Little Things to Make Yourself a Happier Person

Sometimes it takes effort to be happy, but the effort is always worth it. I decided to write down some of the little things I do to make myself a happier person.

1. Have good friends. If you don’t, make a new one.

2. Be your own friend. If there’s no one else around, you’ll always be stuck with yourself. Might as well enjoy it, right?

3. Exercise. Go for a walk, or a swim, or do some yoga. Do some push ups and sit ups if you feel so inclined.

4. Text someone first, just to say hi.Perhaps you’ll make them smile. Isn’t that a great feeling, making someone smile?

5. Be healthy. I know when you’re a little blue you instinctively turn to ice cream, cake, or perhaps something like vodka or weed. Don’t do it. Your body will not thank you, and you’ll feel all the worse. Make a smoothie, or a salad, or cook an egg. It feels good to feel good.

6. This might sound counter productive, but find a book, movie, or TV show that you can temporarily bury yourself in, one that keeps your mind off whatever is bothering you. For me, this is BBC’s Sherlock. It’s brilliant. It just makes me happy. It probably has something to do with the brilliance of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, but I always finish those 90 minutes with a big grin.

7. Clean. I know most people hate cleaning, but it just feels good to have an end result. To know that you made this room/vehicle/whatever look and smell and feel clean is a great feeling. It’s called accomplishment.

8. Whatever you do, do something. Garden, hike, read something new and challenging (Mica and Ingrid managed to convince me to start reading D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow), clean, learn a new language or a new craft. Productivity gives reason and reason feels good.

At least, these are some of the things I do to increase my happiness when I’m sad or upset. Maybe they work for you, maybe they don’t. Whatever the case, I wish you all the happiness in the world!

What do you do to make yourself happy?

Photo by me!

Photo by me!

PS: There’s a new page that lists some of the people I mention in my blog posts. Click to find out who Mica and Ingrid are!

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What’s the Difference Between Sexual Empowerment and Sluttiness?

I had an entirely different topic planned for today, but this crossed my mind late last night. Mica and his close friend Ingrid were discussing D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow (which I haven’t read yet) and the fact that it was so sexually scandalous at its publishing in 1915 that thousands of copies were destroyed. Looking back now, Mica and Ingrid expressed amusement that today novels meant for teens and even “tweens” are rife with sexual content, sexual coming of age stories and experimentation. The Rainbow was seen as too explicit for adults in the public only a few decades ago…and now six-year-old girls are watching the last 2 Twilight movies, sex scenes and all. The difference is striking, and fascinating, and I wanted to touch on a bit of that.

In an age where society demands sex appeal yet hypocritically complains about young women reaching/exploring/experimenting with their sexual maturity, the line between being perceived as sexually empowered and perceived as “slutty” is very, very thin. So what is the difference between sexual empowerment and sluttiness?

Georgie Henley (aka Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia movies) just turned 18. She was 9 with the release of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in 2005 and 14 with the release of Voyage of the Dawn Treader in 2010. She’s probably my favourite teen actress. She’s just so darn cute, plus I love the way she plays Lucy, my favourite Narnian character. She’s a few months older than I am.

Take a look at these pictures:*

Like I said, I love Georgie. I love that she is still modest for a relatively famous child-star-turned-woman. She is beautiful without being “hot.” She can still tap into that (see pictures above), but when you think of Georgie, you think of her as beautiful, adorable, and endearing. She isn’t perfect, but she can be gorgeous just the same. She can be desirable, which is what most teens want to be, but I think because of her modesty and innocence (in terms of the celebrity world, at least) she still has a great reputation.

Now, someone like Emma Watson (aka Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies) has a little more stigma to her name. The 23-year-old has taken that step into the sexed-up aspect of her career, which some Harry Potter fans don’t necessarily like. It’s good for her, though, landing roles in movies like The Bling Ring. Unlike Georgie, Emma has the image of “sexy” attached to her name, due to photoshoots and cover shoots and whatnot.

Take a look at these:

Now, to us, we can admire Emma and Georgie for taking these poses, for being in control of their sensuality, for embracing the idea that a woman can be in control, that she can say no, that she can initiate, that she can be more than one dimension.

And yet, if there’s a girl at school who takes a provocative photo like Emma or Georgie did, she is instantly labelled slut, whore, floozy, attention-grabber, desperate. It gets attention, but not good attention.

