I had given myself a self-imposed deadline to write this post by tonight. But I was making no headway. I tried to start a couple of times, but they went nowhere. Lame ideas with no way out. And, it was a busy day, testing my thin veil of discipline. Finally I sat down to write in earnest, well, I was hoping for that when Lucy, our dog, indicated that she had to go out. So, I got up hesitantly, got her leash, put on my jacket, checking for bags and treats, and we headed down the stairs to a lovely Spring evening. I was walking down the block when we ran into a friend with her adorable dogs. I rarely get to see friends given my schedule, so this impromptu meeting, was an unexpected gift. We walked the dogs for a short time while catching up.
When they left, Lucy and I went into the park. There are guards and a patrol officer at our entrance, so I felt safe. Lucy took her time, sniffing to find just the right place to roll around. After that she was happy to take her time to do what we came out to do. All the while she’s happy to be outside, enjoying the sounds and smells of the park. Observing her had me realize that it’s the simple things that carry us through. Earlier I worked so hard to think of just the right blog post. Lucy’s ease of being reminded me that simply being out with her was pleasure enough. She reminds me to take my time, and enjoy the moment. She teaches me patience. I always want to walk quickly to the next thing, while Lucy is happy to be wherever she is. So, taking her lead, I’m acknowledging that this is where I am at the moment. I’m putting this on my blog because I told myself I’d write something. It’s not perfect. But, thanks to Lucy I at least have this much.
I was so happy. Sitting in the mezzanine of the historical Palace Theater, one of what I believe are only four theaters sitting directly on Broadway. It was a perfect combination of Gershwin music played by a full orchestra and sublime dancing and choreography. As much as I love the theater, it’s been a long time since I was transported in the way An American in Paris carried me away to pure joy.
Utter happiness and joy are powerful experiences that can get us through harder times. I value those transcendent moments. But I’ve chased them for so long, not appreciating lovely moments since they weren’t absolutely amazing. For instance, watching a sunset, or listening to Emma, my daughter, tell me about her day. There is a simple enjoyment at those times that I’ve dismissed on occasion since they didn’t provide an emotional high.
One thing I did notice from the other night was that I was not expecting it. It came spontaneously. I’ve had the good fortune of attending a lot of theater lately, but watching the choreography, with the rich music and masterful sets, brought me to an unexpected place. I’ve read the reviews. Some agree with me, others not. We all find joy in unique places. In my experience living fully gives us more opportunity for joy. But it also means we feel deep pain, among other unappealing sensations. I was fortunate the other night. It was a gift. I appreciate the fleeting experience, because though I can’t literally save it, it’s now a part of me.
I admit it, I take naps. They are a small delight given my crowded schedule. I used to think that naps were a luxury I couldn’t afford. I had to get on with life, seizing every moment. Days were filled with activities, proving how busy I was. Somehow being busy justified my existence. Or, rather, I defended against the notion that I was lazy. It all started when my Grandmom Becky called me lazy when I was a teen. To her it was a nasty trait, with filth as a close second. She spent hours mopping her white tiled, kitchen floor. When finished she’d scrub any perceived grout from her bathtub. If she wasn’t cleaning she was exercising, staying fit well into her late 90s. Although I could never keep up with her undiagnosed OCD, her unbridled criticism had a long-term impact. I learned to have a lot going on. Now I’m undoing that training.
I started with planned naps. I would schedule a nap as a therapeutic response to exhaustion. Naps were utilitarian. No longer. Now I am happy to take a nap, planned or otherwise. I long for a Mediterranean lifestyle of yore, one in which siestas were a way of life. I like getting up early, and I enjoy working or going out at night. In-between a nap creates a civilized break, a refreshing reprieve ending one part of my day before the start of another.
Our overly crammed lives have taken us away from the natural pleasure of a short slumber. Like eating when we’re hungry and stopping when full, napping is a way to honor our body’s exhaustion level and take care of ourselves. The fullness of our lives don’t lend themselves to regular napping. But I’m happy to learn from infants. When they’ve had enough they’re down for the count. Napping might not have the spiritual cache of mindfulness or mediation, but turning off our minds has a positive impact. It’s like reading a good novel rather than an important self-help book. At this point, I read a few pages of fiction before I nod off, telephone on silent.
I’m reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s a unique philosophy of organizing. My biggest take-away so far is to ask the question of each item in my apartment, like clothing or books, “Does this item bring joy?” It’s a great question, and it got me thinking. Could I do this in the rest of my life? I ponderedt this today as I was choosing what to eat. It was nice to appreciate what I had and enjoy it in this way. Then I thought, what about my social life? Shouldn’t I be hanging out with those who bring joy to my life? I do for the most part, but there are still times when I don’t take joy into consideration. Or, more accurately, I purposely don’t ask myself that question because the answer is clear. Nonetheless, I just called a friend merely to put a smile on my face. And it worked.
Of course, I’ll be considering other aspects of life, for instance, my workouts. If it doesn’t bring joy I’ll try something new. I miss swimming, maybe that will be a nice change. Beside working out, there’s my reading list, or what I view online. And I’ll think of other areas to address as they come up.
Fortunately, work already gives me joy. Every day I look forward to seeing my clients. But as I look around my office, perhaps it could use a bit more tidying. Less important than the work itself, but still supportive of the pursuit of joy.
My biggest question, though, is do I work on tidying up my critical thoughts, or will tidying up the rest of my life lead to less criticism? I guess I’ll try it from both ends and see where it takes me. If there’s less joy one way, I’ll go in the other direction. In the meantime, I’ll finish reading the book, and start with my shirts, as recommended.