Let’s face it, it has been a very difficult week. Like many Americans I’m disappointed and angry, and extremely worried about the state of affairs in this country. I’m reeling from the election results, and wonder what the future will bring. Health insurance? Immigration? The environment? Everything seems tenuous at the moment, and there are far more questions than answers as we teeter forward. Fear and uncertainty have gripped many of us, and who knows how long it will take to feel safe again. The thought of crawling into bed and burrowing under the covers became more and more appealing as the week wore on. And on top of all that, Leonard Cohen died.
I need a dose of joy in my life and I need it now.
So tomorrow, I’m making a few changes:
* No more wallowing in despair of what may or may not occur as the reigns of power change hands in America.
* No more hours spent watching political pundits try to explain, justify, blame, or rehash the events of the past few weeks.
* No more refreshing Facebook every hour to find the latest post that will spiral me into despair or infuriate, frighten, or sadden me.
* No more drowning my sorrows in Ben and Jerry’s or lying in bed staring at the ceiling.
I’ve stewed in negativity long enough.
Tomorrow I’m taking my dog on a hike which both of us desperately need. I’m going to pay attention to trees, the sky, the trail, the smell of the fresh air. I’m going to take a news break. I’m going to a craft show so I can be inspired by creativity, skill, and artistry. I’m going to go out of my way to smile at people and make every encounter pleasant. I’m going to listen to my favorite Leonard Cohen songs while I knit or sketch or paint.
I’m going to remember that while I can’t control the world around me, I can control how I respond to it.
I can find joy if that’s what I choose to look for.
It’s out there. Waiting for me.
Waiting for all of us.
I love to travel. Yeah, I know. Travel is full of hassles – long lines at airports, crowded planes, language barriers, getting lost, unfamiliar food. But it’s all part of the adventure.
On a recent trip to Japan – (my first time in Asia!) – I discovered joy in so many places – some expected, some unexpected.
Reflecting on the trip from the familiarity and comfort of home, here are a few of my insights:
Navigating an unfamiliar city on foot allowed me to deal with the sensory overload in a way that was manageable. My pace varied depending on the sights, sounds, smells and while I was definitely bombarded with a lot of new information, the fact that I was walking kept me feeling grounded. It also gave me the opportunity to notice a lot of small but significant differences. I barely saw any litter in Japan which is astounding when you think about it.
The learning curve is pretty quick when you need it to be. After a day or two, the yen had lost its mystery, I could navigate the Tokyo subway system and deal with simple transactions without anxiety.
Much of the charm of a different culture comes from its rituals and traditions. The shrines I visited in Tokyo and Kyoto were beautiful and impressive, yet it was taking part in the rituals of washing the hands and rinsing the mouth with cool water from bamboo cups before approaching the altar, ringing the bell to awaken the gods, bowing and clapping that were the magical moments and helped me feel connected to the culture.
I don’t know why, but Japan has the most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen. They exude health and happiness.
I like trains a lot, but bullet trains are in a category of their own. So comfortable, so clean, so efficient – such a joy to ride.
Getting lost in the Gion district of Kyoto at night with its tiny alleys, old tea houses, and twinkling lights was more fun than frustrating. So what if I couldn’t find the restaurant I was looking for after an hour of walking in circles? The sights and adventure were way more important than the meal.
Speaking of the Gion, a brief encounter with a Geisha was the most magical moment of a magical trip.
Despite heat, humidity, and a monsoon I walked for hours and hours every day. Nothing is more valuable than comfortable shoes.
Guide books give all sorts of practical information, however, in the end, there is no way to anticipate where joy will be found.
Here are a few of the things that made me very happy:
the gentleness and impeccable manners of the people
bowls of noodles
tiny shops in Kyoto
the lush green of rice paddies
Fushimi Inari Shrine – walking through hundreds of orange gates in the greenest woods imaginable
getting a small glimpse of the vastness of Tokyo
Japanese toilets (amazing!!!)
women wearing colorful kimonos on the streets
discovering beautiful handmade washi paper
feeling energized, curious, and open to adventure
the sound of bells
gardens filled with moss, frogs, carp, and turtles
soaking naked in an onsen (outdoor bath fed by a hot spring) and realizing how connected and alike we all are
I am so grateful to have been able to take this trip and see a different part of the world.
I would love to hear about your travels and where you found joy.
Leave a comment please.
Sure you all have plenty of things you have to do today. And maybe not all of them are fun or pleasant or even satisfying. But if they’ve got to get done, so be it. On the other hand, my guess is that every single one of you could choose to do at least one thing today that will bring you joy.
