Batman

How, you may well ask, did I recently find myself swept up in the arms of a Batman impersonator in the heart of Times Square?  I assure you, no one could be more surprised than I was.  I would not believe it even now but for the fact that there’s photographic evidence.

As another matter of fact, a lot of interesting and amazing things have been happening to me since I started saying “yes” to life more often.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still say “no” a quite a bit and probably miss out on a lot of fun and opportunity for growth in the process.

I promise you I tried – really, really hard – to say no (and make it stick) to the Batman impersonator’s offer.  But, alas, once he’d managed to get my attention, he was so completely and charmingly sincere in his conviction of the great value afforded by his photo op, he had me – to paraphrase “Jerry McGuire” – past “Hell, no.”

For reasons by which I am increasingly astounded as I reflect on them, I simply could not say “no” to this man.  He overcame my every objection with such earnestness and enthusiasm, telling me exactly what he was offering and how we could work together to make it happen.  He wanted me to be a completely satisfied customer.  He would provide the opportunity for me to be captured on camera in any one – and it was completely my choice – of three dramatic action poses.  Action poses.  Now, there’s an oxymoron for you, if ever there was one.  But, as usual, I digress.

He went on to describe the three poses he provides and the visual merits of each pose.  There was “The Chase,” “The Rescue” and a third one, the name and description of which escapes my middle aged (yeah, “middle,” like I’m going to live to be a hundred and eight) memory.  Following Batman’s pitch, one of my cohorts commented, “Well, I would want the one with the dark background and all the drama.”  Uh oh.  Clearly, Batman had been successful in exploiting at least one chink in our collective armor as women in the big city.  Now, there was one of us to egg on – and even though, at our respective ages, there probably aren’t that many eggs left between us – the next thing I know, he’s overcome every objection, and photos are being taken and I’ve got a choice to make.  Not a “yes” or “no” choice.  I’m a goner now.  It’s just a question of which pose.

Batman is really pushing his best seller, “The Rescue,” in which I will place my left arm around his neck and he will lift me up in his arms, in picture perfect fashion, to capture a beautiful moment in time.

“You cannot be serious,” I say.  “I’m a big ol’ girl and you could die.”

“I got this,” says Batman.  “Just put your arm right here,” he says, gesturing the action he needs me to take without ever touching me.  This guy is good – and admirably respectful in his insistence.

But, I needed reassurance.  “Are you really strong enough to hoist me up in the air?  Let me feel your arm.”  At this point, let me just say that my hand came away convinced that Batman has really been working out to stay at the top of the photo op game.  And, mere moments later, I found myself cleanly lifted off my feet and into the arms of the caped crusading human photo prop.

We did make a small contribution for Batman’s efforts and, the more I think about it, the more I think I should have given him at least a hundred bucks.  Hell, I should have introduced myself, asked for his name, and learned how he came to express his entrepreneurial spirit as an agent of free enterprise on the streets of New Your City – because he was a phenomenon.  He provided me with a stunning demonstration of maintaining unmitigated focus on an objective:  A swift, impulse sale resulting in a completely satisfied customer.  I wish I had recognized in the moment instead of afterward, the quality I’d responded to in this ersatz Batman, rather than wondering as I was walking away, “What the hell was that?  Did I really just let some strange man lift me off my feet, in public, for a photograph?”

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As I headed back to the hotel, I began to realize the gift I’d just been given in return for a small sum.  What I’d just experienced was something so special that you don’t get to see it just any old time.  I’d seen unadulterated wholeheartedness.  Because of this Batman’s sincerest efforts, in one swift move, I had been transported from a person who often says “no” to novel experiences to a person who said “yes” to this one.  In that instant, I became someone who appreciated the efforts of a street performer who’s perfected the art of wholeheartedness in his work.

So, what did my brush with this fellow’s wholeheartedness cost?

Five bucks.

What was the value of being so thoroughly convinced to step light years outside of my comfort zone?

Priceless.

Why?  Because it enabled me to say “yes” to something I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams was possible.  And, now, because of that, what else might be possible?

It’s a Catastrophe

I’m still shocked at how much simple habits of gratitude are turning my life upside down.  Before taking on the Happy LIFE, I don’t think I was particularly aware, extravert that I am, of my internal dialog.  I sure didn’t notice how negative – and how completely automatic – it can be.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if self-consciousness were the same thing as self-awareness?  If it were, I believe I might be sufficiently enlightened to ascend bodily into eternity.  As it is, I’m just embarrassed a lot.

