Last week, a good friend of mine posted Nic Marks’ TED talk to his Facebook wall. Nic, I learned, is a a social researcher and the founder of the Centre for Well-being. He studies happiness! That’s right, he studies happiness. What a job, eh? Actually, it probably is quite a job because so many people, as it turns out, aren’t happy. He even came up with a list called “5 Ways to Well-Being,” but more about that later. If you’d like to see and hear his talk on TED, you can find it here. Nic starts off his talk with a nod to the notion that, as humans, we can be all too easily lured into negative, even apocalyptic, group-think. This is definitely not one of the 5 ways to well-being, by the way, but, like I said, more about that later. His slant on negativity relates specifically to the way we approach the Environmental Movement in our country and how it has attempted to motivate people with fear and visions of future that is a nightmare.
Incidentally, I’m willing to admit that I’m feeling a little negative and a little apocalyptic about my favorite place. As they say in front of fuzzy televisions in the suburbs, “they’re here…”
The air this morning was full of the smell of cut wood and the sounds of all kinds of gas powered tools and machines. My son has come to the conclusion that this little stretch of loveliness may not last the 52 weeks of this project. Where the hell is the Lorax when you need him?
But, I find that Mondays are a good time for reflection, really. I know Mondays are historically everyone’s least favorite day of the week, but I’m determined to start thinking about them differently. I know, I know, I can hear all of you saying, yeah, I bet Mondays are a real drag for you, Dar Hosta. You don’t have to commute through Monday traffic, clock in, slump into a cubicle …. you just sit at your computer writing your reflections, sipping your coffee after a morning stroll to take a picture, then head to your studio to fling some paint, right? Well, if that’s what you’re thinking, you’re partially right, but only partially. There’s some other stuff that I do that isn’t quite as Zen and I would just add that I would probably caution any young person I know against embarking upon a completely freelance career in a combination of the fields of arts and education. Just sayin’. It’s truly not a career choice for the weak of heart–as great as Monday’s can be, what with working from home and all.
So, this morning I was thinking about my weekend. I had an art festival in Upper Montclair Saturday-Sunday and, on Friday, had this consuming pessimism roiling around in my veins. There has been a lot of bad news coming across the airwaves, plans for hateful book burnings, angry rallies by angry people and, to top it all off, the first day of the show fell right on the anniversary of 9/11. I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about the weekend, to tell you the truth. But then I got a call from my Dad and he gave me a good pep talk because, well, he’s just really good at that. Plus, he’s an artist, like me.
And then, later that evening, while I made dinner, I listened to Nic Marks’ TED talk. (I also clicked around on TED and listened to about 3 more talks, after which I decided that if school administrators would require all their staff members to listen to just one talk, on any subject, on TED each week, they could save a bundle in professional development costs!) And then Saturday came, and it was a good day. The sun was shining, the weather was fine, people were out and they were smiling, I sold my last two large paintings and I met this really cool artist from NY, named Jill Stasium. Here’s the painting she had hanging in her booth, which was next to mine. I loved it from the minute I saw it and it made me want to meet her. No surprise, about an hour into the day, she sold it.
Sunday it rained all day. I think I had about 4 people in my booth total and, not prepared for the weather transition, didn’t dress with nearly enough layers and was chilled to the bone all day long. At 4:00, I packed up a wet, drippy tent (which I have still not removed from the back of my van) after a day that was a literal and metaphorical wash, and drove back the hour and a half to my standing Sunday appointment to bark at adolescents to do their homework, pack their school stuff, and go to bed.
But, you know what? I felt pretty happy. And, I think it was partly the pep talk from my dad, partly the sunshiney Saturday and the selling of the paintings, but, also it was partly being next to my neighbor, Jill. Jill is one of those artists who likes to share ideas rather than keep them to herself for fear of someone copying her, and she told me a lot about working with oils and being an artist on the streets of NY. She also encouraged suggestions from the other artists around her and didn’t take them as critical or insulting but as new things to think about and try. She had a great sense of humor and a funny friend who came to visit her and share a hot cup of coffee, and we all stood in the drizzle laughing about this and that. She also recounted her own experience of what it was like to be in NY that day with the funky edge of an artistic raconteur and the optimism and altruism of those who survived that day and still live in the city.
So, Nic Marks says there’s 5 Ways to Well Being. He says they’re actually really easy. On this reflective Monday, I’m going to tell you that I believe it. Here they are:
1. Connect. Connect with the people around you; with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. Invest time in developing these connections.
2. Be Active. Go for a walk, step outside, grow a garden, do a dance, exercise! Discover a physical activity that you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness and…. do it.
3. Take Notice. Be curious, catch sight of the beautiful, remark on the unusual. Be aware of the world around you and reflect on your experiences.
4. Keep Learning. Try something new, ask questions, find out things that you are curious about. Learn a new skill.
5. Give. Do something nice for someone. Thank someone, smile, look out as well as in. Link your happiness with others.
THIS WEEK TRY: Making Monday the best day of the week by seeing how many of Nic Marks’ Ways to Well-Being you can put on your list. And, if you do see the Lorax, please send him to NJ.