The new year is here. Time to wring out all the old stuff and bring in some fresh new bells and whistles. I am the first to admit that I was not attentive to this blog for many months, but it’s time to start anew. What better way than to give homage to an old (like medieval) tradition – The Vow of the Peacock.
The new year brings the opportunity to pledge changes in our lives called New Year’s Resolutions. They look pretty much the same from year to year: Lose weight; Drink or smoke less; exercise more; get organized; etc. These resolutions we make are devoted to self-improvement. We try to make ourselves look and feel physically better. However, these goals are notorious for falling to the wayside as we travel through the year.
Instead of these self-improvement resolutions, I want to propose turning to a Medieval tradition that Charles Dickens revealed in his periodical All the Year Round. He referred to The Peacock Vowmade by the Knights of the Kingdom to uphold the Vows of Chivalry. If you are not familiar with the pledge to chivalry, here are the contents.
The Knights would make this Vow on either the body of a live or cooked regal peacock which represented the King and Country.
What better way to enter the dawn of each New Year than to recommit oneself to these principles? Our Country (USA) needs this commitment. Our lives need this too. The world would be a better place for it.
I have a special St. Patrick’s Day story for you all. I hope you enjoy it.
There it was again – March 17th, St Patrick’s Day – ten days away. I knew my darling husband was eager to know what gift I would get him for his sacred holiday. You see, Conor was Irish – a tried and true Irishman. He’d come to this country as a nine-year-old boy with his family, but I don’t think his heart had ever left Ireland. His father, Liam Callahan, was an architectural engineer who helped build bridges and just never left. Liam and his mother, Erin, loved America and eventually applied for citizenship. Conor thinks they just were tired of the Irish Troubles, and America was a safe place to be in those times. Following his family’s example, Conor became a citizen too, but he still dreams of returning to his native country. I wish I could buy him a ticket to his hometown of Cobh in Cork County. Its claim to fame is that it was the last stop before the Titanic set off on its ill-fated journey.
Whenever St. Patrick’s Day comes around, Conor treats the day like Christmas. He had the shivers when he saw the Chicago River turn green. He was first in line to watch the Chicago St. Paddy’s Day parade. He gave everyone a present. In a nutshell, he went way overboard for the day and was crushed if I didn’t share his enthusiasm. We broke up for three months after the first St. Patrick’s Day we were together because I made fun of his green beard. I had to do some fancy mea culpas to resume our relationship. Since then, I have tried to get him a meaningful Irish present each year on the holiday.
After Shamrock chocolates, several different Irish tee shirts over the years, diamond-studded four-leaf clover cuff links, and for our wedding, a sterling silver Claddagh wedding ring; what was I supposed to get him this year? I had been searching all the little stores around our apartment, in catalogs, and online for an unusual gift. The days rolled by, and I was down to two days. I had to find something. An Irish garden flag? Dr. Squatsh’s manly scented soap bars? A book about Ireland? None of these choices seemed unique enough.
On March 16th, I set out to the local bookstore to find a book on Ireland that Conor didn’t have. Fortunately, Daisy Morgan of The Book Cellar Around the Corner had a selection of books and trinkets set out in a special display for St. Patrick’s Day. I unenthusiastically perused the books. Nothing was striking my fancy. Then my eyes set upon the perfect gift for Conor, an Irish gnome! The light green-robed gnome was about 7 inches high. Its pointed hat was about half its size. A hatband ringed the bottom of the hat. This band was intricately carved with a linear Celtic knot, and the band hid the figure’s eyes. A pudgy nose peeked out from the hat – surrounded by a magnificent mustache. He also had an extensive beard carved with more Celtic swirls that fell down almost to the bottom of the figure. His left hand lay by his side, figuring his long beard. His right hand held a dark green lucky Shamrock.
Gnomes are, of course, one of the “Little Folk” that haunt the isle of Ireland. This one was so whimsical that I thought for sure Conor would love him at first sight. Daisy wrapped my present in green paper all the time, chattering on that I was the second person in an hour that had bought one of these little fellas.
“They’re just so cute!” she gushed. She called to me as I left the store, “I hope you enjoy it!”
I awoke the next day a bit nervous, hoping that I had bought the best present for Conor. Carefully I placed the shamrock-decorated green bag next to his bowl of Irish oatmeal made especially for St. Paddy’s Day. I beamed as Conor came into the kitchen.
“You remembered! Irish oatmeal!” In his hand, he had a small box wrapped in green paper and had green ribbons hanging from the middle of the package.
“Of course I did.” I shoved my present toward him.
Conor gave me a big kiss and handed me his present. “Here.” He said unceremoniously. “I hope you like it.”
I couldn’t wait. I tore off the paper but stopped to watch Conor pull out the gnome hidden below the green wrapping paper.
The look on his face when he saw the little green gnome was not what I expected. His brows knitted together; his lips parted into an ‘O’. Then he lifted his head and commanded, “Open yours.”
Disappointed, thinking he was not happy with the gift, I proceeded to tug off the rest of the paper and open the box. There nestled in the box, among a cloud of green crinkle paper, was an exact twin to the gnome that Conor held in his hands. Stunned, I looked up at him. He wore a goofy smile. “Happy St. Patrick’s Day, my love.”
Every year on March 3rd we have the opportunity to do something to make another person happy. The Dalai Lama said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” What exactly is “compassion”? Dictionary.com states Compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” So how do we practice Compassion? Compassion isn’t just feeling sorry for someone, it’s doing something about that feeling. Compassion is having empathy for another, but beyond that – it is having mercy and kindness shown to the other person.
