The pursuit of happiness

So yesterday was not a very good day for me. Heart disease has forced its way back into my life. It is taking things I wanted. It is reminding me I’m not in control. Most days I can manage that. Some days I can’t.

Yesterday was one of those can’t-manage days.

My friend Kristen came over to distract me, listen, let me vent, keep me together. We sat in the sun on my blue chairs in the backyard on the last day of summer. (Today it appears winter is here.) We talked about some important things and some silly things and then she asked me to answer this:

“What makes you feel happy when you are all by yourself?”

She was adamant that no other people can be involved – no kids, no friends, no husband. I was more curious how she’d answer it than answering myself, but once I got started it was easy. She just said happy. Not happiest, not most fulfilled, not most meaningful. Just happy.

So here they are, in no particular order:

  • Drinking my coffee in the armchair in the bay window in my dining room.
  • My favorite wood earrings.
  • Wrapping a package or present, and making it extra cute.
  • Writing
  • Geeking out on technology; teaching myself to edit php or css files. Reading online tutorials until I get it.
  • My house when it is tidy and pretty.
  • Running
  • The light in the living room in the afternoon.
  • Getting some idea to make something or organize something or fix something and then finding all the materials right here in the house (see also: hoarding).
  • Flowers. And mercury glass.
  • Making up something for dinner with what’s on hand and it is so good I write it down in hopes of replicating someday (that never works though).
  • Things that are resourceful or clever, like figuring out how to freeze pumpkin bread dough at the right point of rising and kneading so it can be baked for a breakfast without getting up at 5 a.m. Or sewing scraps of fabric on to cards.
  • A good book
  • Iced tea with mint and lemon
  • Downloading, sorting, and editing photos; looking at old Facebook albums
  • Twitter
  • Feeling like I have a cute outfit on, even though I’m only going to school for pickup.

This helps enormously. I might make another list tomorrow. Go on, try it.

What makes you feel happy when you are all by yourself? Please share in the comments! I really want to know.


I feel happier every minute when I read your happy lists! Here are the happy lists we received from Facebook and Twitter. And, check out the comments section below for many more great lists of happy things!

  • Eggrolls
  • Saturday
  • Family
  • A great book
  • My dog curled up by me
  • Some type of yummy snack and a beverage
  • A good book makes me happy
  • Is drinking an acceptable answer?
  • I just came from the garden. I know I have other pressing work that needs to be done inside, but the urge to be outside enjoying the weather in the yard just took over. It is part procrastination, yet it is work that brings joy and rewards that come much easier to me than anything else I do.
  • Dance parties
  • Receiving mail (that’s not a bill!)
  • Pretty shoes
  • Baking
  • Making mixed CDs
  • Singing at the top of my lungs
  • Playing piano
  • Treading water
  • Sitting on a dock and watching the sunset
  • Taking myself to the movies
  • Burrowing under a mountain of blankets
  • Having a glass of wine on the balcony on a warm summer’s night
  • Walking in nature
  • Coffee
  • A nap
  • Reading the news
  • Sitting on my porch
  • A REALLY good TV series that makes me not want to go to bed so I can keep watching it.
  • Cup of tea
  • Great fiction book
  • A clean house
  • Shopping
  • Great bargain
  • Fresh flowers
  • Red wine
  • Cooking a great meal
  • Satisfying work
  • Great photograph
  • Fall
  • Spring
  • Inspiring music
  • This picture:

Me holding craft fail #1. (Supposedly if you wrap wire around a cone you get a Christmas tree shape. Sure.) Craft fail #2, the world’s ugliest Mod Podged candles, are over my shoulder. Craft fails can also make one happy, if for no other reason than it made Kristen happy to make this little illustration, which now exists for your entertainment.

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  1. Heather Cordes says:

    Great post Jen! I’m going to make a full list of “Happy Heather” stuff–but a couple that popped into my mind right away: knitting, drinking tea with Nilla wafers, painting my nails with a new color, having a great work-out, taking a 30 minute nap on my well-made bed wrapped in a quilt made by my mom.

    • Hi Heather! Thanks so much for your list. All those things sound very happy to me. I will have to try them!

