“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Last Thursday night a tumultuous thunder and lightning storm made itself quite comfortable over the small town I live in. Being awoken by a jolt of lightning, I remained awake to enjoy the beautiful display of bolts randomly piercing through the dark sky, but then the lightning and thunder occurred simultaneously, a sound that was felt so viscerally that, for the first time, I feared (just for a moment) what Mother Nature had in store. Brushing it off, I decided to walk around the house to see the storm from various vantage points, but when I peered out my dining room window, I noticed maple leaves that were far too low to the ground. To make a long story short, lightning sliced one of my beloved 80-year old maple trees in half and what was severed, was now laying on my terrace and the sidewalk.
Looking past what happened to the tree, everything from that point was something to be thankful for – no major damage, my father arrived the next day from two hours away where he lives to wield his chainsaw skills and my neighbors even aided in the cleaning up of fallen limbs and branches. Before noon, there was hardly a sign of the described incident.
Everything that happened in that span of 12 hours gave me considerable pause.
There are so many things in life we do have control over, our seemingly endless decisions regarding our finances, our career, our time, our health, our diet, our thoughts, but even handling superbly all of these factors, there are still events that will occur outside of our controlling jurisdiction.
The only thing I had control over in that particular instance was the decision to buy this particular house when I did and to have decided to not cut that tree down prior to the storm. And since I don’t regret making the decisions I made for each of these instances, everything else was out of my control.
While I am a tremendous proponent of setting goals, staying focused and persevering until they are met, what sank in quite significantly last week was the fact that so much was working, so much was functioning as it should (the plumbing, the heating/air conditioning, electricity), so much was making life very comfortable, and I, like many people, while enjoying it, have been taking it for granted far more than I should.
In other words, while we chase dreams we feel will make our lives better and our heart happier, why not revel in daily moments that cultivate happiness along the journey?
In chef Robert Arbor’s book Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday Living he teaches his readers that the French have a innate ability to revel in the daily routines of life – to make them quite pleasurable and unhurried.
Since there are so many daily chores, activities and responsibilities each one of us has to tend to daily, why not make them more enjoyable? After all, when we make the journey an experience that is memorable and full of moments we want to savor, the destination seems to be reached in a more timely manner (even though it is probably the same amount of time).
Arbor writes about his devotion to carve out breakfast each day as his “me time”. Choosing to use this time to greet the day, review his calendar and savor his tartine and coffee, he feels not a bit of guilt for savoring his time to himself (he is married with children). Designating lunch and dinner as time to gather, he remembers this routine being customary as he was growing up and finding great pleasure in the decreased pace and leisurely moments.
Turning every day routines and expectations into opportunities to savor and revel in will increase the quality of your life as it requires you to live more consciously each and every day. And when we are living more consciously, we are better able to appreciate the many seemingly minute things that are going well and that allow us to live the life we’ve worked so hard to create.
In order to make these routines meaningful, we must also be able to look rationally at all that we allow to consume our time and whittle out those unnecessary demands that don’t aid items on our priority list. When you are able to let go of the unnecessary responsibilities, you will find more time to savor your breakfast in the morning or walk the dog every day after work or sit down for a wonderful cup of tea in the afternoon before getting ready for the evening activities and dinner.
But more than anything, our lives are measured in moments that have the opportunity to be savored each and every day. Simple and easy to overlook, such moments surround you daily. Won’t you take the time to create daily routines that you can look forward to instead of dread?
Here are a few daily routines that can easily be polished up and transformed into regular moments to look forward to:
1. Grocery shopping – set one time a week to go shopping (having planned your meals for the week), do your best to shop at local markets and get to know the venders, making the experience a social encounter, not a robotic chore. Smell the fruit, thump the bread, taste the wine (if they offer this option) and enjoy a store, booth or market’s ambiance.
2. Breakfast – Wake up earlier and enjoy a simple, yet flavorful meal that will help you last until lunch. Read your favorite blogs (on your iPad) or peruse your local morning newspaper as you sip your first cup of caffeine.
3. Paying bills – Knowing you have adhered to your budget will make this process even more enjoyable, but each time you sit down, turn on your favorite music, pour a cup of tea, sit in a comfortable chair and gradually, yet proficiently pay your monthly bills and balance your checkbook.
4. Downtime – Love music? Love the nostalgic crackle of a turntable? Why not buy one and play your favorite crooners found on vinyl?
5. Daily Walk – Choose a route that is inspiring – whether it is out in nature or on the sidewalk through a beautiful neighborhood, choose a regular path that revs up your creative mind.
6. Laundry – Whenever you make a bed with clean sheets, take the time to iron the pillowcases, shams and duvet and spritz some lavender linen spray on the pillows to enhance a restful night’s slumber. (Make your own: mix 1 tsp lavender essential oil with 1/4 c. unflavored vodka, then add 3 1/2 cups of water, and pour into a spray bottle)
7. Kitchen Clean-up – Again, include the power of music or talk radio to make the task move along quicker and allow you to either sing along or dance, or learn something.
8. Cleaning House – Each time you clean your home, when complete, treat yourself and your abode to a fresh bouquet of flowers.
9. Beautify Your Work Space – If you have a regular job and a desk area or office, decorate or create a space that is welcoming and well-stocked. Bring in flowers or nature, have a radio or music handy if that is allowable, stash an afternoon snack in your top drawer and include a photo of someone you love on your desk top. In other words, make it inviting.
Click here for a few more ways to add pleasure to regular routines.
“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.” ― Sarah Breathnach