Speaking of embarrassment, there’s the matter of self-disclosure, otherwise known as throwing your own self under the bus.  So, speaking to you from the underbelly of a Greyhound, I’m disclosing that I just caught myself in an amazingly negative thought process.  I was speaking with the customer service department of the Reader’s Digest, to which my mother has a lifetime subscription.  I called at a time of day that I assumed, right off the bat, would have a negative outcome.  I was so sure that that I would not be able to speak with a real human that I was shocked spitless when a pleasant-sounding young woman named Courtney answered the phone on the third ring.

Then, she asked me for my account number.

“Oh, great, I got someone on the phone but now it’s going to fall apart,” I automatically and immediately told myself despite the pleasant surprise of a live person that I’d experienced just seconds before.

“I don’t have the number,” I told Courtney, “because my mom hasn’t been getting the magazine at her new place and I don’t have any old issues on hand at my place.”

“No problem,” said Courtney. “What’s her name?”

No problem?  Well, this response certainly didn’t fit my negative expectations.  I told Courtney Mama’s name and she looked it up.

“I’m sorry.  I don’t find that name.”

A little spark of fear had flashed earlier and was going off again.  Courtney, still trying to be helpful, says, “What other name could it be under?”

“None, really,” I said, and I was thinking to myself, Mama subscribed to that magazine when she went to work at seventeen and I know she received it under her married name my whole life, in excess of fifty years.  It was starting to seem really weird at that point.  I felt a little gust of worry, fanning another little spark of fear catch the tinder of doubt and begin to burn.  What if Mama’s been targeted for some sort of identity theft?  What if her accounts have been changed to some other address?

Suffice it to say that, in the end, it wasn’t a problem with her account.  And, please allow me to reiterate that, prior to the Happy LIFE, I truly don’t think I would have been aware of all the dire things I was speculating about what could have gone wrong just because my mother wasn’t receiving a magazine.  I suppose I could choose to be comforted by the fact this negative thought process is so common it has a name.  I was “catastrophizing.”  I was stringing together every worst-case scenario I could think of and, because I’m somewhat creative, I could think of a lot of catastrophes that an AWOL magazine could portend.

I’m grateful that I revisited my catastrophizing in writing, too, because it took me along another path where much sweeter thoughts have occurred to me.  I’ve thought about how the Reader’s Digest has followed Mama and, in a way, served as a chronicle of her admirable passage through the world, from dirt farm to comfortable retirement.  It has also served as the source of her (and my own) vocabulary; it has helped shape her worldview; it has served as an object lesson and example of a world where we pay increasingly more for goods and services that offer increasingly less value, where almost everything in our lives is “commoditized” and we can’t be sure what to believe and who’s selling what.

I know that a some intellectual or “now a go go” contemporary types find magazines like Reader’s Digest to be laughable artifacts of a time that was naïve at best and socially repressive at worst.  Still, for me, it will always serve as a symbol of a generation that considered the greater good, who thought of others before themselves, and knew what it meant to sacrifice and delay gratification for future rewards.  I appreciate that, these days, we have a more acceptable outlook on many things that would have been taboo in the Reader’s Digest of my mother’s heyday and my own childhood.  I want to believe that it – and other chronicles of my mother’s generation – will always carry their spirit and provide a voice of reason and decency in a word that increasingly lacks both.

Acceptance

I believe that I’ve mourned the loss of our first (and last) grandchild, who did not survive past the first half of his life, on the way to his birth.  I was only able to meet the idea of him before he was gone and still, he changed my life.  Through him, I became aware of – and have opened up to – this phase of my life as the third (and last) chapter.  It’s been difficult – though it’s been made more bearable by having to accept the loss of my own ability to have children back in those days.  Blessedly, that loss came after receiving the gift of my first (and last) child.  I still find occasion to cry over the loss of our grandchild but I feel as though I have managed to grieve his passing, not as a glancing blow of loss but as a lingering gift of spirit.

What I have only recently begun to understand is that I have also been grieving another loss, the loss of the possibility of grandchildren.  Awareness of that loss came as a second wave, keenly felt when hearing about new arrivals in friends’ and family’s lives.  That stab of self-centered grief was tinged with a little longing and, no matter how quickly it might have passed, the longing was always there.  And, I suppose, there will always be reminders of it, slipping in unexpectedly with a surprising stab of lingering loss.