The disparity of this fascinates me. We can look at sexualized famous people and admire them, but if a “normal” person shows off their sexual confidence to the public (usually via Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc) it’s shameful and ought to be ridiculed.

So, the line between being sexually empowered and labelled slutty?

I really don’t know. I try to look at it objectively. Young women like Georgie, Emma, Miley Cyrus, and Dakota Fanning are celebrities. They live and breathe and eat and sleep in an atmosphere that demands sex appeal for success. They do photoshoots that might involve being topless or in a provocative position. It comes with their trade.

Us normal young women, we have this, too, but not to this extreme. We’re supposed to be desirable, pretty, yet modest. (I detect a hint of Victorian moral behind all this). No topless photos for us unless we want to sign our societal death warrants! Girls who post pictures of themselves in their bikinis often get comments or remarks that scorn that decision, while others silently applaud them for the confidence they have in their body.

And then we have history to add into this mix. Some of the most famous sculptures and paintings of all time are of nude or partially nude women and men. Were they scandalous then? Yes. Are they scandalous now? Some people think so. Are they art? Yes. Are they put on public display? Yes. Are they beautiful? Definitely yes. Speaking in a broad sense, nudity and the sexual empowerment of the subject in art is inevitable and almost expected by today’s audience.

I’m not telling you to run off and pretend to be Michelangelo’s David! Please, don’t. That’s not what I’m saying. That’s not advisable. I’m just saying that art has always found a place for a sexually empowered subject and relished in it.

Miley Cyrus caused a stir with this photo, taken when she was 15. Highly criticized for its inappropriateness, I don't see anything wrong with it if it made her happier about herself.

Miley Cyrus caused a stir with this photo, taken when she was 15. Highly criticized for its inappropriateness, I don’t see anything wrong with it if it made her happier about herself.

Photography is an art, as well, and I try looking at photos that some might consider risque or inappropriate as an artful form of expression. The human body is beautiful, and I don’t really see anything wrong with a girl taking a semi-nude photo in an artful manner. If she does it as a cry for help, a tasteless bathroom selfie perhaps, then I see things a bit differently, but I’m not ashamed to say that topless photos of me exist. It was an art project. And I’m very proud of those photos. While I was, technically, topless, it was dwelling in the art of the human body while still being physically modest.

I guess for me the line between being sexually empowered and presenting yourself in a way that is ultimately detrimental to your reputation (aka “slutty”) is in the way that it’s put forward. Tasteful, artful photos that may or may not include some nudity while still maintaining self-respect are 100% fine in my opinion, and if you don’t plaster yourself all over the Internet. I pat you on the back. It could provide you with a greater sense of confidence in your body, how you see yourself — and sexual empowerment.

I also openly admit to contradicting myself when I say that modesty is one of the most attractive traits there is. Modesty is beautiful. Physical self-confidence is beautiful. You can draw the line wherever you feel most comfortable.

There will always be negative reactions to photos (and other mediums of art) with any degree of sex appeal or  nudity, especially if you aren’t a celebrity and you’re a young person. Your family, especially elder members, might be quite scandalized, chastise you for it, and see you in a different way that might not be a good thing. It’s up to you. It doesn’t really matter what other people think, even though reputation is important in our world. But a piece of art, a process that increased your self-confidence?

The choice is yours.

And those are some of my thoughts on it.

*No copy right infringement was intended with the use of the photos in this post.

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What Summer Means to an Eco-Hippie

Summer is here! Exams are over, and we have every reason to believe that everyone in our school is expected to survive the post-trauma of exam week.

Summer! Sweet, sweet summer! For most teens, this means days at the beach, sleeping in, lounging around in pajamas or bikinis (depending on confidence/modesty/temperature level), eating at irregular hours, and possibly working part time at the gas station.

Not for us Bennett-Clarks. I mean, yes, we go to the beach and take day trips and whatnot, but we eco-hippies ain’t your average summer-lovin’ teenagers. Summer for us is never dull, always exciting. My classmates complain about being bored and Mica, Sepia, Moon, and I have no idea what they must be doing with their life.

Summer in our household means early mornings beginning either with a quick session of yoga or a brisk walk through the trails in the woods that riddle our little community like dwarfish tunnels through Moria.

