page views when the shit is deep, but it’s mentally and emotionally exhausting to keep digging that ditch every day. I’m not sitting in a corner thinking deep thoughts all day erry day, and most people aren’t either.

Modern wisdom seems to be to have a singular mission with your site and keep on with that mission. So if you’re on about dairy free cooking, bee keeping, or whatever – that is all you’re going to (mainly) talk about. That’s how most of the big name bloggers tend to operate and it works for them. But frankly, that’s not how I operate and once I gave myself the permission to write about whatever I damn well please, writing has become a helluva lot easier.

Up until I published Live Action Sexual Harassment, EPbaB had a couple of of goals, the main being to aggressively document my mental and physical health, which so far has been fairly successful. Secondly was to document the little things and not so little things that happen in my life. Like many who keep their journals online with an eye to a public view, I also came up with a few different series’ that seem to be appreciated by the public such as my weekly wrap-up of my interests at Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes,  The Packing Lists series which always gets a lot of comments and views, and my erratically updated So, You Want To Be A Librarian/Archivist series which remains fairly popular. A few other series include Le Mi Passioni which documents the things that I love and Kalendae Januariae about the small and not so small changes I want to make to my life.

So while I’ve been writing online for a very long time (my 16th anniversary is next year!), I am no where near readership that I once was or could be. I know this is for a lot of reasons: Domain name changes, blog name changes, lost of interest by the readers, I stopped writing for a few years, and probably a few more other reasons to add to this list. In the year since I’ve started becoming more assertive in writing more regularly, my readership grows at small, but steady, clip. I was, and still am, pleased with the content I’m writing. I was, and still am, thrilled when people say they are inspired, touched, or moved by what I write.

None of that has changed and will never change.

But sometimes you feel, as you do, what is the point of all this, really? When I started doing this online writing thing in the late ’90s, it was a novel act that no one would ever imagine in becoming a way of life. Defining a “blog” now tends to come to mean a product or a brand, less about content, even less about writing, and more about selling and page views.

I don’t see myself as a brand. Or a product. But I supposed you could style what I do as any of those things when people email me to thank on the advice for being dairy free, or they found something else useful on my site. The service you could present I am selling is me and my experiences, which is not necessarily a bad thing since those experiences are freely available.

Then Live Action Sexual Harassment happened.

I wrote Live Action Sexual Harassment right after I came home from the pub, in Evernote on my iPad because my laptop was almost dead. I did not care if it was polished, grammatically correct, or even coherent. I had something to say and I needed to get out. Then. Now.

My charging brick had been dead once I got to Monterey a few days before and my laptop was nearly half out of juice when I discovered the dead brick. If I could squeak out five minutes out of the damn battery, maybe even less, to get the entry into WordPress and get it formatted and published, I would have been thrilled. Several of the WP management apps for the iPad are bonkers, and I had already lost some previous work when trying to get previous offerings up. But I had to get it written and if I could not get into my site while in California, I would do it when I came home.

I woke up Wednesday morning, booted up my laptop for the last time that trip, and was able to get the entry in, formatted, and published. I had few spare battery moments to create a few tweets to be pushed out later in the day and also enough time to double check for spelling and grammar errors before the final publishing. Once I was satisfied everything was to my expectations, I closed down my laptop and started getting ready for the day.

The entry posted mid-morning on Wednesday and within hours, my site had already eclipsed its previous record for day page views. By the end of the calendar day, the entry, and my site, would have earned 10x the traffic it would normally would have seen. In addition to the site traffic, the original tweet was RT several dozen times and variations of of that tweet pointing to the work was close to double that number.

Within a couple of hours of posting, and I was on the conference floor, I became known as “the girl who wrote that post.” Strangers I had never met approached me and talked about being brave, raw, and honest. I got emails, tweets, and comments from friends and strangers about similar things happening to them.

Having experiencing some notoriety in the late ’90s for exposing a hacker fraud, a similar chain of events had happened: I was found first, then I wrote something, I went viral, page and reader views skyrocketed, then levelled out for awhile, my life went insane, readership slowed down and then petered out.

To answer my previous question of, “What is this all for, really?” – the answer remains, and will always remain, to express myself in the only way possible. Some days it is going to be fluff, and other days it’s going to be depressing, and some others a combination of both or something entirely different. There is no theme here – unless you count the theme as me. There is no agenda – unless you count self-expression as an agenda. Some days, like today, the content is going to flow. Other days it will be halting and broken. Pitch perfect grammar, flow, and spelling and then broken words, missed commas, and lost trains of thought.

But that is how life works – nothing is always properly formatted, coherent, or sometimes even sustainable. If you are looking for a confessional, conversational tone, and often deeply revealing look into one person’s life, with occasional foray into the silly: I’m your girl.

And thank you for reading.


P.S. Someone once asked me how long it takes to write an entry so I thought I’d eyeball the time for this one: From conception (a comment I posted on FB that sparked the post), to finding the image, writing, editing, re-editing, more editing, polishing, and formatting took me under two hours. The chunk of it was consecutive, but the last hour was broken up over several hour gaps while I was doing something. Total word count: 1300. On average, I can write clean 750 words an hour.

