Lori’s Happiness List (The 15-ish Things You Need to Know)

Guest post by Lori Livesay

When Diane asked me to write something for her blog, I was excited by the opportunity.

She asked if I had something lying around that could be polished or updated to become a guest-blog post, but actually, I was hoping the offer would prompt me to write something new.

It’s hard to admit this, especially given that I will spend the rest of my life paying for my very own poetic license (ie. a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing), but I have not been exactly diligent about finishing pieces of writing in a while.

Feel free to read “a while” as several years. Feel free to read “finish” as a goal that could only be accomplished if I got beyond the beginning or middle of something, which I haven’t.

It isn’t that I lack for material.

My life is full and a bit crazy. My family is large and a bit crazy. My work is global and a bit crazy.

And now my partner Tanya and I have sold our house in North Carolina and are moving all the way across the country to Washington to be closer to her family.

We have 10 days left before closing. During that 10-day period we’re also:

  • Moving our oldest son from North Carolina to Best Virginia for grad-school at West Virginia University.
  • Throwing a farewell party at our house for 70 or so friends.
  • Having electrical work done for the inspection.
  • Getting a POD delivered.
  • Scheduling the movers.
  • Taking a day-trip to see family 75 miles south of here.
  • Navigating the boxes, rolls of packing tape, and piles of stuff that passed the first few rounds of bound-for-the-Salvation-Army-store purging.
  • Stacking said things in the garage in a 16’ x 8’ rectangle to make sure they’ll all fit in the POD.
  • E-signing numerous documents.
  • Arranging for services to be stopped.
  • Accomplishing a thousand other small tasks.
  • Tossing and turning through sleepless nights wondering what we’ve forgotten.


Did I mention we don’t know what our address will be 10 days from now?

We haven’t figured that part out yet, but I’m sure we will eventually. Feel free to read “eventually” as “OMG, I can’t believe we still don’t know where we’re living!”

Something else I haven’t mentioned:

Tanya and I are driving the 3000-ish miles with our two dogs. In a Mini Cooper.*

So, no, I’m not lacking for material to write about.

My problem is that I just haven’t made the time commitment to sit down and fully develop stories and essays since I was in grad school. It’s something I regret, as I value the act of writing, the craft of it, the gift of catharsis it can sometimes bring, the empathy it requires, and the vulnerability it demands.

I want to start writing regularly again. I want to find that voice in myself again, and I want to share it.

Perhaps having my own blog lies in the future, that future on the west coast that at the moment appears only in my imagination  as a respite at the end of the moving chaos.

But having good intentions for my writing future doesn’t solve the problem of having content for Diane to post on this delightful blog right now.

And so I give you “Lori’s Happiness List!”

This list is something I’ve kept up with for years and added to every so often as life circumstances teach me another lesson I think needs to be written down.

For me, this list is a bit of a manifesto: behaviors I strive to emulate, ideas I want to keep fresh in my mind, and the keys to happiness.

Others may dismiss it as psychobabble, and that’s fine. I’ve considered posting this list somewhere before, but then the who-am-I-to-give-advice voice kicks in and I close my document and keep it to myself. But today I am letting it fly out into the world under the care of my dear friend, Diane.

Please bear in mind that, although I think someone like Brene Brown would agree with most of this stuff, I am not a researcher and have zero degrees that make me an expert on human behavior or how people should live their lives.

On the contrary, I’m someone who doesn’t know where she’s going to be living in 10 days. But, I’m surviving and even still have a decent sense of humor, so I’m just saying…these things work for me.

Lori’s List of 15 Things That Will Make You Happy

#1 Love people. Let them know. Let them feel it. Show them all the time.

#2 Love lots of things. Love all kinds of different things; they don’t all have to go together or make sense to anyone else. You can love poetry and sports. You can love sci-fi films and literary fiction.

Don’t be a snob, it gets you nothing.

#3 Always be up for an adventure. Do things that scare you a little. (WARNING: This could cause you to move 3000 miles with no end-point destination, so just keep that in mind.)

#4 The Golden Rule … Karma … You reap what you sow … Be the change you wish to see in the world.  Basically, put out what you want to get back. Give it if you want to get it. This basic principle, found in most major religions, will serve you well if you need just one single guiding doctrine.

#5 Lift others up. Make them feel happy. Let them feel safe. Let them be who they are inside. The joy you’ll find in getting to know the true spirit of people is uplifting and affirming.

#6 Look for the good in others and make the connections. Find your people, your tribe, whatever you want to call it, find them. When you find a good connection, foster it. Don’t let people who are meaningful to you slip away. This one is actually proven by science. The longest running study on happiness ever conducted says the key is meaningful relationships.

#7 Don’t be afraid. Everyone feels like you do. Everyone. We’re all vulnerable in some way. Every one of us. Use this knowledge to assuage your own fears and help put others at ease.

#8 Listen. Listen with an open heart. Even when it hurts. Truly listening is the beginning of healing and change.

#9 Pet as many dogs as possible. This one is self-evident to me, but there is a recent study that bears it out as scientific truth. I’m pretty sure it works with cats, too.

#10 Share. Everything is better when you share.

#11 Be passionate about the people you love, the things you love, the experiences you have. Be enthusiastic. Let yourself be moved.

#12 La dulce far niente. It’s the Italian phrase that translates as:

“The sweetness of doing nothing.”

Learn to be still. Learn to sit with yourself. To truly relax. To do nothing. Shed the guilt of it. It’s healthy for you.

#13 Balance. This list is about happiness, but not all of life is happy. Know that happiness is balanced with melancholy. For everything, there is a season. Work and play. Happiness and sadness. Movement and stillness. Let yourself feel the emotion you’re in. Give yourself time. If you feel sad or have anxiety, don’t punish yourself for it.

#14 Look forward more than you look back. It’s harder as you get older, but the future is the unwritten part. You can’t rewrite the past, but you’re the one who gets to write the rest of your story. That said, don’t forget where you come from or who you are, always hold present those you love, even if they’ve gone, and keep all the lessons. Don’t let the good habit of letting go become the bad habit of irresponsibility. Regret will chase you harder from the past than anything else.

#15 Finally, feed your senses. Listen to music or sounds you love to hear. Locate food you can’t wait to taste. Find someone you want to touch and be touched by. Indulge in the smells you love, surround yourself with them. And take your sight, both inner and outer, to places of beauty…in nature and art and wherever you can find them.

If you were to make a happiness list, or a list of the things that are meaningful to you, what would be on your list?


Lori Livesay is a classmate of mine from the Converse College MFA in Creative Writing program. And she’s a major foodie. A world traveler, too. Plus she loves, loves, loves all creatures great and small. Her title at work? Head of Product Training, North America, for Bibliotheca, a company that provides library solutions for self-service and collections management. Color me, impressed!

*To follow the adventures of Dexter and Asia as they travel cross-country with their humans, click here

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