Recently, though, I’ve been making gratitude something of a habit and things have begun to change.  I find myself experiencing the babies and children I encounter with the most surprising mix of feelings, whether I know them and their families or not.  I’m discovering as I write this that tears still find their way to my eyes when I think of kids in the world and the hope and dreams they represent.  What I’m especially surprised to feel is deep gratitude to all the children we’ve seen out and about who’ve waved and smiled back, and to all the parents who’ve stopped to chat.  I’m even grateful  to our little dog because she loves children and children love her; she is a kid magnet.

The highlight of my holiday weekend was having three children literally squeal with delight at seeing our dog and, because they had great parents, approach her excitedly but with appropriate care and respect for her space.  It was a clear display what happens when children experience loving and effective parenting.  It was a snapshot of kids whose parents were showing them exactly the kind of gentle – but definite – attention the children were giving our little dog.  And, in that moment, I was struck by a sense of acceptance, though still inescapably tinged with sadness.  None of the children I ever encounter will be my own grandchild but, in some unfathomable way – through gratitude – they are all are.

Blue Moon

I’m fond of saying, “People who are good at math shouldn’t be allowed to teach it.”  If that strikes you, like lightning, as the absolute truth, this metaphor’s for you.  If not, you may just have to bear with me a minute.  Here’s what I think I’m trying to say:  People who are good at math, those to whom it comes easily, are simply not equipped to communicate mathematical processes to those of us who don’t speak number.  If the English language made any sense, the word “innumerate” would not mean “uncountable;” it would be the opposite of “illiterate,” which would not mean “unable to read and write;” it would mean, “literature deficient.”  Oh!  Maybe we should just coin the word “illiteraturate.”  But, I digress (shocking, I know).

So, in effect, what I’m saying is this:  the “illiteraturate” shouldn’t be allowed to teach the “innumerate.”

In fact, as an adult, I had the good fortune to re-enter college under the wondrous tutelage of an Algebra teacher who chose to teach math precisely because she wasn’t good at it.  She wanted to spare other “innumerate” students from the pain of being taught by math whizzes.  The math whiz approach is similar to trying to teach your child to drive by thoroughly taking them through the intricacies of disassembling an internal combustion engine.  In the same way, you probably shouldn’t ask people who “speak happy” to explore and communicate the effects of speaking happy.   If you really want to observe the effect of taking happy actions on happiness, you might get more bang for the buck if you have people who aren’t that great at being happy to test drive activities meant to enhance happiness.  If that’s true, I have to admit that I was a great choice to test drive that effects of the Happy LIFE’s “happy habits.”

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Overall, I’d have to say I break even on the happy/sad dichotomy.  But, I’m pretty sure plenty of people break way more toward the happy side than I do.  Sure, I know how to have fun – a lot of it – but I have sometimes found myself serving in the ranks of the unhappy.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I once served a two-year hitch under the command of Major Depression.

So, it’s taken me by surprise that that The Happy LIFE is having what seems to be a profound effect on me.  The “Gratitudes” phase, which was the last of the five “happy habits” of the Happy LIFE has been, interestingly, the first one that I’ve carried on past the first 21 days – and I think it may be changing my life.  In all honesty, when the Happy LIFE started, the naïve, idealistic part of me (which is inexplicably still hanging on after more than a half-century) was open to giving all the happy activities a try.  What the hell, right?  Yes, I have a fairly large sappy sucker side.  But, then the “dark side” popped up immediately.  That (hopefully smaller) dark part of me kept whispering – a little snidely, I must admit, “Oh, good Lord, this is just a load of happy horse piles.”

And, that dark little side might have won out because it can be very persistent, telling  me I’ll look foolish, that people will think I’m a dope for buying into it, that it’s a waste of time.  If I hadn’t been asked to take on the Happy LIFE as a work project, I’m not sure I ever would have gone this far with it – and I would never have learned that, with work, it’s possible to recognize and overcome our inherent negativity bias by actively focusing on and retaining the good things in life.

