The Happiness Project

I am not big on taking pictures but I find I am documenting my life more by photo than I have at any other point in my life. This is big. As an example of my near lifelong tendency to journal/blog rather than whip out a camera I present the following evidence:

Exhibit A: I have no photos of happy or indifferent or even humiliating moments from my junior high or high school years and those snap shots from university were taken by other people and somehow I ended up with copies.

Exhibit B: I didn’t even own a digital camera until Thanksgiving of 2006 when I bought one on a whim at Target because it was ridiculously cheap as opposed to indecently over-priced.

Exhibit C: Most of my photography is blog driven which means I need a photo to go with a piece and am too lazy to google free images.

That I now take the bulk of photos is a mystery yet to be solved because Rob is a shutterbug of legendary proportions who for reasons unknown forgets to bring his camera along anymore (because he knows I always have one on me?).

But pictures are evidence of life. Jokes aside about Kodak moments (dating myself back to the Iron Age now), photos remind us of real and important events because even the smallest moments can mushroom in retrospect.

All of the photos from the early days of Will and I are gone. They were taken by friends and members of the service organization he and I belonged to and I never got copies.

Pictures of us in the days of yore before his illness (although technically speaking there never was a “before” he was ill the day I met him) aren’t in digital form but I do have some evidence there was an “us” and a love.

Rob has a photo – somewhere – of he and Shelley at their grad party, which is where they “hooked” up. I haven’t seen it, but it is, for what I have heard, radiating with all the romantic potential they would find together and I don’t know that many couples are lucky enough to be captured in the moment of falling.

Rob and I met here. Unless he was photographing himself that night, and I can assure you I wasn’t, there are no pictures.

The self-portrait Rob sent to me.

The self-portrait Rob sent to me.



We dated via Yahoo, MSN Messenger and our trusty land lines. Again, tangible pictorial evidence is hard to come by, but here is the first picture he sent of himself to me. I was quite excited to see the beard. I’d seen photos of him on the widda board from his trip (and so had many other women who apparently had lewd discussions about him in the late night chat – no serious wonder why there are so few widowers there. They are hunted down like wooly mammoth and dragged by the tusks back to caves.) But the beard hadn’t been in evidence in any photos I had seen. I love full facial hair on men and am partial to goatees. Sly old future husband of mine paid enough attention to the things I written in posts and on blogs to know this.

We met, as I have mentioned, in Idaho Falls. No pictures exist although Rob did bring his camera and we tried to set up a photo op along the river walk. However it was February and even he will admit to be cold on that walk, so we opted to go back to the hotel and … snuggle up instead.


Tee sees a deer. Idaho Falls 2006

Tee sees a deer. Idaho Falls 2006

The photo was taken a few months earlier by Rob during his memorial trip for Shelley in the States. The woman is Tee. She was a friend of Shelley and Rob’s from the Mexican clinic. Rob took me to meet her that weekend. She was a special woman. Gifted with sight, in my opinion, and I apparently passed muster with her, which was important because Rob was quite fond of both she and her husband  and they, as most people who know him personally do, adored him.

Arkansas is where we spent a week and became officially engaged. And again, there are no pictures of the latter, but only because we were in bed at the time and who admits to being naked when the proposal of marriage is made -aside from me – but there is papparazzi aplenty of the trip.


Heading into the Bat Cave.

Heading into the Bat Cave.

This photo is us after (I think) we emerged from our caving expedition. Rob got us the nifty jump-suits from his plant because he wanted to really crawl back as far as we could go. Most people (that would not be us) are wearing civvies and flip-flops and stop about the point where things are pitch dark and quite slimy, which is early on. Not Rob and I, we stopped when I was an inch away from bats and one needs to really go back aways before one is that close to the ceiling.


Us, kissing in front of our cabin. Someday I want to go back there.

Us, kissing in front of our cabin. Someday I want to go back there.

I don’t know which day of the trip this was. Maybe the first full day but since I am wearing shorts, it may have been the day after I had a severe allergic reaction to some bug bites and had a horrifying rash all over the back of my legs ‘cuz I remember wearing shorts that day and I seldom wear shorts.

Regardless, it is a good piece of photographic evidence the charged nature of our trip and of the continuing business of falling. We were quite serious about getting it right. Many topics were discussed that week. All thoughtfully and with an eye to the future. How unromantic does that sound? But it actually was. 


Rob and I going off for pictures after the ceremony. Edde (aka ED) took this pic.

Rob and I going off for pictures after the ceremony. Edee (aka ED) took this pic.


It doesn’t get better than this for artifacts, does it?

My favorite wedding photo and the best day up to that point of my life and it has not proved to be one of those impossible high points whose feelings and energy fade in the harsh light of the everyday, which is not something everyone can say, and I certainly have never been able to say, about life.

The moments that are caught unawares are the most revealing and the wedding photo is one of those moments.

I have a blog on my GoogleReader called Marginal Revolutions. I think I have mentioned it before. One of the bloggers is an economist named Tyler Cowen and he was interviewed by The Happiness Project, another blog whose author, Gretchen Rubin, is researching happiness advice for a book she is writing and blogging about it. Essentially she is trying out any and all happiness enhancer theories from self-help books to O magazine.

I have come to the conclusion that happiness is not unattainable but neither is it something to rabidly pursue or loudly lament during the periodic dry spells of either. Happy is like day. It has to have an opposite in order for us to know it exists. 

My life is good but even in the dark times there was still happiness. Maybe not recognizable to anyone but me, but it was there. Most days. If only for a moment or two. Sometimes though I missed those moments by focusing too intently on what I was lacking.

In the drama over the last week or so, I have noted that happiness is still something that exists even in the face of impending grief. My father for example has been entertaining company, mostly family, but despite his illness and continuing ups and downs with Mom, he probably knows happiness just about every day in some form or another be it visits or phone calls or just the joy of another day that he is still able to do things for himself.

I guess I am not surprised. Dad is a Virgo. They are such practical and grounded people. According to Rob the world would grind to a halt in their absence.

So let’s ponder our moments of joy today, shall we? Here or link back.