By JT Ellison
Now such a thing happiness, above all else, is held to be; for this we choose always for self and never for the sake of something else, but honour, pleasure, reason, and every virtue we choose indeed for themselves (for if nothing resulted from them we should still choose each of them), but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, judging that by means of them we shall be happy. Happiness, on the other hand, no one chooses for the sake of these, nor, in general, for anything other than itself.
I was coming out of the grocery store today and the woman carrying my bags asked me how I was. Now, before you start thinking I’m hopelessly lazy or have morphed into Paris Hilton, I was at Publix, it’s part of their service, I still have a half-cast, it was a stunningly gorgeous Tennessee day and she wanted to get outside, I was just an excuse. (Nicely justified, J.T.)
ANYWAY… she asked me how I was, and I said, "Fabulous!" Because I was. Like I mentioned, it was a beautiful day, I’d hit my word count, I’d chosen well for dinner and grocery shopping equals bliss in my mind. To be perfectly honest, I’m a generally satisfied soul, so most days I can answer honestly that I am, indeed, quite well. I mean, truly, how could I not be? I’m pursuing my dream. I’m one of the luckiest women on the planet. I have a spouse who is terrific, my parents and family are a huge support, my friends are lovely, my books are fun to write, I eat well, exercise as often as I can, have a nice roof over my head, am relatively free of defect and am not morally bankrupt. What more does a girl need? Skinny jeans aside, of course.
So my kind grocery carter asks me how I am, I reply in a most chipper manner that I’m fabulous, and she nearly dropped my bags. She actually stopped mid-stride for a moment, then got a huge smile on her face. "I don’t hear that very often," she said. "Usually when I ask people how they are, they tell me about something horrible that’s going on in their life."
Considering a situation not twenty minutes earlier. I had a hard time getting the attention of the young girl behind the bread counter. She was in a complete daze. If she were a writer, I’d know she was plotting a particularly juicy scene, but I can’t make that assumption, not just yet. So I finally got her attention, and she laughed. Not in a humorous way, but with soft, chagrined embarrassment. She apologized. "My mother gives me these ADHD pills and they just put me in a daze. I have some bad thoughts sometimes, and I just get lost in my head trying to sort them out."
She went on to wrap up my Tuscan garlic loaf, apologizing again. I told her to stop apologizing, A., and B. write it down. I told her that’s how all great writers start. They get lost in their heads and can’t make head or tails of their thoughts, so they begin writing them down. The thoughts become stories and your head will be less full of bad things. And I saw that my words struck a chord with her. She was thinking about how to do that when I walked away, and I gave her a thumbs-up. I’ll see her again, I’m sure (it is my favorite loaf of bread, after all.) It would be cool to hear that the remedy helped in some microscopic way.
Couple that with the check out girl being surprised at my happiness leaving the store and I realized just how much negativity we’re surrounded by. Day in and day out, people complain. Little things, big things, life altering things, and things that just don’t matter, all build into this verbal stew of complaints. When is the last time someone asked how you were and you said fine, then qualified it with a complaint? It astounds me, truly it does, to hear how dissatisfied so many people are with their lives. I wonder how many are stuck, and how many thrive on dissatisfaction and don’t do anything to change their lives toward happiness.
To hear people tell it, as a writer I should be a morbid depressive, forever unhappy with the state of my life, my writing, my publisher’s treatment of me, my books, my lack of appropriate money, my reviews and channeling this unhappiness onto the page. I just can’t make it work that way. My glass if half to three-quarters full, thank you very much. Sorry. I can’t do anything about that. It’s just me. It’s not that I’m a newbie and haven’t been beaten down by the industry yet. I am genuinely happy to be pursuing a career that I love. I’m a karma girl, big time. Aristotelian. I believe that my attitude and my actions dictate the course of my life. I try to do good things, and when I do something nice for someone else, it makes me feel good. My happiness is gauged not by my accomplishments, but my basic satisfaction with myself and how I treat those around me.
So, with this ideal in mind, did you do something nice for someone else this week?
Wine of the Week — We need a magnum of Dom Perignon today, because…
MAJOR CONGRATULATIONS ARE IN ORDER!!!!
My dear friend Tasha Alexander has made a fantastic two book deal, moving her exceptional Lady Ashton series to St. Martin’s Minotaur in a pre-empt. Nice! I can’t tell you the joy this brings to me and to her fans! Watch out New York Times, your next bestseller is on her way!!!
Tasha is at the Great Lakes Booksellers Association this weekend in Schaumburg, so if you’re attending, go see her speak and read from A POISONED SEASON.
In more fun news, Tasha’s most recent adventure hit the shelves this week!
Elizabeth: The Golden Age is the companion novel to Cate Blanchett’s new movie. Tasha was commissioned to write the novel this past winter, and it is vastly diverting!