I enjoy finding nuggets of joy and happiness in the mundane because, in truth, the majority of Life — yes, with a capital L — happens side by side with the humdrum of daily living. Finding joy in familiarity is a pure and real treasure. There is so much to be grateful for and happy about when we have eyes to see and an open heart.
Family Action Steps
While this resolution can be a lot of work, it has not only been vastly successful, it has been quite satisfying as well.
A few weeks ago, after breakfast, everyone was outside enjoying our fabulous Spring weather — temps in the 70s, sunny with a light breeze. Some were playing on the grass, while others were sitting in colorful Adirondack chairs reveling in the day.
I, on the other hand, decided to further serve my family by cleaning up and doing the dishes, tasks traditionally performed by everyone else. The cook doesn’t clean. This time, it felt right for me to help with the cleanup.
As smooth jazz played over the Bluetooth speakers and my hands methodically plunged into the sudsy water, I became an observer of my family rather than a participant. From the kitchen window, I had a perfect view of hubs and two of our sons. They made a charming and captivating scene.
While I couldn’t hear their conversation — which appeared pleasant from all the smiling faces — I could scrutinize their body language.
The Joy in Familiarity
I am keenly aware of the way my husband moves. When he was in the firefighter academy, while I couldn’t pick him out by sight from the twenty plus recruits dressed in identical full firefighting regalia, his body language always gave him away. Little idiosyncrasies, meaningless to anyone else, were nevertheless irresistible and endearing to me.
The way he smiles or pushes his glasses up his nose. Or, the way his hands move when he becomes animated during a conversation. All these small gestures which remind me “this is the man I love.” While these things are not “him,” they are most certainly part of him.
From my window, I could observe he was happy being surrounded by his family and talking with his sons. Two of them held a football. I can only assume they were discussing “footballeese” — a language unknown to me but in which they are fluent.
The subject of their conversation is unimportant.
It was not their words I relished but their facial expressions, body language, movements, and energy.
As I proceeded to rinse the — now — clean dishes and place them on the drying rack, I smiled.
There was a time I would have felt excluded as no one seemed to notice my absence. However, I knew I could choose to leave the dishes undone and to join them. I was willingly performing an act of service for those I love, and I was drinking in my family’s wonder.
I wanted to sear this moment in my mind for later retrieval.
Life is made of moments which seem continuous but aren’t really.
A lot of what we call “life” is mundane: school, work, laundry, dishes…
These routine tasks are like the underscore of a movie, or the background music at a restaurant, there but still mostly unnoticed. Nothing in particular makes these monotonous parts of living stand out, and they are usually not the prominent ones which we readily recall.
Other parts of life are dark. These patches of darkness can be small and mild such as the unnoticed red sock which turns the whites pink, the flat tire on the way to work, the sick child who didn’t sleep a wink, the burned roast.
Other dark events are murkier and harrowing: the death of a loved one or a sickness.These events are weighty and make you feel you may just get lost in their depths.
Then, there are the bright spots: falling in love, the birth of a child, or laughing with friends. These wondrous moments most often are unplanned and unexpected.
In the Midst of Life
The moment I was living in from my spot at the kitchen sink could be all three. Dishes are rather mundane. This occasion could be called dark because I was not a part of the fun and no one took notice. Or, it could be equally light because I choose to see it as such. I could see joy in my loved ones’ togetherness knowing I was the reason they had gathered. I had cooked and they came.
In truth, while we seldom can choose the events which unfold around us or the moments of our daily lives, we can often choose our reactions to them.
Some will even say we can always choose our responses and in another life, I would have heartily agreed. However, experience and wisdom have taught me not to be so quick at making such sweeping and absolute statements.
On occasion, we cannot always choose our responses to overwhelming emotions — this does not mean we are not responsible for them. There are events so deep and strong when our emotions envelop us so firmly we cannot — in that moment — choose, we can barely breathe.
The beauty of life is that such moments do pass, and the emotions do change. We won’t always be “there” in that dark place.
In the midst of overwhelming emotions — such as grief — a kind and open soul, someone who may offer no words of comfort but who — without judgment — freely gives of their empathy and presence can make a difference in finding our way back.
When the tsunami of raw feelings finally decreases and then ceases — and it will — we are again able to choose.
Sometimes the only choice we have is to simply be and take the next breath — barely.
Remember this one thing: when you are able to choose, choose to see the love and the joy, inhale it deeply like an intoxicating perfume, savor it like a favored treat, and wear it like a beloved garment. But, most of all, accept it and store it in your heart.
When life tosses you around, you can then go back to your “moment library” and remember the love. Recall how you loved and how you were loved. THIS is finding the joy in familiarity and the meaning of life.
When only love remains, there is joy and genuine happiness.