The other night was the blue moon and it was the end of a remarkable day in my Happy LIFE, presenting me with gifts that may indeed come only once in the proverbial blue moon.  I’d had an inexpressibly excellent dinner with friends and as, things were winding down, I happened to catch movement from fellow diners across the room, who were also getting ready to leave.  It was a young couple and their small daughter, about two years old, was standing beside the booth and waiting patiently as her parents gathered their things.  Our eyes happened to meet and, because it’s my habit establish eye contact and smile at people when that happens, that’s what I did.  Except, with kids, I tend to give it a little extra, making solid eye contact to say, “I see you.  I know you’re in there, the seed of everything you’ll ever be, smart as anything and able to understand and communicate more than we adults can usually believe or handle.”  This little girl got it, even from several feet away, smiled around her “passie,” looked pointedly down at her feet, and back up at me, clearly “saying” how much she liked her shoes.  I gave her the thumbs up, nodded, and mouthed, “Yes, they are very cool shoes.”  The little girl went stock still, as if in surprise, but only for an instant.  Then, she looked down at her shoes again, looked back up at me as if to be sure we’d really just had a moment and, when I again gave her the thumbs up and mouthed “Cool shoes, very cool,” her smile got even bigger.  She even swayed from side to side a little, in that way only small children can do when they are bursting with pride in their abilities.

And, as her parents passed to leave, I said, “That’s quite a little girl you have.  She was so patient as you got ready to leave – and she’s very proud of her shoes.”  Her mother, who was thanking me in passing, stopped in her tracks and started laughing, saying, “Oh, wow.  She LOVES shoes!  And she really loves that pair.”  I said, “Well, she managed to tell me that without a word, across a room.  She’s very special.  You’re doing a great job.  Keep up the good work.”  The mom laughed again and said, “Well, as a matter of fact, we’ve got another one on the way.”   I congratulated her and told her that I had no doubt the next one would be just as special.

Before the Happy LIFE, I’m not sure I could have “heard” that child so clearly or had such a delightful interaction with complete strangers.  Without the Happy LIFE, I don’t think I would have been able to believe what an even more wonderful world I can see.

Critically Happy

If we’re going to have a chance of flourishing as a society, we’re going to have to agree that critical thinking is, well, critical.  As we move into the Babel of perception that the Internet is creating – with its Google “search bubbles” keeping the information we see narrowly confined to the context of information we’ve searched for in the past – we are going to come unmoored from a shared reality.  I just read (but may not believe) that more people are convinced the conspiracists’ versions of the JFK and Bin Laden assassinations and the 9/11 attacks are real than believe the mainstream media’s versions.  In fact, one person of my Facebook acquaintance recently seemed to have posted that information as “proof” of a bit of clearly manufactured news he’d posted as factual and then vehemently defended after having been roundly burned by those pointing out the easily discerned falsity of his post. 

If we lose our ability to think critically at the same time we’re all being enclosed in bubbles made only of what we want to believe or already know – in conjunction with special effects technology that allows the complete shattering of the notion that seeing is believing – we may not be able to believe even the evidence of our own eyes. 

Somewhere between the whole-hearted acceptance of utterly unexamined nonsense and the scientific extremism of “if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist,” there must be a middle ground.  As far as our shared understanding of reality is concerned, if we ever hope to create a path toward the Happy LIFE, the middle ground is where we’re going to find it. 

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Willingness

The beginning of change, of charity, of service, and of compassion is a willing heart. 

 It’s the willingness to be helpful that causes us to reach out a hand. 

It’s the willingness to be humble that allows us to share our accomplishments with those without whom we could not succeed. 

 It’s the willingness to be honest that frees us to acknowledge – and more importantly to learn from – our mistakes. 

It’s the willingness to fail that leads us to success.

It’s the willingness to love others that helps us be ourselves. 

 It’s the willingness to believe in something far larger than ourselves that keeps us on the path toward creating a more equitable world.

 It’s the willingness to honor others’ beliefs that allows us to flourish as an open society.

 It’s the willingness to listen that allows us to understand.

 It’s the willingness to risk heartbreak that enables us to love.

 

Compassion Courts

Today, as I’ve traveled along the path of gratitude on my way to the Happy LIFE, I’ve been thinking about how grateful I am that I’ve never succumbed to addiction in a way that landed me in jail.  If you could be convicted for being overweight as proof positive of a food addiction, I’d be in the slammer for sure.  How lucky am I that my circumstances never put me at sufficient risk to discover that a substance other than food (or cigarettes, back in the day) has the same nearly irrepressible sway over my better judgment?  And, I really do think the difference between me and many of the people who find themselves on the skids comes down to the luck of the draw, mainly in the form of being born to parents who were fortunate and functional enough to provide decent nutrition, appropriate clothing, a stable home along with a focus on education, hard work, common decency, love and affection.  All of those things also likely came together to provide me with robust physical health and at least a semblance of mental health. 