It means weeding and tending to the large garden before the sun gets too hot or the rain begins. It means berry picking — strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. It means making jams and preserves and pies. It means when Mom wants to cook carrots for supper we have to go out back and pick them. It means blanching beans and shelling peas and digging potatoes and onions.

Flowers on the Beach. Photo by Moss Bennett.

Flowers on the Beach. Photo by Moss Bennett.

Summer means we cook a lot of our meals on the BBQ, or on the open fire in the backyard. It means eating outside at the picnic table or on a blanket on the lawn. It means having a stampede of relatives over for family dinner — the amount of aunts, uncles, and cousins I have are enough to fill the yard if they ever all came at once.

It means staying up later than we should studying the stars through Dad’s telescope and hearing the stories of the constellations and the planets. It means going down to the lake at midnight — me, Mica, and maybe a friend or two, but Sepia and Moon can never know — and swimming with the fireflies and mosquitoes and letting sleepy minnows nibble our legs.

It means debating with Mica and Dad about Cleopatra or Hannibal or J.M. Barrie. It means knowing the chance you could be wrong but enjoying the debate anyway. It means learning something new.

Summer means being adventurous, and gathering roots and plants from the woods to eat. It means trying something we’ve never tried before.

It means traveling to farmer’s markets and smelling the sweet produce. It means it’s easier to buy local and buy fresh. It means meeting new people and chatting with farmers and merchants and lugging home a tub full of manure or a massive sack of brussels sprouts that we never planned on, and then trying to find new ways to eat brussels sprouts for the next week.

It means hauling fresh cut hay bales from neighbouring fields for our chickens and new goats, and having new hens lay eggs for the first time. It means watching where you step in bare feet in the yard, because the chickens are free range and stepping in droppings is not advisable.

The river. Photo by Moss Bennett.

The river. Photo by Moss Bennett.

Summer means cold showers because our hot water tank is hooked up to a timer instead of the wood furnace, and sometimes we forget to wind it when we’re in a hurry.

It means biking everywhere unless it’s really far, and burning thighs up steep hills and sunburned necks and shoulders.

It means Dad is home all the time and up to some scheme or another. It means Sepia and Moon spend their free time out of the house or in a place where they can’t bother us. It means that sometimes I forget I have Lydia and Kitty Bennet as sisters.

It means hanging out with Mica and Hanna and Pedro and rescuing garden gnomes from slavery, and promoting worker’s rights for gnomes everywhere. It means reading and writing and pondering and humming and singing and dancing in the rain like a maniac.

Summer means trying to be as echo friendly as possible and being outside the majority of the time. It means hard work and cheer and satisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong. It also means having impromptu movie marathons with Mica and Hanna and wandering around garden centres with ice cream melted all over our faces. Well, not Mica. He’s the ever-groomed gentleman. It means blasting some of our favourite alternative music from Hanna’s car when we find a new spot to swim, in a lake or a river, off the side of the road. It means hiking and getting lost and being truly happy.

Happy. That’s what summer is to me, to my family. Summer means happiness.  And just as importantly, it means no more math class until September.

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Exams, Memes, Stress, and Yoga.

The wizard has spoken.

The wizard has spoken.

HEY GUYS.

IT’S JUNE.

THE END OF THE SEMESTER.

That means it’s the most opportune time for teachers to have tests, assign essays, and start the “Oh Yeah We Have to Learn This Totally New Concept in 3 Days Unit.”

Plus exams are, like, next week.

Gah.

So instead of working on my essays and studying for my tests and gathering notes for my exams, I

I do this all the time!

I do this all the time!

turned to the Internet. And looked at memes of my favourite characters stressing about their exams, too.

Because hey, isn’t it better to laugh at other people’s sarcastic, ironic stress than have a mental breakdown because university is a little over a year away and you need amazing marks to get an amazing scholarship WHICH YOU TOTALLY NEED?

I find my logic flawness.

This is me. In advanced math. Which I shouldn't be in.

This is me. In advanced math. Which I shouldn’t be in.

Speaking of logic, I saw the new Star Trek movie last week. It was amazing. Benedict Cumberbatch is STUNNING. I want his acting skills. And maybe his eyes.

I’m sorry. I ramble when I’m stressed.

Just look at the pictures and thank the Internet gods that other people waste their time so we can waste ours.