  2. Ahhh! I love this!
    Here’s a list for me:
    – my happy colorful living room with lots of natural light and plants and art
    – lying on the couch with a book and a blanket
    – watching something silly like Survivor or True Blood
    – a glass of wine and an impromptu, don’t have to do it but I’m just inspired, craft project.
    – puttering around the yard, moving the sprinkler over and over, or weeding the vegetable garden
    – going to bed at 9:30 and waking up refreshed bright and early the next day

    • Yay! Thanks for adding your list Allie. I’m going to try the 9:30 bedtime tonight. That sounds like just what I need!

  3. I want to know what Kristen said!
    For me:
    Bustling around the house getting a ton of things done like baking granola and prepping dinners and doing serious laundry (bleach, line-drying, or things not often laundered) and all of the little tasks that have been nagging at me.
    Eating something delicious I’ve baked with an engrossing book, like a Swedish mystery or vintage children’s fiction, and cup of coffee.
    Taking a bath with all sorts of scrubs and soaks and a glass of wine.
    Napping with the cats under a quilt I made.

  4. hmmmm . . . I am alone a lot when I am in California for work, but I don’t tend to make good use of said time, perhaps a list will help me capitalize!

    1. Sewing something completely patternless and impromptu.
    2. Sewing something from a hard pattern (requires alone-time for concentration)
    3. Sitting on the couch just staring at the wall gallery of my family.
    4. A really good, long, satisfying swim in the Olympic pool at the Schreoder Aquatic center (the olympic pool is good and cold which keeps me moving and because its Olympic sized, you never run into the other swimmers. Totally alone with just the sound of water and my own breath.
    5. A good book and the hammock that I made for relaxing in but have only relaxed in once because I don’t know how to relax. 🙂
    6. Cooking, canning, gardening, baking. Food art. 🙂
    7. Writing a blog post about love and life. Oh, sheesh! When’s the last time I really posted? Too long.
    Well, now I can see why I don’t do many of these in California. Only one of them is possible there! Good thing I am staying home more now. Maybe I can attempt one of two per month in the next year

    • Before all this summer’s garden fails I would have joined you in listing gardening. Right now my garden is not a happy time. Maybe next year!

  5. My happy… A latte on ANY day; a sunrise; my best guy friend; my dog, mother nature; not reading my name in the obits; rising to see another day…

  6. Some things that make me happy when I am all by myself:
    -Taking a long walk very early in the morning
    -Siting in a bubble bath with no danger of interruption
    -Listening to shows on NPR like “The Splendid Table,” “Radiolab,” “Says You,” “This American Life,” “On The Media.”
    -Watching the Kiera Knightley version of “Pride & Prejudice”
    -Writing a letter to a friend–actually writing on paper, not typing!
    -Practicing yoga
    -Eating a big piece of chocolate cake

    • I can’t believe I forgot yoga and chocolate cake on my list! And I’m with you on real letters, on paper. Thanks for commenting!

  7. About once a year I get a weekend at my house, alone, and I love it. I enjoys lots of the things on my happy list.

    Coffee, a can’t-put-it-down book (extra points if it’s critically acclaimed thus making me feel smarter), a heavy quilt, singing in the car, magazines, shoe shopping, quick and easy crafting projects, champagne and my favorite appetizer for dinner (blue cheese with honey and cracked black pepper crackers), those crackly-sounding candles, taking/looking at/sorting/editing pictures (I love you Pic Monkey), super loud music (there could be dancing involved), flowers, and puttering. It is a joy to hop from one thing to another to another, no matter how miniscule, (I’ve been meaning to hot glue that….). Also on the happy list are skating and warm red cheeks, the TJ Maxx in Rochester, making something crappy look good for very little cash (furniture painting or re-accessorizing), renting movies no one likes but me, storms, and pretty paper.

  8. I take “singing at the top of my lungs” to the next level with a karaoke game. When my husband is out I play “singstar” on the PS3 or “lips” on the Xbox 360 and perform my favorite pop songs. Singing into a microphone and hearing your voice over the speakers with no one around to listen is very liberating, and it’s impossible to feel sad when you’re really belting it out.

    • I love it. If I was there we could sing duets! This reminds me that I like Just Dance for the Wii an awful lot.

  9. Sunshine + Coffee + a new book by a favorite author = pure bliss


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