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Stitching Laughter

“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures.  Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!  Make you late for dinner!  I can't think what anybody sees in them.”  —Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m something like a hobbit.  More specifically, I’m something like Bilbo Baggins before he goes on his adventure.  No, I’m not three foot six or lower, I don’t have hairy feet, and I don’t eat six meals a day.  But I think I’m similar to Bilbo in that I like my quiet convenient life.  I like my bedroom and my books and my cups of tea.  I like my warm showers and clean clothes.  And I most certainly don’t like my normal life being upset.  I don’t like going without meals or warm beds.  I don’t like inconvenience.  I get grumpy when I have to try something new against my will.  I get anxious if my daily routines are disrupted.  I get stressed when life doesn't go according to plan.  I freak out and think about how I should’ve done this or that differently.  Then everything would be all right and comfortable and normal.

So far, this thinking hasn’t helped me.

And inconveniences just keep happening.  Sometimes I get a respite from them, but they always come back.  They’re usually not huge, disastrous things, but they’re just enough to tip my day off its kilter and suddenly I’m upside down in the water trying to breathe.  And I wonder, “What am I supposed to do?  How am I supposed to function?”

Eventually something happens.  I do something or fix something or I go get help or someone helps me or I cry and eat chocolate or all of the above.  Then life settles back down and I can look back at the problem instead of being swept up in the middle of it.  Something equally strange happens when I do that though: The problem changes.  It is no longer so overwhelming.  It becomes small, inconsequential.  And it can even become funny.  I’ll tell friends about it and make it a funny story and we’ll laugh and I’ll be like, “Yep, that’s my life.”  It’s no big deal suddenly.

But that doesn’t take away the stress I had in the moment.  Laughing at it later doesn’t negate the anxiety I faced while it was happening.

And I wonder.  What if in the moment of the inconvenience, I was able to remove the stress and replace it with the laughter?  What if I could cut out the anxiety and stitch the humor into its place?  What could that change?  For one, it would make my funny stories afterward more honest because yes, I really would have laughed at the circumstances, not been over my ears in stress.  I think it might make me happier, more relaxed, more carefree.  I might be able to ride the ups and downs a little more smoothly.  I might have more room to breathe and more room to open my eyes and notice the world around me.

That doesn’t sound like a bad trade off.

But how do I do that?  How do I fit the laughter into the stress-shaped hole?  How do I make the lines and edges and curves and sharp angles fit?

Well, think about The Hobbit.  What happened to Bilbo?  He journeyed with the dwarves through all the difficulties and inconveniences, and over time an adventurous spirit awoke in him.  He started facing his problems and not running away from them.  He started getting himself and his companions out of tight places.  And he started enjoying it.  He started to like being clever and wily.  He ended up liking succeeding through difficulty and overcoming obstacles.  And when he went home, he was a different hobbit.  He saw life and its ups and downs differently.  He actually couldn’t get the thirst for adventure entirely out of his bones.

But what about the inconveniences?  What about the damp and the dark and the cold?  What about the travel sores and the low food rations and the achy feet?  That all still happened, but Bilbo ended up being okay with it because in his eyes all those inconveniences morphed into something else: an adventure.

I’m never going to go gallivanting off with thirteen dwarves and a wizard to steal loot from a fire-bellied beast, but the inconveniences in my everyday life still exist and still cause me stress.  But maybe if I looked at them differently they would change.  Maybe the laughter and the humor would come sooner rather than later.  Maybe if I chose to see the inconveniences as adventures, the laughter would fit right into the stress-shaped holes.  The problem at hand would shrink and no longer threaten to drown me in anxiety. 

An inconvenience for an adventure.

That doesn’t sound like such a bad trade off.

Greetings to all of Hannah's lovely blog followers!  I'm Danielle, a seventeen-year-old girl with an ink stained heart.  I should probably mention that although I do like Tolkien's work and although this post was Hobbit themed, I am not by any means a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fanatic who knows every fact about Middle Earth.  I do appreciate a good story though, and reading and writing are, in my opinion, two of the most wonderful things I have yet encountered.  I regularly find it easier to read or write than talk, and I will never stop being grateful for the written word.  Photography is also one of the things that make my life better, and I view the world through a camera lens.  Oftentimes that world is overwhelming and I'm learning how to live in and with it.  I blog over at Digression with the Dark.

short story | Bright Young Things


 “Now I am old-fashioned. A woman, I consider, should be womanly. I have no patience with the modern neurotic girl who jazzes from morning to night, smokes like a chimney, and uses language which would make a billingsgate fishwoman blush!” ― Agatha Christie

It seems almost too quiet back here in my little hotel room. The events of this evening are still playing over and over like a picture show in my head. I can still hear the laughter. I can still see the long chandeliers dangling overhead, the dark-haired men who could magically turn air into jazz with their saxophones, and the dancing women who dressed in diamonds. I can still taste the sparkling drinks as they tickled my tongue, and smell the cigarette smoke that clouded the whole room. I wish I could have a photograph of this night, something I could hold on to and keep with me always so that I would not forget my first New York party.