I don't encourage consumption of alcohol. Drink tea instead.

I don’t encourage consumption of alcohol. Drink tea instead.

See you soon!

~Storm xx

 

 

 

 

PS: Once exams are done I really want to blog more. I’ve kind of been holding out on you and just blogging about depressing, philosophical versions of depressing teen issues. I WANT TO TELL YOU

Poor Hagrid. Always saying things he shouldn't have.

Poor Hagrid. Always saying things he shouldn’t have.

ABOUT ECO HIPPIE STUFF. AND MY LIFE. AND THE PEOPLE IN MY LIFE.

 

PPS: I don’t want you to think I’m on the verge of mental collapse. I’m not. I’m being dramatic. School is a pressing matter, and I am worried about it, but YOGA. Yoga is magical. With my mother being a yoga instructor, our family has been doing it for years. When we kids were younger we would do it as a family, but we stopped when Sepia

Reason #357 why I need to go to Hogwarts.

Reason #357 why I need to go to Hogwarts.

and Moon (my 2 younger sisters) got to middle school. They don’t do it anymore, and Dad only does rarely, but Mica, Mom, and I keep at it separately, on our own terms. 1 hour of yoga every morning. I can’t tell you enough how much I love yoga. I’m not one of those super-crazy-mega-flexible-like-noodles people (Mom is, though), but I enjoy it immensely. It keeps me fit and more importantly for this time of year, CALM.

Have any of you ever tried yoga, or other method of stress relief?

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Transitions

Every spring I make an effort to watch the red, pregnant buds on the trees unfurl into velvety, pale green leaves. Usually I miss it. One day there are buds. The next thing I know suddenly the forest has sprung a canopy! What about the middle stage? The buds don’t just go *POP* and have full-fledged leaves. That would be too easy, plus totally unmentioned in nearly 12 years of public education science classes.

This year I paid special attention, making note of a specific tree branch (nearly) every day* — and I finally was let in on the mystery of the what-happens-in-the-middle-stage.

One mystery of the universe observed with my own eyes. Countless more to go.

And then other seemingly transition-less occurrences made themselves known to me. The corn crops aren’t jumping out of the ground like they normally appear to do. Tiny shoots are peeking out of the earth. Of course I knew that happened. I passed Biology with a 92. I’ve just never noticed before. I wasn’t looking for the transition, I was looking for the start product and the end product.

The moon.

I don’t notice the slight differences in its waxing and waning. One night I look up and there’s not a plump quarter moon anymore — somewhere along the way it slimmed down to a crescent.

The tides.

We’ve all done this. Made a sandcastle what you think is far enough away from the water — but not too far, because your childhood-sized legs can’t carry the yellow buckets that far to fill the moat — and before you know it the ocean is swallowing up your lopsided tower. You didn’t see the transition. One glance, the waves were far enough. Next glance, they were far too close.

Cookies.

Eagerly peeking into the window of the oven at Grandma’s house, as if watching them will make them bake faster, thus more readily available for devouring. You can’t exactly remember when they went from dough to glorious, crispy, ooey-gooey cookie. You just can’t remember. They had to, obviously; even a five-year-old can figure that one out, but the transition, the transition no one ever recalls.

People.

These are a little easier to notice simply because a friend is a constant, interacting presence, not to mention an actual human being. There might be a bit of a waning, but basically, one day they’re there and one day they aren’t. Sometimes the shock of it can be remarkable and entirely unpleasant. Unexpected, sudden, possibly painful. There was no weaning, no warning, to explanation. One day you might look at them and realize you’re losing them, but you can never follow the arc of events that lead to vanishing. You miss the transition.

From bud to leaf, new moon to full, high tide to low, dough to cookie, friend to stranger. The beginning and end points are clear, but the transition…the transition is something to be desired, and something that would ease both curiosity, intensity of nostalgia, and provide closure.

The most appropriate metaphor I can think of is a story. A story taken in the point of view of a character — often a character the reader can relate to in some way — and is essentially a transition of that person’s struggle/journey/revelation/epiphany/other-character-arc. A story is a transition. And, to use one of my favourite non-Oscar Wilde quotes, life is simply a handful of short stories pretending to be a novel.

x Storm

Rainy day violets. Photo by me.

Rainy day violets. Photo by me.