Maybe it’s listening to an uplifting podcast on your commute home. Or letting your kids help you make fresh watermelon popsicles. Perhaps you want to lose yourself in a good book or sip a glass of refreshing white wine or crank up the AC if you’re feeling hot and grouchy.
Whatever will bring you some joy, add it to your list today and make sure you do it.
You’ll feel better for it, and so will those around you.
Joy is contagious!
Two days into my summer break and I’ve wracked up hours at the dentist, long to-do lists, commitments I’m not excited about, and a stack of papers that makes me want to scream.
Is this any way to start a break?
Of course not.
Yet for as long as I can recall my summers begin like this – feeling stressed, behind, and already anticipating the end of my vacation before it has barely begun.
For some reason I find it difficult to let go of ‘busy-ness” and relax into the summer I always long for but rarely attain.
So today, in an attempt to break that pattern, I am doing nothing. Well, maybe not nothing, but nothing I don’t want to do. Wow -that’s a lot of negatives. Let me rephrase.
Today I am going to do exactly what I feel like doing.
I might finish this blogpost.
I might answer a couple of emails.
I’m pretty sure I’ll go for a swim and water the garden once it cools down.
I’ll start a pitcher of cold-brewed coffee.
And read. Or meditate. Or ride my bike. Or take a yoga class.
Or just nap.
And I’ll enjoy every minute of what I choose to do or choose not to do without any feelings of guilt, pressure, ‘should have’ or ‘could have’.
If I want a summer that’s relaxing, creative, fulfilling, healthy, fun, then I owe it to myself to make the choices that will create that summer.
So excuse me while I turn off the computer, pour myself a cold drink, and do a little bit of nothing.
I admit, I’m the type of person who feels compelled to come up with a sizable list of New Year’s resolutions every year. I write them out, set my intentions, and start out strong.
Life gets in the way or I’m too tired or something throws me off track and it takes too long to get back on board or I realize I can’t survive on bowls of kale in January and somehow a pint of Ben & Jerry’s appears in my freezer.
And my mouthy inner critic starts her monologue –Why do you even bother? This always happens? Loser. Can’t you finish anything you start?
But I love the idea of clean slates, do-overs, self-improvement. I see myself as an endless work-in-progress with so much to accomplish and so little time. I really do want to write more, read more, travel, have more fun, lose weight, gain upper body strength, volunteer, make new friends, take art classes, get another dog, drive cross country. And a part of me wants to turn each of those desires into an itemized list that I can check off. Write five pages a day – read a book a week – go to Ireland in the spring and Japan in the summer….
I do believe in the power of lists, and checking items off a to-do list is so incredibly satisfying. However I’m going to resist that temptation.
This year I’m going to simplify.
I resolve to find as much joy as possible in each day.
Today I filled my gas tank for under $50!!! while the sun shone warmly on my face. I brought my dog to the dog park where he romped joyfully for an hour. I cleaned out my closet while listening to an excellent audiobook. I took a late afternoon nap. I went for an evening walk through the neighborhood enjoying the holiday lights and the unusual – for southern California – chill in the air. And as soon as I’m done with this post, I’m going to make myself a cup of hot chocolate with a dash of peppermint.
And you know what? I’m thinking that maybe this is a resolution I can keep.
It’s pretty simple, after all….
My sister lost her horse today. Eli, her beautiful thoroughbred, was an enormous part of her life for the past eighteen years. He was the child she was never able to have, and like most only children he was the center of her universe.
As the mother of a couple of children myself and a pet lover with two dogs, I was sometimes astounded, occasionally dismayed, and often amused by the love and attention my sister showered on Eli. I love my kids and dogs wholeheartedly, but they never got the energy and unconditional adoration Eli evoked from Nancy.
She threw herself into her relationship with him with a wide open heart and let him bask in her considerable maternal love and instincts. He always came first. She anticipated his needs, was ever vigilant about his health, and always attuned to his moods. Like any proud parent she had a repertoire of adorable stories and beautiful photos to share with anyone and everyone.
She wrote a book about him. A love story. So funny, sad, honest, and brave that the reader can’t help but fall for both of them.
I haven’t been able to speak to her yet. She’s too heartbroken to talk so I wait and wonder when she’ll be able to tell me what happened.
In the meantime, I’ve spent the day thinking about Nancy and Eli. About a relationship so strong and loving that when it ends it leaves behind hundreds of joyful memories. And not a single regret.
That’s an impressive legacy.
If you want to read about Eli, click here