I am sitting here at Coffee Bean on the East Side listening to my Hummingbird playlist, smiling. I am smiling because I scored a big booth by the Third Avenue entrance. While writing these words, a breeze spills in and I am able to watch people walk by, and begin their days. I am smiling because of last night. Last night was really something. I hosted a Happier Hour with Laura Munson at my home last night. Laura is the author of This Is Not the Story You Think It Is; A Season of Unlikely Happiness and she came in all the way from Whitefish, Montana. Laura and I met in this ineffable ether of the online world, but became fast friends. As I introduced Laura last night to a crew of wonderful women, Husband, and one wonderful and witty Head Butler I explained that Laura and I first got to know each other during a phone call. I expected that call to be quick and efficient, ten minutes tops. I expected it to be a bartering of logistics, of date-setting. But, no. We talked and talked and talked. About life and love and writing. It came up that we had both lost our dads and that these losses had really shaped us, and our writing. We figured out that we both have family in Lake Forest, Illinois, that our late fathers are indeed buried in the same cemetery there. A haunting, and happy, connection.
I could go on and on about that call and the exchanges Laura and I have had since because they have been really deep, layered exchanges, but I don't have the time. I am due to go on a field trip to a bagel store with Big Girl in just a bit. So, I must get to the point. This is something I don't love to do, but here goes.
Laura sat in my big, black chair by our living room window. The 40+ of us in attendance gathered around her, some of us comfy on chairs, others of us plopped on the floor. But it didn't matter where we sat because as soon as Laura began speaking - reading from her book, talking about her life and her writing and her Haven retreats - our surroundings faded away. They did for me, at least. I felt lost. The best kind of lost. Lost in questions and ideas and story. It is a privilege to feel this way.
Laura said so many terrific, challenging things. That we can choose how to react to suffering. That, very often, what we are seeking is right here within us. That pain is pain is pain; that we should allow ourselves to feel pain and "breathe into its groundlessness." That we should think about doing what we love, what scares us.
For me, the biggest takeaway from the night was that we should all stop basing our happiness on things outside our control. She talked about how she wrote fourteen novels over the span of many years, novels that were not published. She realized (with the help of a therapist who sounds quite wise) that basing her happiness on whether she was published or not was foolish because this was not something she could control. Something that was within her control: going back to Italy with her 12-year-old daughter and visiting the family that she lived with during college. This was something that she had total control over and something that brought her tremendous joy.
I know I am rambling. That's what I do. Particularly when I'm excited and intrigued and buzzing with thoughts. And I am all of these things. I sit here, in my booth, in my city, in my life, in my passion, and my mind is swirling with stuff, meaningful stuff, and I have Laura to thank for that.
After everyone left last night, we could have gone to bed. It was quite late and we were both tired. But we didn't go to bed. We changed into our pajamas. We sat on my couch. And we talked. And talked. And talked. About these lives we are leading, these words we are writing and trying to write, these kids we are raising. After a while, prudence alighted and we cut ourselves off. Adjourned things. Said goodnight. But we could have talked all night.
And, yes, today I am tired and less-than-eloquent, but so be it. I am happy and inspired and thankful. I get to close this computer in a minute or two and go meet my girl and see how bagels are made. And then I get to travel back west and meet Laura for lunch. We are thinking French or Thai. We will sit there, at a little table at whatever restaurant we choose, and we will talk some more. About the big, hard, happy, real things. And I will thank her as I did endlessly last night, and here in this mess of a post. I will thank her for being her, for telling her story, for being an open book in an often closed world, for coming all of the way from Montana to be with us, and me.
I encourage you all to check out:
A very happy footnote:
I am thrilled to announce that I will be kicking of a West Coast branch of Happier Hours next month in Los Angeles with my lovely and talented friend and Rules of Inheritance author Claire Bidwell Smith. Claire was here in May for her own Happier Hour and it was then that we cooked up the idea of her bringing these wonderful events with her to the West Coast. That this is actually happening makes me smile and big. Big.
Okay, off to embrace this beauty of a day. Happy Thursday, all!