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Greater Good

September 17, 2020 By Nancy Wisner

Stay-at-Home and What to Do

It was the first Monday of the stay-at-home order and I pretended that I would have plenty to keep me busy. A few minutes later, a huge crane maneuvered into place in the circle in front of Building 1000. It was time for the maintenance crew and A/C installers to put a new unit on the roof of the building. I spent the next few hours being enthralled by the procedure. Talented people and amazing equipment can accomplish wonders. If Paradise Valley Estates management entertains me like this every day, things will go well.

The next few days were filled with walking, exercising and reading, but nothing enthralling. Then I noticed the link on PVE Pulse for Yale University’s popular “Happiness” class.

Following that link changed both me and my approach to life’s ups and downs in ways that I didn’t imagine. Why should I expect that anyone could teach this old dog new tricks? (No comments, please about my now very shaggy hair.) The instructor is very good and all the topics in the course are supported by studies. Click on the title of a study to read the paper that describes the experiments that substantiate what she teaches. Do these things work? Mostly they work for me. The things she suggests that really make us happy really do make me happy. Feeling gratitude, savoring experiences, being kind to others, and keeping things in perspective do make me feel happier. I give you a trivial example that I call “The Gargoyle Lesson.”

In July 1978, my husband, Fred, and I, along with Melanie, our daughter, spent four days in Paris. We visited the Notre Dame Cathedral and saw the gargoyles that guard the Cathedral Tower. I fell for the ugly creatures. After the trip, Melanie sent us a cement gargoyle replica. It has traveled with us for years and is now on the deck of my apartment.

It was during the fourth week of our stay-at-home when the landscapers came onto the deck blowing leaves and knocked the gargoyle off its table. I found the tipped over table and the gargoyle with broken legs. I was beside myself. “How could he do such a thing? He ought to be talked to. What am I going to do?”

I fretted until I remembered a suggestion in the book that accompanied the “Happiness” course. If you are upset, tell yourself to STOP! Make an appointment with yourself to think about the situation and what you want to do. Choose a specific day and time. Don’t think about it until then. If the thought arises, remind yourself of the appointment and go on with other things. I did that and, at the appointed time, easily decided that the piece could be glued together and that the gargoyle will get a sturdier table for a perch. This worked just fine.

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