Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Fresh Paper Notebooks and Other New Year Metaphors

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: 

Be present

That’s it.   

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.


Ashley said...

Here is my simple pleasure. Sitting each night with all my kids and my hubby, reading. It is quiet and still and I love to look at each of them and think about how much I love them!
Thanks for the great words!

Evil Pixie said...

I can totally relate. I was the same way about school supplies, and I still am! Though I no longer have the need to go school shopping every year, I still do... Plus, the office supply store is one of my favorites! I know... it's an illness. There must be a support group somewhere for people like me. :)

Pam said...

Someone once told me her favorite time of day was standing at the sink with her hands in the warm dishwater. I had never thought about it before, but now whenever I'm doing dishes I notice how nice the water feels. That little perspective turned dishes into a little moment of happiness.

shauna said...

Thanks for the comments! Ashley, I actually thought about that when you mentioned reading scriptures with your family. And Evil P., I'm glad I'm not the only one. Pam, I love that even doing the dishes can be enjoyed in the moment. If any of you saw Eat, Pray, Love, I've been reminded of that moment when Julia Roberts is trying to meditate and she can't concentrate. I tried to be in the moment showering yesterday and was amazed at how many other things I wanted to think about. Enjoying the moment, without any brain chatter, can be a difficult thing. I'm trying though!

Joel Galbraith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joel Galbraith said...

This last year, trying to take a photo-a-day was my attempt at noticing and capturing the little beauties (my simple pleasures) that I encounter in my daily routine --the way a leaf has fallen to the ground or a shadow across a staircase. It was fun overall, and very intimately rewarding at times...but at some point along the way, it turned into a chore. Maybe it was the trying to get that photo every day--come heck or high water--and I missed days and would get down on myself...but luckily had days rich with simple pleasures pics to compensate.
My pic-a-day Part 1 (2010)
My pic-a-day Part 2 (2010)
My biggest regret--and I know I shouldn't have a single one because it was wonderful project--is that my photos include so few meaningful *people* in my life, or people I simply encountered! I love people...I think. Why can't I capture them? Maybe it's because I can never seem to capture their beauty and brightness like my eye sees it (of course I don't see equal beauty and brightness in all people). I so envy (envy is not compatible with happiness) those that can capture joy in people...in a photograph (example). I want, I want, I want this gift...Ok, so I'd *like* it very much...and would use it to bless others lives...I think. So that's all I have to say about simple pleasures for now. Tonight, discovering your blog was my simple pleasure.
Thanks for listening.

Boy do I dislike writing--it takes so flippin' long. Maybe next time I'll just post a pic.

shauna said...

Joel, next time you need to post a picture! I've enjoyed your pic-a-day series via facebook. And thanks for adding my blog to your simple pleasures. Ah, that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Hope you're enjoying Rexburg in all its frozen glory. Luckily, there are some fabulously warm people there to make up for the weather. :)