Finding the Joy

Find the joy on my fridge (591x800)
My colorful drawings also make me very happy.

I have a little dry erase board on my refrigerator door, and I use it to write motivational messages or reminders to myself. About a week ago, I was feeling sort of blah about my life when I realized that I wasn’t doing much other than working and coming home exhausted every day. I didn’t really have anything to look forward to in the near future. Sure, I’m anxiously anticipating my first time to live in northwest Ohio during spring migration. Birds are always amazing. But right now is a slow time for birding, and it’s easy to just hunker down in a holding pattern at home, waiting for spring to arrive.

I decided that I want to be more proactive about being happy, and to remember to focus on the things that bring me joy. So I wrote “Find the Joy” on my fridge door. And, to make sure I notice it, I also hung one of my colorful drawings up there. Making those drawings and coloring them is something else that makes me happy. The process is meditative, and the end result is so pretty.

And I’ve found that seeing that message every day seems to be having an impact. Yesterday I took a big step toward making joy a more consistent presence in my life: I bought my very own guitar! It’s an indication of how much my life has changed recently that if you’d asked me about learning to play an instrument a couple years ago, I would have laughed and dismissed the idea.  But about a month ago my friend Ryan loaned me one of his guitars and encouraged me to give it a try. He’s been giving me some beginner lessons and I’m enjoying it so much that I didn’t want to give his guitar back to him. But I didn’t want to take advantage of his kindness in letting me borrow it, so I insisted he take it back home. But then I found myself missing it. I’d become used to having it there in the living room, ready for me to pick up and play whenever I felt like it (which I sometimes did in the middle of the night). So yesterday we went together to the music store because I felt too intimidated to go there alone. We spent a little time trying out a couple different guitars, and I came home with this lovely Yamaha model:

guitar and monk statue in sunroom (594x800)

It’s a folk-size model, so it’s slightly smaller than the regular dreadnought size that I was having trouble holding comfortably. This one feels good, and it has such a lovely sound too. I was surprised that I could actually hear the difference when I played two different guitars. I have absolutely zero music background — never played any instrument and never learned anything about reading music. (Melody? What’s that? Harmony? No idea.) I’ve always felt really intimidated when friends talk about music, so this represents an enormous step for me. It’s overwhelming, but I’m taking it slowly and not putting pressure on myself. It’s just for fun, and it’s for me.

Despite my lack of musical background, I’ve always loved the sound of guitar music, and I’m sort of surprised that I never even thought of trying this before. I have a CD of Spanish guitar music in my car, and I’m a huge fan of John Denver’s beautiful songs. I’m hoping to eventually be able to play some of them (especially “Annie’s Song” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders”), but for now I’m practicing on simpler things. The first song I’ve learned to play (partially) is Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” I’m still working on getting the tempo right, but I’m making progress and I get such a thrill from hearing that music coming from my very own fingers. (There’s a link to “Fur Elise” at the end of this post.)

guitar in sunroom v2 (594x800)
Isn’t she lovely?

Here’s another one of my drawings. It’s an odd shape because it’s an insert for my insulated coffee mug that I keep on my desk at work, as a reminder to “Go outside – Breathe – Look Up.”

Zentangle drawing for travel mug insert (800x677)

I’ve accepted that happiness comes and goes–and that’s just part of life–but I’m trying hard to do the things that swing the balance more to the happiness side of the spectrum. I’m incredibly blessed to have friends who are willing to give me a gentle nudge when I start to head for the ditch, reminding me to take control of my thoughts and make my own happiness.

And, if all goes well, I’m going to take a big step toward adding another kind of (furry) joy to my life in the next two weeks. Stay tuned for that. 🙂

Ok,  now give your ears a treat and listen to this lovely guitar rendition of “Fur Elise” by a gentleman named Cesar Amaro: