Saturday, August 1, 2009

Completed May Bead Journal Project

The Pursuit of Happiness


The inspiration for my May Bead Journal Project began when I was walking the run course of the Liberty to Liberty Triathlon. Walking when everyone else is running in a triathlon is like showing up to a black tie event in your jeans and t-shirt. It's embarassing. And it makes you feel like a failure because you feel like everyone else is running by thinking... "Oh, at least I'm doing better than her; at least I'm not walking..." So, I was thinking this way, when I saw a beautiful thistle on the side of the path and it caused me to break my self-pitying line of thinking. One thought..."I wonder how I stitch this thistle?" broke a whole series of negative thoughts that had entered my mind...feelings of failure, hurt, defeat...all vanished in an instant. Like magic. Which led me to question myself, why was I thinking this way to begin with? What good did that do? And, for the umpteenth time during that race, my day took a turn for the better.

And when my friends ran back out -- after they had already finished -- to keep me company, to walk me into the finish line...so I wouldn't be alone...so I wouldn't feel like a loser...it was one of the happiest moments of the day.


There was power in my thinking and I felt it. And there was power in the actions of my friends and I felt that too. And maybe this power, this energy...this pursuit of something greater than ourselves, was what the day was all about.

We had immersed ourselves in patriotic fervor; participating in a bike ride which took us from the Gateway of Freedom, the Statue of Liberty, in New York City to the Home of Democracy in Philadelphia. My girlfriends and I couldn't help but embrace our country, embrace our fellow man, and embrace the truths on which our country was founded. Sure we had a lot of fun, but it wasn't about the crowns that we wore, or the streamers we placed on our bikes or the songs we sang to the volunteers as we rode into the rest stops...


It was about our attitude. That day, we were five Liberty Ladies and we spread smiles wherever we went. But how did it happen?

I think it's because we, as a group, made a conscious decision that day. We had decided we were going to have fun, no matter how tired or hot or thirsty we became. And because we had decided that, we forced ourselves to smile and to wave and to sing -- even when we weren't feeling it. So when we met other bikers, runners, volunteers, photographers, family members and innocent bystanders, we smiled and waved and sang and then they forgot how tired and hot and thirsty they were. And we started a chain reaction and happiness spread like wildfire. I honestly couldn't believe it.

And I had no idea it was so powerful until we were thanked by one person after another at the end of the day -- and they told us -- "You made our day!"


Right there in Philadelphia, in the birthplace of our country, we had made happiness a priority and it had grown larger than ourselves. So, as I stitched this bead journal piece hour after hour, I ruminated on the power of the human spirit -- I mean, heck, we were only participating in a triathlon but what if we were trying to change the world? And so I thought some more, more about the meaning of democracy, the meaning of freedom and the meaning of life.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness....[Declaration of Independence]"

...the pursuit of happiness...


What is the pursuit of happiness and what does it mean? Why are so many people unhappy even though they live in this country where liberty and freedom are protected? What makes us happy and what makes happiness worthy of pursuit?

FDR once said, "I believe that happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort." And I believe that too.

I also believe that great effort springs naturally from great attitude.

Amen. Attitude is everything.

So maybe, it's life, liberty and the pursuit of a positive attitude.

Oh, I know, I'm not the first to think that there is power in positive thinking.

Buddha said, "All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him."


I mean, thoughts are energy. And I believe that positive thoughts change the world. And we must be the change we wish to see in the world. (Who said that? thanks to Google. It was Mahatma Gandhi.)

Ergo, we must embody happy thoughts.

And Actions Speak Louder Than Words. The Dalai Lama says that "Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions" And our actions began with our thoughts, right?

So, happiness is generated from within...within our own thoughts...and it comes not from other people. For to look for happiness through other people is a folly BUT

Surrounding ourselves with people who think positively, who act positively, can help us change the way we think and act. It can help us to toss away our judgments, our criticisms and treat all men as our equal. It can help us to be better neighbors.


So maybe it's Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of the Golden Rule -- I will love my neighbor as myself. Or, Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness for our friends and neighbors??

Buddha said that "Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."

