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Sci Tech    H3'ed 2/23/09

What a good day looks like

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Parents with children of a certain age will remember Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  And, who hasn’t had moments when everything seemed to go wrong? You’ll be relieved to know that this article is not about that.  On the contrary. I’d like to describe what inadvertently turned out to be a pretty terrific day.  Sorry about the red herring; I couldn’t resist that title.

This morning  I awoke, in a cocoon of those flannel sheets I’ve been rhapsodizing about lately. I bought the set for Rafi last month to celebrate our anniversary.  It turned out to be the rarest of gifts, enjoyed equally by both parties.

It felt wonderfully decadent not to be rushing off somewhere.  I did a leisurely stretch or two, rolled out of bed, and meandered downstairs to write in my journal. The daily assignment is just three pages, more stream of consciousness than Masterpiece Theatre. Remember record players?  Sometimes, I find myself trapped by that scratch on the record, in constant movement, but going nowhere. Journaling effectively resets the turntable’s arm, bypasses the scratch, and allows me to move on.

Three pages under my belt, I headed to the Y.  On the way, I caught Will Shortz, puzzle master for NPR’s Weekend Edition. I just discovered that he grew up in Indiana on an Arabian horse farm and designed his own college degree program in enigmatology (the study of puzzles). While I really enjoy listening to his show, I’m usually in the pool at that hour.  Not this time. Another sign that this was shaping up to be a good day.   

I suffer from a love-hate relationship with swimming,   Once I actually find myself in the water, I love everything about it.  But, up until the last minute, I find myself looking around for a reason to opt out.  The fact that I always emerge refreshed and energized seems irrelevant. This peculiar dynamic afflicts jocks of all persuasions, from casual to serious.  A support group might help. Do you think ‘Athletes Anonymous’ would catch on?

Back at the pool, I was able to show two friends how to reduce soreness in  shoulder muscles and joints by using the principles of Feldenkrais to move through the water.  Monica, who’s an occupational therapist, grasped it immediately.  After a little practice, she already felt a difference.  I was so pleased.

After breakfast, I enjoyed another private lesson  at the Apple Store.  Today, I learned about Pages, Mac’s answer to Microsoft Office. Ever the multi-tasker, I’m now practicing what I learned a few hours ago.   During these lessons, a new world gradually unfolds before my eyes. I’m wowed by the technology and my own fledgling abilities. It’s thrilling, and so empowering, for this middle-aged, low-tech person. Maybe after a year of these classes, I’ll  see myself differently.  Maybe, I’ll be different. What an interesting thought.

Later in the afternoon, I attended a party where I listened to great music, danced a bit, ate, shmoozed, and celebrated with congenial people. I finally met an older gentleman I’ve been corresponding with for several years. He’s one of my readers and a tough critic. I’ve often taken his words to heart. If you prefer the new, more streamlined length of my articles, thank Ivan.

After the party, I did a few more errands, saving the best for last:  a stop at the Skokie Public Library.  I  always have a list of recommendations close at hand.  I consulted it as I wandered among the stacks.   A satisfying half-hour later, I staggered out with quite a haul. I couldn’t get home fast enough.  I had Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott, Born Standing Up by Steve Martin, The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr, Walking on Eggshells (about dealing with your grown-up kids), and a dozen more.  They all look good.

I finally arrived home, pooped but content. I got a lovely greeting from Emma and Rafi.  Here’s the best part:  it’s only 7:30!  I still have a few hours before bedtime.  What shall I do first?  Work on an article?  Start one of these books?  Which one? They all clamor for my attention, like a litter of unbearably cute puppies.  A visit to the library is akin to hanging out at a freshly stocked bakery: all those delectable smells, tastes, and textures make it nearly impossible to make a decision.  Feel free to torture me regularly with this guilt-free plethora of choices!

So. What have I learned about the secret to having a good day?  For me, it’s a delicate balance of physical and mental stimulation, of looking inward and reaching out. I enjoyed a temporary news fast and got no emergency calls from my kids or my mom. So, for the moment, the stars were aligned in the heavens, leaving me free to focus on life’s simple pleasures.

Nothing major happened today. Nevertheless, it all added up to a wonderful day. I didn’t solve any of the problems that usually preoccupy me. On the other hand, taking the day off did no harm. Never sloughing off makes us cranky martyrs. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there, done that. Ask my family.

I’d love to experience more days like this one -  but, after today, I’m no longer content to just leave it to chance.  How about this? If we took the time to ask ourselves just what we need in order to be happy, we could begin a grand experiment, each of us mixing and matching those ingredients into as many combinations as possible. The benefit to our collective mental health would be massive and undeniable. It’ll take a while to figure it all out. In the meantime, even the research sounds like fun.  I’m in; how about you?

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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