Making a Case for The Short List


Stop for a moment and think of the saddest novel you’ve ever read or the one movie that made you cry even after the movie was over. I’m guessing more than one answer comes to mind. Maybe even a list. Now think of a book that made you feel happy, deeply happy. No doubt a short list.

What is it about our nature that as writers we are drawn to pen and paper when we are feeling at our lowest or saddest or most depressed? Why don’t we write annoyingly happy stories and post them, just as many people post pesky vacation photos on social media? You know the ones—two feet with freshly manicured toenails resting on the edge of a lounge chair with an ocean view, or the glass(es) of wine standing on a linen-covered table overlooking a mountain scene.

Every time I see such a photo on Facebook or Instagram I want to scream. I’m happy for the person who’s had a great adventure but I can’t afford any such vacation and I’m not in the mood to deal with my envy or jealousy. Those images are akin to my childhood bully taunting, “Haha! You can’t get me!”

Why is it so much easier for us to wallow publicly in self-pity and whine and complain? Why can we easily tap into negative emotions and write epic novels about those experiences? Try to do that about happiness and critics will say it’s boring and trite, or worse, fantasy.

All of this is on my mind since I find myself in a pleasant moment in time. Mind you, I’m not complaining. But it’s highly unusual for me—at least in the last eight years—to have a run of six months of peace and happiness. I’m not stuck in a quagmire of misery or depression, and there’s nothing at the moment for which I need to seek solace or guidance. Sure, I want more money and more sleep. Chocolate would be great too. Beyond that, life is good. Quiet. Uneventful. No drama!

I’ve thought about sharing an ethereal post: “Kids are fine. Work is good. Life is wonderful. Having a fantastic day! Wish you were here.” Maybe even add a photo of a glass of wine. Imagine the comments: “Where are you?” “Have you been drinking?” “You’re no good at writing sarcasm.” “What did so-and-so do now?”

I read a blog post last week written by someone with whom I went to high school. She doesn’t know I’ve been following her journey of watching her husband succumb to ALS. In her writing last week she apologized for not having written much lately, not because she’s been busy or because life has been too hard. She was lamenting the fact that she only writes when she’s overwhelmed with depression or the depth of what her husband is facing, even though she declared that particular day a good day. If my husband were dying a slow and tortuous death, I’d be writing constantly trying to keep depression from suffocating me. Please! Write about the happiness you’re experiencing because I can’t see it!

I also haven’t written much lately, and not because I’ve been too busy or overwhelmed. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to flaunt my good moment in time, or I don’t want to jinx myself. Maybe I don’t know how to write about happiness; after all, they say you write what you know.

Evidently I’ve been silent too long because people are asking, “Why aren’t you writing? What’s going on?”

No one wants to read about someone having a great day because so few people can relate to that. Maybe I need to start a new trend, call it Random Happy Moment. With small messages, 140-characters at a time, we can quietly create a revolution of good-natured moments. Spread an ounce of happiness here and there, like dandelion seeds. Imagine the possibilities.


4 thoughts on “Making a Case for The Short List

  1. Please DO write about having a good day, a happy moment. Write about being able to appreciate those good days and happy moments because of experiencing the lack of them in the past. I find that my life goes through peaks and valleys and cycles of happy and not so happy times. Lately, I think I write more about something after a tough time has passed, and how I got past or through it. Once I’m out the other side, words seem to come and flow more. But everyone writes for their own purpose, and it’s all good.

    • Perhaps if I write more often about happy times or even mundane days, maybe then the words will flow more readily out of habit. It’s part of making a conscious choice to seek out happiness. Not a bad way to live.

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