So then, does happiness occur when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony? If so, then the freedom of thought, the freedom of speech and the freedom to act are critical to our happiness.

That leads me to believe that without the protection of these unalienable rights, the pursuit of happiness would be severely hampered. And with the protections of these rights, happiness can almost be guaranteed. So then why aren't more Americans happy?


It seems that there ought to be happy people everywhere.

Well, I think EVERYONE has happy thoughts, at least occasionally, and sometimes all it takes is a happy word or action to trigger them into action. And though, it doesn't always work and the spark sometimes fizzles, the idea that one happy spark might ignite a whole series of happy fireworks encourages us to try again.

So, this is what happened when five of my happy friends, decided to help their neighbors and to smile and sing even when they were dog-tired. And they Changed the Day for a lot of people.

While working this piece I thought about this powerful example in life and I had an epiphany of sorts. A realization that I must be more purposeful and intent on my pursuit of happiness. That living in this great country doesn't guarantee happiness -- but it does guarantee the freedom and liberty to pursue happiness. And I must be diligent to calm the busy-ness that robs me of the time to think good thoughts and do good deeds -- that perhaps, the pursuit of happiness requires one to be more present in the moment and to pay more attention to our neighbors -- more than just waving to them as they speed by in their cars.

And spending all day yesterday at the Statue of Liberty National Park cemented it into my brain. That amazing statue was the result of a very powerful idea from a very talented sculptor; a very powerful thought from a purposeful French statesman; and the very powerful ideas and words of a (now famous) newspaperman in New York City -- as a result, we have the Statue of Liberty. But that's a subject for another day.

Have a Happy Day.

28 comments:

Mary Timme said...

Beauty is there for us to see it. And a lot of it is in how we look at the world.

I'm so glad to hear the story behind this beading for the BJP!

Vicki W said...

Beautiful art and a beautiful post!

Judy S. said...

Oh, Susan, it's so good to have you back posting again! Your BJP is terrific as is your thoughtful post. You are SO right; we determine our own attitude and definitely have a choice in what it will be. Thanks for the reminder!

Carol said...

A wonderful page. I studied your beading because it has a flow that just carries me along from bead to bead. I love it.

A wonderful post. A verbal meditation. As if a prayer to the universe.

Why aren't Americans more happy...a thought provoking question, to which there are so many answers, depending on the responder.

My answer is but for myself because I AM happy. There are so many little things that contribute to my happiness. Gladly the pursuit of more material things is not important.

In the end, you and I are in agreement, but you said it so eloquently.

Love to you Susan. Love is one of those little things.

Allison Ann Aller said...

And you are changing us with your happy and positive attitude too.

Thanks, Susan for the beauty beyond compare, inside you and outside in your work...

Marnie said...

Perfect!

robin michelle said...

I don't know which is better: the story or the beaded piece! Both are wonderful though!

Vicky~ stichr ~ said...

First, I love all the extras in this project, and the way you put it together. Second...I so dislike a bad attitude. I get them from the people around me, then I get mad because I let them do that to me, and round and round. Life doesn't always have to be a bowl full of cherries, but it doesn't have to always be the pits either!

So here's to eatin' your cherries and spittin' out the pits!

Ati. Norway. said...

Reading your words is like reading a poem, looking at your bead work is like looking at art!
Wonderful work Susan, thanks for sharing your thoughts and work with the world!

pam T said...

wow. What an absolutely inspiring and thought provoking post and BJP piece, Susan. beautiful and right on. and perhaps this is what "IT" is all about, one person (or 5 women having the time of the lives in that triathalon) ... each and every one of us deciding that happiness and being authentic will cause others to see how we live and how we are HAPPY and spread like those candles all being lit from one and cause a ripple effect throughout our country. isn't that a great thought? ah, Susan, again you have started a chain reaction to spread the feeling...

Cindy Is Crafty said...

Awesome!!!!

Brenda said...

Gorgeous piece, and post!
Love the penny inside the flower.

Anne Marie - Toronto said...

A joyful and triumphant BJP and post! Lovely and inspiring.

TattingChic said...

What a beautiful post! I love your work! That piece is absolutely gorgeous!

Robin said...

