I’ve been having myself a grand pity party for the past week or so. Life’s being unfair, and I’ve been groaning and grousing, feeling sorry for myself and telling myself how much I deserved better times. But I can tolerate only so much of that self-defeating self-indulgence before I grow sick of myself. I reached that point yesterday, so I began searching for a cure.
Clearly the first thing I needed to do was stop singing “Gloom, despair, and agony on me /Deep, dark depression, excessive misery.” My mother’s cure for blues, “mean reds,” and other, multi-colored malcontent moods was to count blessings. When I was young, this solution produced the eye roll and shoulder shrug perfected by every child who has ever had a parent make a suggestion that was (a) antiquated (b) moronic, (c) irrelevant, or (d) all of the above. Years have taught me that my mother knew life and her daughter much better that my younger self dreamed. Mother’s rule was that the blessing had to be recent and specific. This insured that I couldn’t roll off a list of things that required little or no thought. For example, I couldn’t count my family’s love for me, but I could count a new book in the mail from a favorite aunt or the peach cobbler we were having for dinner because it was my favorite—gifts from loving family members.
Keeping in mind my mother’s rule and reminding myself that a blessing is anything that makes me happy or prosperous, I began to count blessings that had been boons during the same period during which I was immersed in self-pity.
Now I understand their win was not intended as a personal gift to me. But you have to understand that I belong to a football-mad family whose favorite college team is well on its way to its worse season since any of us have been old enough to follow a game. There is no joy in Mudville, the junkyard Dawgs have wimped out. But the Falcons’ win over the Saints and last Sunday’s win over the 49ers have raised hopes that while we may not have SEC champs in the state, we could have NFC South champs. That’s a blessing.
9. It’s only six weeks until the family will be in a theater watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I.
Again, I understand that Warner Brothers, David Yates, and Steve Kloves didn’t have me in mind when they made the movie and decided on November 19 as the release date. But we are a three-generation Harry Potter fan family. We’ve read—and re-read—the books, watched—and re-watched--the movies, and kept countdown calendars. From the eight-year-old grand to the senior member of the family (me), who chooses not to disclose her age, we are all happy that we will soon be watching movie #7.
8. I read Robert Frost’s poem “October.”
October is my favorite month, and poetry enriches every day of my life. Receiving “October,” a Robert Frost poem that was new to me in my email on October 2 was a joy indeed. I must have read the poem a dozen times since then, and each reading brings me moments of happiness. I find myself repeating two lines at odd moments just for the delight they being: “Retard the sun with gentle mist; / Enchant the land with amethyst.”
In Brockway’s debut novel, Promise Me Heaven, published in 1994, Giles Strand was a secondary character. In Brockway’s classic dark romance, All Through the Night, published in 1997, Giles Strand was again a secondary character. Like many Brockway readers, I longed for Giles to have his own book. Brockway said maybe someday. This week Connie Brockway’s new website debuted. In her Books section, she has a subsection she calls “Works in Progress.” In that section she says, “I'm also working on Giles Strand's story on the off chance I might find a publisher for it.” These words make me happy! Now I’m praying for a publisher for her.
6. A long, hot summer ended.
Summer 2010 began in May with temperatures we don’t usually see until much later, and we were still in the 90s into late September. When we dropped into the 80s two weeks ago, there was much rejoicing. This week has been gorgeous fall weather with cool mornings and nights and highs in the 70s. At church, in the doctor’s office, at the supermarket, the common refrain has been, “Isn’t this wonderful!” I’ve never seen so many people so happy about the weather. It’s a blessing for the pocketbook too since overworked air conditioners have sent utility bills soaring in records to match the temperatures.
5. I read a book I have long anticipated by an author whose books make me laugh and cry, and I got to review it.
Sometimes books we long for just don’t live up to our expectations, but I read one recently that did. It possessed all the writer’s trademark strengths, it gave me a hero and heroine that I loved in equal measure, and I had the joy of sharing my enthusiasm with others in a review. Look for it tomorrow at The Romance Dish.
I love reunions in fiction and in life. This week I was invited to the 35th reunion of the Class of 1976 of the high school where I taught for a dozen years. The organizers are a group to whom I was particularly close, and I’m so excited that I will be seeing them again, some of them for the first time since the May evening in 1976 when they received their diplomas. [I should add that I taught this class early in my career when I was still quite young myself. :)]
3. I have a friend who is home again.
This friend is not far from 90, and she’s so active and alert she puts those of us many decades her junior to shame. In August, after a morning of working in her garden and an afternoon of making preserves and jellies, she fainted. After several weeks in the hospital and even longer recuperating in a daughter’s home in another city, she is back home—as independent and energetic as ever. She makes me laugh, and she inspires me. If the proverb is right and “Everyone is the age of their heart,” she is eternally young and forever a joy to those of us who know and love her.
2. Another friend will soon be a published author.
Many of you saw the announcement on Friday, September 24, that my good friend Manda Collins, former Romance Vagabond and forever Bon Bon, has accepted a three-book deal from St. Martin’s Press. A few of us had already begun celebrating with many squees, virtual toasts, and lots of laughter--mixed with a few tears of joy. Manda’s talent is immense, and her perseverance and professionalism are awesome. Good news couldn’t have come to a more deserving writer. I’ve read a draft of How to Dance with a Duke. It’s a terrific book, and reading it is going to make lots of people happy. This is a celebration that’s going to continue in various stages over the next several months. I’m happy I can be part of these squee days.
1. I have friends who understand the meanings.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The language of friendship is not words but meanings.” I am blessed to have friends who listen to the words but understand all the words can’t say. They have borne my days of darkness with grace and have offered unfailing kindness and encouragement. They are my safe-zone sharers, my defenders from life’s slings and arrows, the ones who are never further away than a handclasp or an emergency email. They are the kind of friends that 19th-century English novelist Dinah Craik must have had in mind when she wrote these words:
Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.Mother was right. Counting blessings does banish self-pity. I think doing so may have banished writer’s block as well.
Have you ever thrown yourself a pity party? What good advice did your mother give you? What blessings can you count today?