This day in Lisa-Universe in:

Kalendae Januariae: November Update

Dear Internet,

When I started writing the Kalendae Januariae, I didn’t really have a plan in mind on when to update other than I should do it often. Scarily, I find myself  now almost an entire year gone since the first entry; since the first of the month is about renewals, it was seemed like a good time to see how I’m progressing.

Buy Nothing in 2013

In 2012, I placed 114 orders from Amazon. This did not include digital files, or orders placed with other vendors which would push that number even higher. As of November 1, 2013, I’ve placed only 29 orders via Amazon and I’ve hardly bought any t-shirts this year! A dramatic drop in spending compared to the year before and obviously I’m beyond thrilled that I could cut my spending so drastically. Am I reaping any benefits from the lack of shopping? Sadly, no. My income drops dramatically in the summer and I’ve had to pay for work conferences galore. Thus all cash saved from not spending it on me, went right into travel, lodging, and conference fees. It’s frustrating.

I do find myself being more conscientious on making instant spending decisions. The question of, “Do I need another pair of chucks?”, almost always has the answer of, “Probably not.” My biggest problem is, and has been, going out to eat since I do so many work related meetings around lunch or meeting up with friends for drinks after work.  So while I’m not spending money on frivolous things galore, I am still spending a lot of money on entertainment and food.

I decided to hook up You Need A Budget (YNAB) and start implementing the practice as soon as possible. TheHusband has said if I want to do any big trips next year, like Europe, I’ll have to come up with half the cash for the trip and he’ll match it. Right now I’ve saved approximately $92.32, which will pay for the cab to the airport. I started on/off on keeping track of what I am spending and I’d like to boost that up again to actually better track how my disposable income is being spent.

2013 will be the year of creativity (even if it kills me)

2013 has been a crazy year, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

But you know what? That’s okay.

I did not get the opportunity to do the projects I had set out to do this year for this task, but I’m not giving up hope. They are still things that interest me and still things that need to be done. Now that I’m off of Lithium again, and my moods have evened out, I’m feeling a lot better to tackle these projects.

Year of the written word

Read all the books/comics I own before buying more For the most part, this has been kept true. My book/comic buying have been reduced dramatically, but my reading for the year is still as haphazard as before. I still do not think finishing a book a week is out of the question, but again, this year has been a crazy year of emotional, mental, and physical ups and downs. While I may not be reading as many books, I AM reading our delivered newspapers and magazines regularly, so there is some comfort in that.

In January, I said I wanted to

  • Write 10 hours a week  (Does not include blogging)
  • Write 250 word blog entries 5x a week (Get proficient enough to knock it out in 1/2 hour).
  • Keep notes on everything
  • Write a short story a month.
  • Write a poem a month.
  • Get something published by my birthday in June

While I have not followed these steps exactly, again I don’t think these goals are not unreasonable, I am pretty proud of the output I did this year. According to a word stat counter, since January 1, I:

  • Wrote 82, 261 words over
  • 108 posts (average 11 posts a month) and 17 pages

This does not include any notes, work done on paper, editing of pre-2013 posts, and so forth. Add another a rather conservative estimate of 25K words for over 100,000 words this year alone and for that, I’m really proud. Sure, I didn’t get a poem or prose published, but that’s also okay. I’ve got a better sense of what I want to do and what I want to write, and I know I can always do better. Produce more. Leave a mark on the world. Keep pushing forward.

Strangely the thing I’m most proud of is I have not skipped a week of Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes. I set a goal to do something every week and I did it. It’s small, but as this is the first time I’ve ever actively worked on something to the end.

teh interwebs

Unsubscribe from unnecessary mailing lists Always ongoing, I’ve been unsubscribing left and right with the intent of getting my mail in order. But, and there is always a but, my mail is still a bloody mess. One thing I have discovered is my filters were part of the problem, so I removed filters from all incoming mail which has worked tremendously. But my mail is still a mess, but a more manageable mess.

Delete unused social media accounts Always ongoing. Like the mailing list conundrum, I’d get a random email from some company I had signed up with years ago to find out they are now active/selling their business/something and I have to go in and scrape my data. Or I discovered I am not actually using the site all that much anymore. In becoming ever vigilant in being able to control my data

Stop following people/services/accounts/blogs that no longer hold my interest/are not engaging  The mass culling is constant still. I’ve either moved companies/people/brands to separate feeds or stopped following them altogether.  I found, however, that I don’t actually follow or read the separate feeds and you know, I don’t miss it. I’m also being more aggressive in getting stuff out of my RSS feeds by reading them in a more timely basis / cleaning up uninteresting things. I stopped apologizing to myself for unfollowing people who aren’t my cup of tea anymore.

Get the archives back up  YES! I have been doing this! Anyone following the Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes knows without fail I’ve been diligent almost every week getting some of the archives up. It’s slow work, a lot slower than I had anticipated, but it is going on.

Stop buying domains No new domains were purchased in 2013. Huzzah!

Stop obsessively checking social media accounts  Not as much as a problem as it was earlier in the year, but still a problem. I’m finding myself more and more with having time on my hands, checking FB/Twitter and the like, and then having nothing else to do despite the fact I have over a 100 apps on my phone. Because this is where it becomes problematic is when I’m out and about and not always in the position of carrying a book, magazine, or something
Overall, not a bad start. Next year is going to be even better.


This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2012, 2011, 2011, 1998