She Stops Traffic With Her Joy
Recently I was walking my puppy, Summer, and a car came screeching to a halt. Two women jumped out, squealing in delight, and came running to pet little Summer. This dog stops traffic with sheer joy. I snapped this quick photo and then I had to ask them to please park their car—it was blocking the street! They parked and came back for more Summer snuggles.
As Summer and I walk around Portland, people come running out of shops, arms reaching towards us, grinning widely. For real. My husband and I were walking with her last week and the entire staff of a bar came out to meet her on the street. (it must have been a slow night at the bar?!)
Everywhere we go with Summer, people light up with joy. I am approached and engaged in conversations with dozens of strangers every day. I've met more people in my building in two months with a puppy than I met in 4.5 years on my own. I’m friendly, but I'm kind of an introverted, always-in-my-head-brainstorming kind of person, so this has been a wonderful way for me to have connections automatically made for me. Summer is a great ambassador!
This time of year for me is often challenging emotionally as the season changes here in Oregon. Don't get me wrong, I am in love with the lush green beauty that our long wet winters provide, (and I'm actually more creatively productive in Winter thanks to the ability to focus), but the rainy season take a toll on my mood and well-being. I have often gotten the blues in the winter. Getting this puppy was a very deliberate choice, to add to my toolkit and stay in motion, no matter the season.
When we chose to get a dog, my husband and I were looking forward to the benefits of extra snuggles, and frequent walks outside, but what totally took me by surprise is all of the connection with other people that this little dog creates. And connection is probably the best tool in the whole human toolkit to beat the blues, or to transcend just about anything! I can't go walking around all caught up in my own thoughts when someone stops me every five feet to pet my puppy! She pulls me into the moment, and into connection with other people. It’s remarkable to see the effect that a puppy has on strangers. Summer (as well as all puppies and dogs) brings such comfort and joy to people. There is a great need for this nowadays!
So if connection is the key to happiness, what other tools are in my toolkit? What other ways do I have to access joy? My go-to's are:
Time in Nature - Duh. As soon as I get in the woods I feel better. Take me to the beach and I expand. I walk in the tree-lined streets (and rose gardens) of nearby Ladd's addition almost every day for my dose of the natural world. Last week in Ladd's addition, I saw a hawk, eating a crow, being dive-bombed by all of the crow's family. Life and death, nonchalantly perched on a branch, 20 feet in the air. In the middle of this city. Wild.
Love - creating a super rich love story and partnership with my husband Peter, loving on my family deeply, loving my friends super big, being a force of love in the world through my art and class offerings.
Shakin' it - dancing, surfing, snowboarding, hiking, yoga: all of these have been my intense passions, my muse, things I have loved doing enough to consistently push physical limits and keep on paddling.
Creativity - Creativity is resilience! Creativity is our ability to remain capable in the face of all kinds of circumstances. Creativity is essentially problem solving mixed with a bit of the divine. My favorite creative practices are painting, drawing, collage, writing (hello there!) and teaching. Yes - teaching is super creative for me. I get so inspired to invent new things to help my students really get access to their own powerful creativity. It's a symbiotic relationship.
Those are my go-to's. I am curious: what tools do you have in your happiness toolkit? What do you employ to access your joy?
So this idea of pup Summer, stopping traffic with her joy, and this idea of me, creating a toolkit of resilience to access my own happiness, made me realize something:
People don't screech to a halt, stopping traffic willy nilly because of Summer'sjoy, no -
People come running out of businesses to see her because she gives them access to their own joy.
Our toolkits to happiness are important because they give us access to our own joy. But further, they make it possible for people to glimpse their own.
Making art, and walking my dog, are two ways that I know how to create more happiness in my own life. But the thing, the real-deal thing, that I've struggled to understand my whole life, is this idea of how my urge to make art could truly be of service in a meaningful way in the world.
And now, I get it. I finally get this thing! People have been telling me this for years but it has taken this puppy for me to truly get it.
Summer, by the sheer fact of being an adorable puppy, lights people up. Summer existing gives people access to their own experience of joy.
And art, by the sheer fact of being creative-beautiful-inspired-expressive-whateveryouwanttocallit, impacts people in the same way. People connect with art and it gives them access to their own joy, connection, and creativity. Art making is, indeed, providing a great service to the world.
OMG, right?! I'm a professional artist and I just GOT that! Holy bananas! Hallelujah! ...and Amen!