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The Big If

May, 2022

A Pitch for Congruence

It’s hard to write about cultivating joy when so many disturbing things are happening on planet Earth. Here in America, women may soon lose a hard-fought right to choose what they do with their body. A ruthless war is destroying Ukraine. The environment is getting trashed. Gun violence in a Buffalo, NY supermarket just this week killed ten and injured three others. And all of the hateful isms (racism, sexism, ageism, fanaticism, etc.) still permeate daily life.

If you’re a sensitive person, like I am, the upset-by-current-events meter gets stuck in the “over-the-top” category far too often. At times like this, the pressure to be upbeat—sometimes subtle, sometimes demanding—is oppressive.

I invite you to re-visit a delightful song that kids learn in nursery school or kindergarten. The first bit goes like this:

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands! If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands! If you're happy and you know it, and you really want to show it; If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!

Pop quiz: what is the KEY WORD in those lyrics?

Answer: If

Some of my readers know that my childhood nickname was “Happy.” Trust me: you can’t pull off being or feeling happy 24/7. In my 30’s, I gave up the nickname for good. Why? The pressure to live up to that moniker was excessive.

If you don’t feel happy, don’t clap your hands just because a song, person, movement or slogan tells you that you should.

I volunteer to be the poster child (er, adult) for congruence. Funny thing: if you are more congruent with how or what you are feeling, joy just might be a byproduct.

Are there delights, in any day, that help neutralize all the bummers? Of course. I’d volunteer to be a poster child for accentuating those delights, too. Or even manufacturing them if they are within your control. What gives you joy? Do it! But if your heart feels heavy, and you just can’t get-it-up today, can you let that be okay?

The title song of the late, great George Harrison’s first solo album after the Beatles broke up serves as a reliable beacon of hope: “All things must pass.”

Indeed they must. Both the good and the bad. And that’s just how it is.

What is a beacon of hope for you?

[Note: for more on the topic of congruence, check out my October 2007 issue of Out on a Limb (yes, a dinosaur!). Alas, the formatting is such that you’ll only be able to read it on a laptop or larger screen.]

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I occasionally post collages created long ago, such as the one below, or those more recently completed, on Instagram. Click here if you'd like to follow me. If you already do, thanks!


Why Assemble a Life? An Interview with Author and Artist, Martha Clark Scala

What motivated me to write Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself)? Check out this video to find out. Comments and feedback welcome!


Prompts For Joy

Click here for Paul McCartney’s tribute to George.

Click here for a congruent response to lemons.

(Appreciate it, Peggy Landsman!)

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.


About the Photos

Above: Dancing Magenta. Palo Alto, CA. Photo by Martha Clark Scala.

Next: Touch Books Collage by Martha Clark Scala.

Below: Sans Souci. Watercolor painting by Geoffrey Clark.


"Martha shows us how to transform a list of names, dates, and unanswered questions into a bona-fide memoir that is compelling to read whether or not you knew the person of interest. She also shares autobiographical vignettes that convey the many ways writing and creating grow the writer/artist, and that side story is also an inspiration. I love that she discovered how very much she and her father had in common. What a gift!

~Judge, 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

My father's painting of the Sans Souci, a Star boat he once raced, is featured in Chapter 19 of Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself). This memoir is loaded with color photos (and some black and white) on just about every page. A visual feast.

For additional book reviews, click here. To purchase the premium softcover or e-book versions of Assembling a Life, click here.


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