Looking at this piece IS looking at art. OMG, you are such an artist... like Carol says, it flows from bead to bead, color to color, idea to idea and emotion to emotion.

Both your piece and your words give me cause to think and feel... Pondering this concept, pursuit of happiness and all the variations of it, has just begun for me... I will return to your post and read it again several times over the next few days. It feels so important and so timely to me right now. At this moment, I'm contemplating the difference between happiness and satisfaction. Happiness seems fleeting, a feeling that waxes and wains depending on our actions. Satisfaction seems more solid, like we can be satisfied without feeling happy. I don't know, Susan... you've opened Pandora's box with this one. I hope you'll digest your thoughts and these comments and then post again on this topic.

Meanwhile, your May BJP piece makes me happy (and satisfied and proud)!!!

Love, Robin

Marty52 said...

Such a powerful post, Susan. It will give me much to think about today... thanks for that! Your BJP matches it so well, too. I can see all the symbolism in it that was involved with your ride. It's really fabulous!

Marty S said...

Thanks for sharing your work and your thoughts. They are both beautiful.
Marty S
Crackpot Beader

Cathy K said...

What a beautiful, powerful post. Your way with words is equaled only by your way with beads; one feeds the soul and the other our eyes. Thank you! Hugs, Cathy

KV said...

Fabulous piece and a marvelous post!


Kathy V in NM

Wanda said...

You make my day every day when I read your posts! A friend of mine once told me that he couldn't be around me anymore if I didn't change my attitude. Sure, I was going through a very rough time. Life was bleak and I saw no way out. But when my friend told me that...I knew that I had completely lost my positive attitude and that it really did matter. I changed things...practically overnight. People NEEDED me and were COUNTING on my smile, my energy and positive attitude. And when "I" was back, people started changing around me as well. Things were not really all that bad and even if they were, things could always get worse so...let's smile and laugh and let that sparkle in our eyes shine! Your Journal is incredible...beautiful details and so much LOVE and HAPPINESS in it! Thank you for being here for us!

abeadlady said...

Love the page and even more, the sentiments behind it. I think we all forget sometimes how we affect others. It was brought home to me recently when I was going through a bad patch. My whole demeanor changed and everyone noticed. Like yours, my friends gathered round and brought me back to myself again. Keep up the good work.

coral-seas said...

Wow, wow, wow. How come you just keep getting better and better. If you didn't have pictures of your wonderful, beautiful, creative needlework, I would still have to come to read your inspirational and thought provoking posts. You are an absolute joy, I am so happy that I found your blog.

pam ehlers stec said...

Susan, you are one fabulous and inspirational woman. Your bead work is simply stunning. There is so much to admire in this piece. From the fab biker to the teeny little white flowers and that gorgeous thistle. Holy cow this piece chock full of wonderful things to look at!!! The words you wrote are so thoughtful and I so admire you for finishing the race with a smile. I sure do like your happy attitude!!! Great Job!!!

julieQ said...

I am so blessed to have read your post. Inspiring, to choose happiness. I love your story! I love the fact that your friends came back and walked with you. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

What a great post and fabulous art!

Thank you for sharing your energy.

freebird said...

Gosh I am late to seeing this fabulous piece! You did a terrific job on it but the story that goes with it is terrific too. I didn't want to hear that story right now as I want to wallow in feeling sorry for myself just now but darn it, you are so right. We don't have it so tough, most Americans, that we need to be in bad spirits. Okay, I'll shake the mood and try to smile. But here is a question I have never found an answer to and one other (maybe 2) are thinking it too - What if the people, person or main people around you only and insist on only seeing the bad in absolutely everything. How do you keep it from getting you down? Self help books say to get rid of those people but in my case it happens to be my husband of almost 37 years so that isn't an acceptable answer.

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Anonymous said...

Well, first, I'd like to say I think your art is exquisitely done . I love the way you used colors...it's plain ol awesome! Then I'd like to add that I read part of the blogging between the pictures...and you put your thoughts together quite well..well enough to keep ME reading. What you said made me think. I like what you had to say about the pursuit of happiness. You keep on beading n blogging! Peace ;)~~

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