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August 24, 2010 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Discovering Happiness: Making Space For Colossal Success?

Tavi Gevinson. Along with Penelope Trunk, she is my inspiration for today.

This, as far as I can tell, has been the best summer of my adult life.

It has not been the best summer of my adult life because it has been the easiest, the most fun, or the most successful summer. My life is neither problem nor stress free. In fact, I am still struggling in many ways as I always have.

It has been the best summer because I have been happy. This is a new experience for me, being happy, and I highly recommend it.

I understand now that happiness is a set of skills more than it is a set of circumstances. I am truly grateful for that realization, because without it,  I would still be miserable. And terribly stuck.

I also understand that having discovered happiness does not mean that I will never again experience pain, sadness or loss. Life just doesn’t work that way. The good news is that I can use this set of happiness skills to find my way back from those times. Chances are that I will need the practice. I’m still new at this.

I originally started this blog for the sole purpose of marketing the business that I was planning to start. I knew that it was necessary. I did not know that I could write, that I would love to write, or what I would write about. I did not know that anyone would enjoy reading what I write. I have now officially become a firm believer in trying new things.

I think that writing might be one of many keys to my happiness.

My goal in my writing is to “be useful”. This is blogging advice from the first blog I ever read, Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist. I think it is probably the only advice that I really needed because it stuck with me and I often forget things.

“Being Useful” has made me look for different perspectives on the things that I think about. That more than anything has helped me in my quest for happiness.

I’m not talking about putting on rose-coloured glasses and denying anything. I’m talking about recognizing that some days, beauty won’t show up in my living room, so I have to go out and look for it. Even if it is raining. I’m talking about practising gratitude, even on the days when life is extra difficult. I’m talking about taking positive action towards the biggest problems that we all face, no matter how small those actions might be.

I am also talking about faith.

It would be so easy to take a look at the surface of my life and see reason to despair. I have made that a habit since I was a child.

I’m still living at a standard of living that makes it difficult to fulfil all of my needs. I’m still going back for yet another season to a career that is not serving me. I have not started a business. I still struggle with focus and discipline. I’m still single.

But here is what has changed.

I have fallen in love with writing and what it does for me while, I hope, benefiting others. I can’t help thinking that I should explore this further to see where it leads since the very small amount that I have done on this blog has been so rewarding. This idea feels right, in a way I don’t often feel.

I am not talking about becoming a writer, but writing has taught me things that I desperately needed to learn and so it makes perfect sense to explore what else it might have to offer and see where that might lead. New frontiers and all of that.

I have spent a fair amount of time exploring the things that I can have in my life that will enhance it, while not taking too much if anything from the Earth, and of course, at minimal cost to me. Activities that do not increase my consumption of resources or carbon emissions. (This would be an example of taking positive action towards the biggest problems.)

I will be taking singing lessons again this year. The bus that gets me there each week will take that trip with or without me, as will the bus that gets me to rehearsal for the choir that I think I just committed to joining. Fun and rewarding 0 emissions activities.

Just planning to get back to my music has already inspired me to play my guitar which had been gathering dust for the past year.

I am coming to understand that while I do need more income for my long-term survival, the matter is not life-threatening if I don’t think of it that way. So, I’ve decided to gift myself with the time to explore. It is clear that I am attracting more abundance in my life. I only need to be comfortable while I find out what else I need to know. I am comfortable now.

I have recognized that while my work situation is far from secure or ideal, I can choose to accept it for now and I can also choose to focus on the many benefits that it offers me. I vow to make a greater effort to appreciate the fabulous people who I get to work with daily, and all of the other people I get to meet with each production. While, I am a lot less excited about building costumes than I was years ago, I can still make a greater effort enjoy the process, as well as my own expertise. I can still choose to grow. I don’t need to waste energy on what I’m not getting.

I am very, very, content with being single which doesn’t mean that I can’t dream of the day that will change. I know that this place of contentment is a place of safety. The days of bad relationship decisions made out of fear are behind me. I no longer fear being alone the way that I once did.

I have wonderful friends, and low self-esteem no longer keeps me from enjoying their company, nor the company of those I might meet in the future.

My bag business is right where I left it, ready to pick up and carry on at any moment should I choose. It will stay there while I discover what other possible options that I haven’t dreamed of yet.

While I have been planning this for some time without writing about it here, it was Penelope Trunk who inspired me to write today.

She wrote in her most recent post about a fourteen year old blogger named Tavi Gevinson , who writes a blog called Style Rookie that I have never heard of before. I am not inspired simply because Tavi at 14 has become a seriously successful blogger. Stories of success are always inspiring. But, what inspired me was the last paragraph of Penelope’s post.

“We should all throw caution to the wind like we’re Tavi. She jumped in, tried something, gave herself permission to fail colossally, which also made space to succeed colossally.”

I suspect we should all be trying to do more of that!




