On the End of 100 Happy Days

I hope that I still have many happy days to come, but this last weekend marked the official end of my participation in the #100happydays meme. The meme challenges you to take one picture a day of something that makes you happy, and post it to your network of choice — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

On the surface, this may not seem to have much to do with writing — but I undertook the challenge for the same reasons that I’ve taken up various writing practices in my life, from gratitude and prayer journals to Morning Pages. I thought being “on the lookout” for those happy moments would make it easier for me to notice them, make me more present to them, and allow me to have a deeper appreciation for the story of my life.

The experience was not particularly illuminating to me, and I don’t think it did what I wanted it to, either. I did notice that most of the things that make me really happy are things I can’t really photograph, or that I don’t feel comfortable or can’t share with the world. Happy, unphotogentic moments over the past few months included things like

  1. Making my last car payment;
  2. Overcoming hurdles in a confidential project my husband and I have been working on; and
  3. Receiving an email from my best friend.

Then there were the many happy moments that I didn’t catch on camera because, well, I was too busy being present in that moment. It was only at the end of the day that I wished I’d remembered to take a photo. Photos are just not my usual mode of expression or remembrance.

Mostly, I defaulted to images of my pets and inanimate objects.

There were also times when #100happydays felt like a downright lie or some kind of cruel joke. I’ve had some of the worst days of my year in these past few months; I’ve awakened in the middle of the night terrified about the safety of someone I love because she “crossed” the wrong person. And then there were all the tears when I realized my cat was dying, and the grieving that followed.

I considered dropping the project then. I wanted to scream, these are not happy days! But I’m a “finisher” by nature, and part of me said those were the days when I most needed to grab and notice the happy moments. So I did, although I wondered whether it might have been healthier to just let myself sink into my sadness for a few weeks, which is what I really longed to do.

#100happydays did not help me get through the hard times; instead, it made me feel like I was plastering a fake smile on my face to go out in public. What did help me get through those times, and what is still helping me, was writing. Letters to my cat, pages in my journals, Livejournal entries, emails to my friends, a card for my vet. I cried almost every time I wrote about Phoebe, but they were the right kinds of tears — cleansing, and honoring of the love I had for her. I cringed when I took happy days photos and did not, in fact, feel happy. Although perhaps those tiny photographed moments did remind me that I was losing one blessing in my life, not all of them. It is important to be grateful for what remains, and I am.

I still think #100happydays is a worthwhile endeavor, but it just wasn’t for me. There’s a saying that the writer “lives twice” — once in the moment, and once while writing about it. Some moments I have to live more than twice to fully process. But I didn’t get this same satisfaction from capturing my life in photos. Rather than “living twice,” I felt so distracted about how I could get a good photo, or so annoyed at myself for forgetting to take one after the happy moment was gone, that I felt more like I was “living half” than “living twice.”

Still, I am glad that it gave me a few last photos of Phoebe that I had no idea at the time would be her last. But I’m also pretty glad it’s done.