Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Waiting and Wondering

How can I possibly not blog today? I warn you in advance - I have nothing interesting or new to offer. I just need to write.

We only have a couple of days before the current continuing resolution expires and we're forced into a government shut down. Congress has not yet been able to reach consensus on a budget or a new CR, and the jury's out on whether they will. I honestly have no idea. I just know I hope they do.

Rumors are swirling everywhere. At work, among friends, in the news, online, on Facebook, on blogs, and now I think some are even developing in my mind as I wrestle with all the implications. There were more than a few water cooler conversations today. And my Facebook and Blogger newsfeeds were filled with speculation and questions and worries and shock at the potential shutdown.

I am a federal worker. I do not yet know whether my position is essential. Since it's our weekend, we will be among the first federal workers to face the reality of a shutdown on Saturday morning. I'd get to work only an hour after the expiration of the current CR. I'll be going in regardless to find out what's what. What remains to be seen is whether I stay. And whether and/or when I get paid if I stay. And same if I go.

The uncertainty is the worst part. I am not going to comment on how the potential shutdown has been and is being handled throughout the government, mostly because I have no reference point. I was in elementary school in 1996 and have no memory of the last shutdown. I don't know how it was handled. It's an insanely difficult task for anyone, and I don't envy the decision makers and contingency planners.

I am a little disappointed in those Congresspeople who think that their own families would suffer more if they didn't receive a paycheck during a shutdown than the average federal worker's. Putting aside the question of the accuracy of this line of thinking, it is dripping with irony. I'm lucky because a few days of unpaid furlough won't ruin me. It'll hurt, and things will be tight for a while, but it's not the end of the world. But if days turn into weeks... It's a scary thought.

I have no solution (except to implore Congress to pass a workable budget). I have no wisdom to share. I have no answers to the tough questions. I just have a lot of uncertainty and a lot of frustration. And a weekend of waiting and wondering. So I'm going to the grocery store in the morning. If I can't work, I might as well cook.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

If You're Happy and You Know It...

I'm slowly making my way through a stack of magazines that date back to summer 2009, and I ran across one with a theme of 'happiness'. Off topic but hilarious, one of the issue's suggestions for how to be productive in five minutes was to cut your stack of magazines in half. Oh the irony! I actually used some of the other suggestions for five-minute productivity spurts this past weekend, and it did make me happy :-). But the point is that I started thinking about happiness and what it means to me. And while I tend to be a person who looks at a whole day/week/month to convey my general state of mind, the truth is that there's so much happiness in the moment to moment events.

A lot of my happiest moments revolve around animals. I love coming home to be greeted by my pets. My brother's dog even howls "herro" in his happiest welcome home moments. Not unlike the dog making the rounds on Facebook/YouTube who says "I love you." Hattie always used to greet me and dance and get all excited; she'd even skip when we'd go for the first walk of the evening. My cats run to the door and jump up and want to cuddle as soon as I walk in. At home in NH, I remember coming home on a few spring days to find one of our horses had broken out of the pasture and was grazing on the young grass on the front lawn. On my travels, my communes with elephants, penguins, cheetahs, ostriches, turtles, lions, and various other fauna rate highly on the happiness scale. But not baboons. They remain on the naughty list and have little chance of redeeming themselves.

I love that technology allows me to stay so connected to family and friends, and it's nice to be able to come home from work a couple days a week and talk to my mom, six thousand miles and seven time zones away. When my nieces and nephews are around, it's even more fun. Last night, my four year old nephew wanted to share his new cologne (long story) with me. He pressed himself up against the computer's camera and asked in a muffled voice if I could smell him now. I laughed so hard then and every time I recounted the story today.

Travel makes me happy. I think that's a given. So does dreaming about and planning my next trip. So it's a surefire way to break a bad mood - look for travel deals and plan a getaway!

On both those themes, I love reunions. The moment you see a loved one after a long time apart. The anticipation. The sheer joy and perfection of the moment. Everything else falls away. There's a light feeling. Maybe that's one of my favorite parts about traveling; it certainly isn't saying goodbyes! (This feeling is captured well in my favorite movie, Love Actually. The opening and closing airport scenes are absolutely perfect.)

Twice a week I come home to an immaculate apartment. That makes me immeasurably happy. Once a week, at least, I come home to freshly laundered sheets and a crisply made bed. That is pure bliss.

One of my quirky happy-moment-makers is that I set the alarm to go off in the early morning even when I can sleep in the next day. That way, when the alarm goes off, I can have the distinct pleasure of turning it off and realizing I can sleep as late as I want. I really enjoy doing that.

I love paying bills. Well, I love having the money and job security to be able to pay all my bills. But there's something satisfying and redeeming about hitting send on online payments.

None of these are the big-ticket items that we often think of or generalize about when we think of happiness - wealth, big house, dream vacation, fame, yacht, red carpet, etc. I like that. It means that even if not everything is perfect, and, really, it never is, I can find joy in small things, in moments, in encounters.

So that's my optimistic and philosophical moment for the day.

What makes you happy?