At home they would host parties, but none like tonight. There the whole small town would gather in the neighbor's barn, wearing their Sunday best. A young boy would play his fiddle, and everyone would square dance, shuck corn, and eat large helpings of food until dawn. I suppose I am still learning how New York is much different than home.

I stare blankly at myself in the mirror. I am not the same as I was before. My face is covered in thick cosmetics, and my old, soft, cotton dresses hang untouched in the wardrobe, traded for new, fashionable clothes. I look older now, somehow. The only thing that remains of the old farm girl I used to be is my long, brown hair that has escaped from the jeweled clips I had pinned it up with earlier, falling in thick curls around my shoulders.

I tried to cut my hair once when I first arrived in the city. I went to the beauty parlor and sat in the chair, determined to get a short bob like the girls I had seen in magazines. But as soon as scissors came up next to my cheek, threatening to chop off the one last piece of home I had, I just couldn't do it. I kept thinking of mother, how I knew she would throw a fit if she found out I had cut my hair.

Mother had warned me before I left to be careful. She read aloud dozens of articles from newspapers on the day of my departure about the dangers of New York, articles that were meant to scare me into leading a sensible life at home. "The city is a jungle," She explained. "These 'Bright Young Things' they talk about are no different than lions if you ask me, and they will eat you up if you enter their cave. It is not safe for you!" But I went anyway.

Sometimes, when I'm not able to sleep, I stare up at the ceiling of the hotel room and find myself crying, thinking of my old life and how quiet and simple and familiar it was. But then I wake up and remember why I came here, my new job and my writing, and all is right again. I know this is where I'm suppose to be. Although, I do miss the farm with my swing still hanging up in the branches of the old tree, the lake where my friends and I would swim during the summer, the big, beautiful walls of golden corn surrounding me at harvest time, and even Mother's pesky chickens.

I know that mother will say I have turned into one of those "Bright Young Things" if she found out about the party tonight. She would think I have fed myself to the lions without even putting up a fight. And it is true, the city, and all of its parties and glamour, has taken a piece of my heart, but I know, deep down, the country will always be my home. 

5 Reasons You Should Learn a Second Language

   Hello everyone, Elizabeth here, and I'm incredibly excited and honored to be doing a guest post on Hannah's lovely blog!
   Almost two years ago I started taking French at my local community college.  I thought it would be cool to be able to communicate in a different language, and I was right.  But it's been so much more.  It's surprisingly helped me in other areas of life.  True, I'm still a beginner, but even my limited knowledge of French has been very useful to me; so here are 5 reasons why you should learn a second language too.

1.  It's proven to make you smarter.
It sounds crazy, right? But it's true.  According to an article in the The New York Times, speaking two languages helps you develop cognitively, and not only linguistically.  People who speak two languages tend to have an easier times solving puzzles and problems.  They tend to do better on tests! So yeah, speaking two languages actually makes you smarter. Besides that, it's supposed to slow down cognitive aging.

2.  People will like you better if you speak their language.
I work at my family's bakery, and occasionally someone will come in who speaks only Spanish. Let me tell you, it's probably one of the most stressful things ever. What if you get their order wrong? What if they misunderstand you? How are you going to get them to understand the difference between a latte and a cappuccino when you don't speak a word of Spanish and they don't speak a word of English?  Now, take this situation and switch it around.  You're the person ordering something at a French or Italian cafe, the waiter is really flustered, and so are you.  It's getting really awkward.  But what if you could speak a basic amount of their language? Tada, they instantly like you.  The waiter is able to explain things better, and even takes the effort to strike up a conversation with you so you can practice your language skills. Really, even if you don't speak much of a language or very well, people who do speak that language will appreciate your effort and be as helpful as possible.

3.  It helps you understand your own language better.
The more I learn of a different language, the more I understand my own.  Every language is different, so when you learn a new one, you automatically want to know how it translates into your own language.  You often have to learn entirely new grammatical structures, which makes you compare it with the grammatical structure of your own language.  I never really gave a thought to why English is the way it is before I started learning French.  Why do we say 'The blue shoes are in the corner' instead of 'The shoes blue are in the corner' like they say in French?  How come we say 'hair' when speaking of multiple hairs instead of just 'hairs'?  I've always thought that I spoke pretty well, but I've started to recognize more grammatical errors in my speech that I'd never recognized as errors before.

I'll admit, I haven't read this
in English, much less French!
4.  You can read books in their original languages.
True it takes time and practice, but it's kind of awesome.  I can't say I have a lot of experience with this, but I've learned enough French to read the TinTin books with the help of my French/English dictionary and Google translate.  There are quite a few things in the originals that are different from the English comics.  The punchlines are different, but still hilarious, and even some of the names are different for humor's sake.  It makes me want to read every book in its original language.

5. And last but not least...
Your family and friends probably won't understand a word you're saying.  There are some cons to this, like, you can never have a conversation with them in that language, but there are pros to it as well.  You can say literally ANYTHING you want and everyone thinks you're saying something really smart or poetic.  Believe me, this can be really funny...

Are you learning a second language? What do you love about it?