I was the crazy kid who loved getting new school supplies more than clothes every year. Pencils, rulers, erasers and pointy crayons, but most especially tablets of paper with clean crisp sheets of paper. Maybe it was the budding writer in me, but those new pieces of paper were full of promise and possibility. And that’s what a New Year feels like to me—a fresh ream of paper just waiting for a new story.
Post divorce I was a real cynic. I had decided that New Year’s was, as Mark Twain once said, “… the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” Resolutions, sm-esolutions, I thought. Who am I to pretend that a handful of goals can change anything?
I’ve had three years to settle back into myself, and I’m not that cynical person anymore. Now the New Year is back to being what it should be—a long ribbon marking the beginning of a new adventure that I can, in fact, influence. Imagine that!
So, without further ado, I will unveil my big resolution:
And while it sounds simple, for me it’s a challenge because that same little girl who loved school supplies more than clothes has been in her head for the majority of her life, thinking, pondering, planning, imagining, constructing, worrying. All this while the earth continues to rotate and life lumbers on (and maybe life skips, but who am I to say? I haven’t really been paying attention—hence, the resolution).
While shopping with my sister last week, I indulged in an impulse buy. I bought the January issue of Real Simple. The theme was to ‘be happier this year.’ And who doesn’t want to be happier? As I read through all the articles and columns designed to help readers become happier, I noticed a theme—be present. The magazine’s editor explained:
A few years ago, I came across the following quotation, attributed to William Butler Yeats: “Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which stained him through temporary periods of joy.” Yeats knew that happiness inevitably disappears, which is why we all must grab onto those fleeting joys as fast as we can. How? Think small, and just look around you. Take off your high heels and put on your slippers. Eat a piece of chocolate. Watch a funny TV show. Read a short story. Hug a spouse or a child or a parent—anybody and everybody. Wipe the crumbs from the kitchen counter. Sit down and do nothing for once in your life. This is happiness, each of these things. And if you incorporate enough of them into your day—and hit Pause when they come, if only for a moment—you might just find that you know exactly what it means to “be happy.”
By being present, I’m convinced that I will enjoy the smaller moments in life and, in turn, find myself more attentive, more grateful and more joyful. And that sounds happy to me. I think it’s what makes Kelle Hampton’s blog, Enjoying the Small Things, so appealing. In fact, it may be the secret to many a Pollyanna’s unnervingly positive perspective.
It will definitely take some practice. I’ll have to really live in that moment when my kids need help with homework instead of traveling somewhere else in my brain (unfortunately those imaginary excursions aren’t very exotic—I’m usually standing in an intimidating mental foyer with lots of stone columns, fretting over a gargantuan to-do list). But, thankfully, it also means I can truly be present while reading to my kids every night, making my bed, drinking a cup of peppermint tea, folding laundry and reading in my Snuggie. I’m guessing there’s also power in sitting through difficult emotions, truly enduring them well so I’m better equipped for the next Joy-ride.
So, see? I have a selfish ulterior motive and it’s called Operation Make Shauna Happier This Year. I do have other resolutions, and they’re called Operation Make Shauna a Better Person. It’s my life experiment to test the theory that a handful of goals can make a difference.
I’ll let you know how it pans out.
But until then, I’d love to discover the simple things in life you enjoy. Do share.