My generation was lucky, too, at least when it came to the relative danger of the illegal “drugs du jour” and I can’t help but be grateful for that as well.  Back then, the drug scourge consisted primarily of marijuana, powder cocaine, heroin, LSD and a few pharmaceuticals.  As much devastation as that era of street drugs caused compared to the 21st century’s underground pharmacopeia, today’s law enforcement, penal and social systems might consider those the “good ol’ days.”  An old friend, who is an addiction counselor, told me years ago that he thought cocaine had the most destructive power when it came ripping someone’s potential apart – until crack came along with an exponential increase in its ability to tear up lives.  Then, along came meth, which upped the ante and raised crack by another factor of ten.  My generation may have faced a barrage of potential addictions that were largely unknown and unfathomable to our parents but this generation is faced with addictions of mass destruction that are largely unknown to us.

Between addiction and mental illness, I learned today, we have the root cause of the incarceration of 60% of women, and 30% of men, in our state’s jails.   However, slowly but surely, “drug courts” are being established to prevent our jails from being filled with the addicted and mentally ill at the expense of our ability to incarcerate violent criminals.  Cutting to the chase, our judicial and social agencies are working collaboratively to help non-violent offenders who are able and willing to help themselves – but only those who request access to the services it provides after they’ve served their sentences.  Violent criminals, no matter what their mental health or addiction issues, need not apply.

These drug courts provide the support to get addicts off illicit drugs and get the mentally ill on licit ones.  As strongly as I believe we, as a society, are over (and often unnecessarily) medicating heartache (and a host of other temporary, adaptive responses), I believe just as strongly that some people have chemical imbalances in their neurochemistry and need to be and stay on some high-powered psychoactive meds.  The alternative is for them to be in and out of jail, eventually losing their ability to secure either work or housing, at which point they end up back in jail where they are more expensive to house than if they were out in the world, living in subsidized housing and working as productively as possible.

So, today, I’m grateful to live in a time and place where our community leaders are working to find a more compassionate – and cost effective – way to support people who find themselves where, but for the grace of God (and lack of exposure), might have gone I (or you).  If the butterfly had flapped its wings differently, who’s to say I (or you) wouldn’t have ended up trying to keep body and soul (and an addiction) together by committing crimes like shop lifting, writing bad checks, theft and so on – all the things that people who are living on the edge might do to keep from falling over.

I greatly admire the people who’ve found their way back after falling over the edge.  And I’m very grateful to the people who’ve shown the compassion to help them do it.

The Gratitudes

So, the next phase of the positivity path I’m on is “Three Gratitudes.”  Yes, I am aware that “Gratitudes” is not actually a word.  However, it seems like a fine time to make it one since it sounds like “Beatitudes,” which comprise the Sermon on the Mount, one of the loveliest, most poetic and grace-filled passages in the Bible.  And, “beatitude” means “supreme blessedness.”

More and more, social scientists like Barbara Fredrickson and Sonia Lyubormirski are publishing research that, to paraphrase wildly, seems to support the idea that gratitude is the prerequisite for blessedness.  Let that sink in for just a minute – that may be a keeper:  Gratitude is the prerequisite for blessedness.Image

The Mac dictionary app defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”  There’s also the concept of “radical forgiveness,” advanced by Colin Tipping and (to my limited understanding) Buddhism, which says we are most fulfilled when we learn to be thankful for and appreciative of everything that we experience, even the tragic.   I can tell you that I’ve tried acceptance-based forgiveness and I’ve got a couple of long standing and deep seated issues that ain’t budging, no matter how many times I tell myself, “It is what it is.”  And time alone doesn’t seem to be healing all wounds.  In fact (and in all honesty) I still find myself half hoping that time will wound all of the heels I’ve encountered.  So, it seems clear that there must be a better way than simply surviving the time that passes after we’ve been wounded and, more and more, I believe it may be marked with  a signpost that says “Gratitude.”