Leave a Comment
  1. Jenny Ann Fraser / Aug 25 2010 1:10 am

    To my lovely daughter, you are so smart, I am so proud of you. Love Mum

  2. DM / Aug 25 2010 6:23 am

    you are touching on some deep spiritual stuff here, although I’m guessing you probably know that. Reminds me of something I read elsewhere.. “I have learned the secret of being content…” I’m glad you’re having a good summer. I have been as well.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Aug 25 2010 8:26 pm

      Nice to hear that you have been well DM.
      It’s true this is spiritual, but what I love is when the spiritual works so well on a practical level too. My dream would be that more would understand this concept.

  3. rob white / Aug 25 2010 8:40 am

    Wow Jenny. You are having some marvelous breakthroughs… it is great to hear. You are expressing yourself genuinely and creatively and that, I believe, is a recipe for continued happiness. I believe the most important thing we can do is to continually create grander and grander versions of ourself… and you are a shining example of this.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Aug 25 2010 8:27 pm

      I hadn’t considered creating a grander vision in those terms. Thank you so much Rob for pointing that out. It gives me more to consider.

  4. Emily Jane / Aug 25 2010 10:57 am

    I adore this. You are so right when you say happiness is more a set of skills than circumstances – it’s easy to sit there and be unhappy and blame circumstances when you don’t have the skills or drive to get out there and make your own happiness. Writing has really helped me, too, but my ongoing challenge is practicing acceptance in order to achieve more happiness and less frustration sometimes – other than that, I think I am doing better this year than in any other year 🙂

    Glad to hear you are in such a good place – and excited to hear more about your singing lessons! I just enquired about the very same thing – I was talking to a couple of singer friends who convinced me anybody can become a good singer with enough training (something I’m still skeptical of!) – I got in touch with one lady, but she only teaches the classical style and I’m not sure that’s the route I want to go – let me know if you find somebody great!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Aug 25 2010 8:32 pm

      Thank you Emily and welcome back to the Peg!
      I think that acceptance is difficult though it gets easier with practice I’m not sure it will ever be automatic in all circumstances. I suspect that the rewards are in the effort as much as the end goal itself. It will bring you to a better place. I too am so glad that you are doing well.
      I do believe that singing can be taught. Training and practice! (I had to mention the practice thing to remind myself. 🙂 )I can suggest two teachers I know of if you are interested.
      Also, stay away from small neighborhood music schools. I think that they are great, but the voice can be damaged without proper technique so you need someone who is well trained.
      The one I am going back to teaches classical, but I can make some suggestions if you message me.

  5. Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point / Aug 25 2010 5:15 pm

    Jenny, I sense you radiating with this post!

    I love how you explore your creativity with ease. It’s such a great way to express and nurture ourselves through creative expression and I sense that you’ve always done this.

    And like you, I’m a firm believer of trying new things. I think this is a predilection that creative souls can’t escape. So, cheers to new frontiers!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Aug 25 2010 8:35 pm

      Thank you Belinda,
      I think you are right, creative souls do crave those creative outlets. I doubt that it is easy though. I think that is the mistake some of us make in our endeavors when we assume that difficulty suggests a lack of talent or ability. I have fallen prey to that for much of my life too.
      It really is about just trying.

  6. Ollin / Aug 27 2010 7:14 pm

    “I understand now that happiness is a set of skills more than it is a set of circumstances.”

    That. Was mind blowing. Thank you for that piece of very important wisdom. I struggle with waiting for the conditions to arise that will “finally” make me happy and make all the suffering of life go away.

    But the truth is I have to set up circumstances for my own happiness, I have to keep acquiring more and more skills to get me there. I have to get there, to happiness, happiness is not supposed to be trying to get to me.

    And I love that last quote. Lovely. What a courageous thing to do. I made some big courageous steps recently, its scary to think that I might fall on my face for making such risky decisions, but I am trying to as you recommend, live life in a big way.

    Great post! 🙂

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Aug 28 2010 11:08 am

      Thanks Ollin,
      I think that happiness is trying to get to us, but it’s our mindset that will determine whether we can be open to it.
      Falling on our face is not the worst thing that can happen to us… sometimes it’s what we need so that we can learn where to go next. I finally understand that if you play it safe to avoid failure you’re pretty much guaranteed to avoid success. So, Bravo to you on your big steps.

  7. TUNER / Aug 28 2010 11:21 pm

    I really love reading your posts. And I have, after knowing you for so many years, seen such a great blossoming of realizations emminating from what you write.
    Because of my friendship with you, the wonderful books we have read together and our countless chats, I am finally breaking out of that shell of uncertainty and gloom and doom that I was trapped in.
    Holy moley!.. Im in college now! I never would have made it there without stepping out of my ‘who’s gonna make me happy?’ attitude. Once I learned to accept everything without worrying about it all, the world seemed to pour out all sorts of opportunities for me to be happy on my own. A smile and a Thank You…a deep breath and a moment of reflection… those simple little rituals add up over time, and Time thanks us back!
    I love you and your wonderful writing makes me so very proud to call you my friend! 🙂

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Aug 29 2010 11:11 am

      Wow! I can barely respond to that! Thank you doesn’t cut it in any way.
      I can’t tell you how moving it is to read about your own journey in such a wonderful way.
      “..a deep breath and a moment of reflection…those simple little rituals add up over time, and time thanks us back!”
      Maybe you should be writing this blog? 😛
      Much love, Forever.


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