 

*Brilliant me didn’t even think of taking pictures until I sat down to write this. Well done, Storm, excellent thinking ahead.

 

PS: I know I haven’t been maintaining the most diligent online presence, but exams are only a few weeks away and the teachers are set on bombarding us with as much work as possible — even though we students complain, it happens every year. We ought to be used to it by now. But only 16 days of classes left before summer!

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I just wanted to let you know

that you are beautiful. You are loved. You are important.

Enjoy your Victoria Day Weekend! 😀

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Dear Science People Who Think Art is a Joke: Art Is Everything

Art is a good thing. My friend S.J.’s parents disagree.They’re not anti-art, per se, but with her dad being a engineer and her mom a pharmacist, they’ve always treated Art as a bit of a joke. It’s not something easily made into a career and so they can’t fathom why anyone would waste their time creating.

But that’s not what Art is. Here we go. I’m going all Oscar Wilde on you, using Art with a capital A.

Art isn’t something you do for money, not at first, maybe not ever. Making Art is something you do for yourself, for others, for the world, for the sake of Art.

Art and artists come in all shapes and sizes. Child painter Marla Olmstead has a fascinating story.

Art and artists come in all shapes and sizes. Child painter Marla Olmstead has a fascinating story.

The creating of Art is intimate and powerful. It takes courage for someone to translate a thought, concept, emotion, or idea into a form other than something obvious and literal. Art is a release, an experiment. It can be an experiment in self-identity, spirituality, sexuality, political ideologies, emotionalism, lifestyles…

Art is what you want Art to be.

There are those too afraid to make Art, afraid their Art won’t be “good enough.”

There is no “good enough” in Art. It doesn’t matter if people critique your Art harshly or don’t see what you put into it. You make Art as a release, an exploration, an escape, an adventure. You don’t make Art for critics, whether it be your teacher, parents, friends, fellow artists. Art is for you.

And Art feels so good.

I think people often are confused about what Art is and what it can be. Painting, poetry, drawing, sculpting, sewing, singing, tiling, carving, photography, quilting, cooking, writing, ranting — anything you create or do with an intent of self-help and personal beauty is Art.

art [ahrt]: noun. 1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles  of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. (Dictionary.com)

Art, for me, is a form of self-therapy. It helps me get through those tough days. Knowing that I can transfer my inner turmoil or sadness onto something I can hold and look at is astonishing. I can look at my pain in a way I’ve represented, a way I know most intimately. I can hold my pain. I can study it, know its weaknesses, and then I can destroy it.

Half the enjoyment of making Art is seeing what others have done. I love staring at paintings or photos, trying to find what the artist

Starry Night (1889) by Vincent Van Gogh. The view from his window in his room at an asylum. One of my favourite paintings.

Starry Night (1889) by Vincent Van Gogh. The view from his window in his room at an asylum. One of my favourite paintings.

put in that they thought no one else would see, trying to identify their emotions and ideas at the time they were Creating. Admiring a piece of artwork, knowing that someone could create something so beautiful it makes my heart hurt, is remarkable. It gives me faith in humanity. I marvel at the human brain. We’re so destructive, so literal, so blunt, and yet we can create Art with a trillion metaphors and morals and meanings.

It blows me away, and I always feel humbled to be part of something so global and historic. To be in this world, this place where Art is cherished and treasured, makes me part of something bigger than equations and definitions and prepackaging and autocorrecting.

There is something bigger in this world.

And it’s Art.

And everyday, every human on this planet has the opportunity to make Art, to contribute to one of the most beautiful aspects of the human race. Art unites you with yourself, with your conflicts and doubts and fears and challenges, and it unites us with each other. Art is one of the biggest reminders that we are not alone.

We have Art. Even if you feel like you have no one in your life who cares or understand what you’re going through, Art will always be there, and those who create Art will always be there.

And those who think Art is a waste of time? We should pity them.

We might never succeed in making a living with Art, but we all should be able to make Art without scorn from others, especially those closest to you. Making Art is a reward in itself. Money has nothing to do with it. So, to everyone like S.J.’s parents, I’m not trying to make you take up painting or pottery, but I do want you to stop treating Art like a joke with no purpose. Art is therapy, passion, love, desire, understanding, hope, anger, exasperation, fear, experiment, desperation.

Art is everything.

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