Friday, February 21, 2014

The Happiness App

What a wintery winter we have had this year.   It actually has properly served me, though.  By that I mean that it fits comfortably with my desire, no, make that my need to hibernate.  If it is bitterly cold and there is precipitation, particularly if it is of the freezing type, well who would want to leave the house?

Oh, there have been a few warm days.  That’s because we’ve had munchkin visits.  It’s hard to maintain a somber mood when there are magical little people giggling and running around.

Last week one day, the sun came out, and so did we, go out that is.  While we were in the car we were listening to NPR's Guy Raz from the Ted Radio Hour. He was speaking with social scientist Matt Killingsworth, who has developed the Happy App. (To find the app, go to Track Your

The gist of the story was that Mr. Killingsworth’s app, which can be downloaded on your smartphone, asks subscribers to answer a series of questions that are sent to the user three times a day.

The purpose of the research is to try to find out…

"to what extent are richer people happier, are people with children happier, are unemployed people less happy, etcetera. But it's hard to know for sure what's causing what and it's ever harder to know what can people actually change and have an impact in their lives.

Basically, I was quite sure that I was not “happy” most of the time.  I am not even sure that there is such a thing.  What is “being happy”, anyway?  I have moments when I feel content, peaceful and satisfied.  Is that happiness?

I was intrigued and interested in the study.  So I signed up.  

So far I have answered 14 samples.  I am 28% closer to finding out how my happiness varies depending on what I was doing, who I was with, where I was, what time of day it is, and a variety of other factors.

I am curious to find out the results of what is or isn’t affecting my “happiness”.

The first question that is always asked is “How do you feel right now?” 
There is a marker range which you can slide from “not at all happy” at one end to “extremely happy” at the other end.

It’s been a personal revelation that I have, in fact, never answered “not at all happy.”  And actually there have been one or two times that I slid that marker a little past the mid point towards the extremely happy end.

One thing that raises my spirits tremendously is that at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 9, 2014, our clocks will move an hour ahead (or spring forward) to begin daylight savings time.   More daylight means more vitamin D, which means less S.A.D. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

For That’s How I Feel

I read and heard a lot about the grieving process.  I don’t like the word process.  As if it is a formality which is planned with a definite set of rules to follow.   And then once you get to step last, “You will be okay, really,” they promise.
“It’s normal and natural to have those feelings, really,” they say.
At my age, I of course have experienced losses.  Not just death, but other kinds too.  Teenage crushes, unfulfilled promises, jobs, friendships, empty nests, and just recently two precious rings.
I remember a couple of my friends had parents who passed away at a young age.  My girlfriend Cathy lost her father when she was only 10 or 11, I think.  I recognize now that I didn’t quite understand it then.   When I look back,  I realize  how hard it must have been for her, her sister, for her mother, for the family.
Then in high school, another friend’s father died.  The group of us, who hung out together, all went to the wake.   It was the “right” thing to do, after all.  But again I have to admit, I wasn’t capable of empathy.
My first time, personally, with a loss from death, was when my grandmother died.  I was eighteen years old.  I loved that woman.  I didn’t go to her viewing or funeral.  I suspect I was afraid of the emotion.  Afraid, I guess, that I would lose control and act insane.   That’s how I felt though, insanely sad.
Cancer has taught me empathy.  Cancer is an evil task master whose victims must pull in close and cling to one another in order to survive.
I’ve lost many loved ones to cancer.  Gosh, when I think about the number, it is astonishing.
The first time I cared for someone, who was dying from cancer, was my father.  
And then 20 years later, I cared for my mother, when she was dying from cancer.
Recently, so very recently, my brother passed away.  We used to be six, you know.   I was one of six.  Three sisters and two brothers.  Now am I one of five?
I’m not sure I ever went through a “process” after any of my losses.  If I did, I wasn’t aware that is what I was doing.
Obviously, though,  I was able to climb up on Life’s back and ride again.
Not this time, though.  It’s so hard this time.  This time the loss was the greatest, by that I mean the worst.  Cancer, you did it again.  But this time you were too cruel, even for you.  You took my son.
I used to have three children,  when anyone would ask how many, I said three.  Now do I say two?
My other children, my grandkids, they massage my ache just by their being.
Ross, you know, he is there.  Always.  Always.
Oh,  I smile.  I joke.  I laugh.  I take pictures of birds. Geez, I even bowl.  And those times, when I am smiling and laughing and joking, bowling and birding, that’s real,  for the briefest of moment, it’s real.
The other times, though, wow, they are rough.   Those are the times when I scream and cry.  Those hours when the pain is unbearable.   That’s when I lose control and act insane.
For that’s how I feel, insanely sad.