Increasingly, when I find myself being overwhelmed by sadness, resentment, hurt or anger – that’s my sign.  That’s the time to stop and count my blessings, no matter how trite I may have found that saying to be when someone tried to offer it as advice during a difficult time.  That’s why I think consciously making gratitude a habit is essential to creating a fulfilling life.

Today, I begin.  I’m looking forward to this phase of listing daily three things for which I’m grateful.  I don’t suppose I’ll share all of them beyond my daily journal but, who knows?  To begin my Phase Four of the Happy LIFE, I’m going to start with these:

Today, I’m grateful for:

  • Being a woman in a time and place that I am not property or legally subservient
  • A husband who does double duty as best friend and confidant
  • The freedom of expression (and a job that lets me indulge it daily)

And, as always, I’m grateful to you for taking the time to read and consider being Positively Happy.

Shoot for the Moon

What would the world be like if we didn’t have ideals?  What if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had never had a dream?  How dark and low could we go?  If there’s an alternate reality bereft of ideals and dreams, I’m supremely grateful to be living in this one, for all its flaws.  And, science seems to be revealing the idea that gratitude for what we have is the catalyst for creating more of what we would like to have, especially when it comes to having the kind of compassion for ourselves and for others that supports collaboration and richness – if not always riches – in life.

What if, each and every day, we all focused on finding a piece of the dream that was real?  And then focused on being grateful for that piece?  How many more pieces might we then find along the way?  And, how much more effectively and creatively might we use those pieces?

As I understand it, that’s the idea behind idealism, a philosophy that holds that the matter making up our universe sprang from consciousness, not the other way around.  In other words, the “Great Consciousness” had a thought and then “spoke” (acted) to initiate the matter that continues to create the universe in which we live.  This idealistic view respects that there is a higher intelligence operating at the heart of the universe even if we are not able to fully grasp it from where we float, spinning on a tiny speck in the backwater of a galaxy that occupies the hinterlands of the universe.  The prior, Victorian scientific view, was rigidly mechanical and assumed that matter randomly contrived and evolved – after billions of years – to create consciousness.  In brief and, again paraphrasing generations of scientists and philosophers wildly,  Victorian intellectual thought held that the Universe was not complete or fulfilled until we showed up.  Could be.  But, to not-so-wildly paraphrase Carl Sagan in Contact, if there’s no other intelligent (conscious) life out there, it would be an awful waste of space.

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The idea of embracing an idealistic philosophy also touches on Life University’s basis in modern (not the old dead French kind that you’ll see if you Google it) vitalism, which says that all living things are part of a conscious universe and are therefore self-healing, self-maintaining, and self regulating.

If there’s anything that sums up Life University’s ideals, it’s the phrase from our mission statement preamble, which says:  “We maximize the expression of the perfection within.”  We approach everything we do (ideally, of course) with the idea that we are removing the interference to the optimal expression of our potential, which allows us to thrive and even flourish.

So, how cool is it that LIFE’s philosophy is now intersecting with the growth of positive psychology, a model for human consciousness also based on fulfilling potential and creating possibilities rather than on finding problems and treating dysfunction?  It’s so cool, that we’re engaging in the Happy LIFE.  It’s also so cool, that the course I’m able to take this quarter, on my way to completing the prerequisites for a soon-to-be-offered masters in positive psychology, is “The Psychology of Excellence.”  I can tell you, being part of a psychology class that will explore how human consciousness and performance can consistently reach new heights – rather than all the ways they can consistently malfunction – is making me Positively Happy.

What Matters

We live in an astounding world, if we stop for even a second to think about it.  It’s amazing, really, that my husband and I just returned from a country halfway across the world, flying through the air at speeds reaching over 500 miles an hour, within minutes of our projected arrival time, completely without incident (other than a couple of delayed departure times).  We also drove (on the wrong side of the road, mind you), directed by a device smaller than a paperback book, which could pull up a map of any place we wanted to go.  I took six new books and bought a copy of my local newspaper on a device that is also smaller than paperback book and less than one-quarter-inch thick.  I took a presentation with 75 slides and over 50 images on a device smaller than a tube of lip balm.  If that’s not worth a bit of amazement and respect, I’m not sure what is. 

There’s no doubt that our travels to another country and another culture enriched our experience but it was the time we spent with each other and with friends that actually enriched our souls.  And it is the friends and family to whom we return and who care about our journey that make it truly worth having traveled.

And that makes me Positively Happy.