In an online article from Psychology Today March 27, 2011 by Alex Lickerman M.D.
Nicholas Christakis, suggests that “we influence the happiness of people close to us physically as well as the happiness of people close to us personally up to three degrees of separation (meaning not just the friends of our friends but their friends as well). How might this influence come about? Not by the advice we give or the action we take to try to make others happier but simply by being happy ourselves. Emotions, it turns out, are as contagious as an infectious disease. Some of us seem to be more contagious than others and some of us especially susceptible to being ‘infected’ by others, but most of us have had firsthand experience in bringing others up or down with our moods and in being brought up or down by the moods of others.”
This opinion of Christakis reminds me a great deal of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In my research on making others happy it circled back to you being a happy person. Your happiness is infectious to others. You smile, others smile: You give praise: others give praise: You share: others share. It’s just human nature that we mimic those actions that lighten up our day.
So what is my wish for you on I Want You To Be Happy Day? I wish that you would take a bit of time to think about being happy. What makes you happy? Then spread that around to others!
The world surely could use more happiness right now and it starts with you! Smile! You hold within your soul the key to others happiness. Use it wisely.
If you are interested on how this special day came about, the following was originally posted on this blog on Feb 26, 2018.
The Origins of “I Want You to Be Happy” Day: Mark Your Calendars
One of the original members of the Winter Garden senior writing group I facilitate, was Harriet Grimes. Harriet had written a column for the small local paper for many, many years before her retirement. She surprised us all during one meeting declaring that on the upcoming March 3rd date, we should be celebrating “I Want You to be Happy” Day. She explained to us that she had initiated the day in 1990 because of an incident that had happened with her grandchild.
According to an article written in The Journal Times by Jeff Wilford in August of 2000, Harriet sent in a request to Chase’s Calendar of Events to declare March 3rd each year as “I Want You to be Happy” Day.
The article explains how it all started: “It started with her grandson, Jason, then 4. He fell out of a tree and broke his arm on March 3, 1990. Grimes took him to the hospital. As they left the hospital, a nurse gave Jason a brightly colored sticker for being brave.
Back at home, Jason’s 5-week-old brother, Justin, started to cry. Jason went over to him, gave him the sticker and kissed him.
“That just went all over me, because he was just a little 4-year-old thinking about someone else,” Grimes says. “I just felt like that unselfish, expecting nothing in return act of love by a little 4-year-old, the world would be a better place if the adults learned from the little ones before the little ones learned from the adults.”
Grimes describes the holiday as a day to show love, care and concern for other people, even if things aren’t so hot for you.”
The Ink and Quill Writing Group had ever since made sure to acknowledge and celebrate this special day. The point of this day is to bring joy to someone, especially if that someone is in distress or hurting.
I barely remember the beginning months of 2020 with its angst over the Impeachment of President Trump. That all began to pale as the news of this nasty illness brought forth to all the world the Grim Reaper in a very – real – sense. As the days went by the Grim Reaper crept closer and closer to our shores. Then it tumbled into our cities. Pushed along by our very mobile society, it washed into every facet of our lives. You could not go an hour without hearing the dreaded words “COVID 19” – the pandemic.
As I look back on this year I wonder what lessons I have taken away from this craziness we call 2020. Personally, I was hurt by not being able to be busy with activities like the Wii bowling group or my Book Clubs. I valiantly tried to keep the writing group together by writing prompts for those that had email addresses but was frustrated that we couldn’t seem to share our writing as we had when we were together. I soon found I was a 24/7 news watcher. I couldn’t seem to focus enough to read books. I struggled with being depressed. My aches and pains became worse from doing so much sitting in front of the TV and computer. I talked to my dog too much and to my relatives too little. I swore more than I ever have in my life – mostly at the TV when the orange man was talking.
The lessons I learned were that had I not had friends to write to and talk to, I never would have kept my sanity. I learned that I believed in science and was willing to follow the guidelines set by them. I found that having a dog as a companion was an absolute godsend. I found I could learn new techy things in a pinch like when I tried Zoom for the first time or when I finally gave up trying to get my old phone to do new tricks and instead got a new phone. I learned to grieve through texts and to be with relatives and friends during a video funeral. I found I just had to have human contact each day by going to a drive-thru for lunch. I learned that just seeing real people made me realize that the world was still ‘out there’. I learned and relearned that so many people had it so much worse than I, including my neighbors. I learned to express gratitude to those who were doing their best to continue to serve. I learned I could be someone else’s lifeline by listening and giving support as much as I could. I learned charity really does begin at home in my own neighborhood.
I turned to prayer, meditation, and relaxation exercises (learned eons ago in Yoga classes). I used my years of healing others to help heal myself. I drug out my slow cookers and started cooking meals instead of going to restaurants. I wrote when things just burst out from my mind that I could not contain. My motto of the year was One day at a Time –just make it through this day and there will be a tomorrow. I also relied on living each day so as not to have regrets about how I interacted with others.
Coping with the deaths of beloved neighbors, longtime friends, and even my dear sister seemed surreal. Thank goodness I have so many happy memories of them that I can recall to keep away the blackness of grief.
It’s been a long torturous year and I am as happy as anyone to slam the door shut on 2020. The first day of the year 2021 seems brighter somehow than yesterday. Hope is on the horizon. A calming of the rough waters surely will come soon. The year 2021 to me is like the bud of a mystery flower – opening slowly to show its magnificent form and colors. I know 2021 will not be without its troubles too, but surely – surely – 2021 will not be as difficult to live through like 2020. We can only hope, live one day at a time, and be grateful for each day lived.