Learning to Enjoy the Little Things
September is my “new year.” The busy summer is over, and I have some time to rest, reflect, and regroup – three things I have never mastered.
I’ve been drawn this month to books that continue to give me the same message loud and clear: slow down, savor, be present, be mindful.
Those words are just about as far away from a description of how I live as one can get. I’m efficient. I get a lot done. I make lists and check stuff off. I plan ahead. I set goals. I walk, talk, and eat briskly. Fueled by coffee, my days are productive. When it’s time to sleep, I crash hard and fast. It’s usually the first time I’ve stopped moving all day. When there is a momentary lull in “to dos,” I come up with a new project.
And, so, for me, rest and reflection are not easy and do not come naturally.
But I knew as summer was ending that I REALLY needed a break. So last weekend, I went on a retreat, by myself, for about 36 hours. I went to the same place I spend my summer, on a beautiful mountain lake, but this time there were no campers, staff, or activities. I gave myself just a few rules – no social media or email, refrain from looking at the time, and just do what I felt like, not what I felt I should do. It was excruciating at first, just being there with my own thoughts. Because when I am still, all the thoughts are allowed to come into my head – the good ones as well as the sad, hard ones. The many things I am grateful for, as well as the things I am mourning.
I’ve been going, going, going and striving, striving, striving for as long as I can remember, so slowing down and resting is really hard for me. But learning to rest and reflect is what I must do, lest I let this one precious, short life slip though my fingers without actually living it.
In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin challenges us to “Be You.” Rather than spending time doing things that you think you should enjoy, Rubin says to figure out what you actually enjoy most. As a wife, mom, and camp director, I’ve hardly had time to remember who “I” actually am outside of these roles, or how to best use the spare minutes and hours I’ve committed to creating in my schedule.
When I saw the “Little things” quote – which has always been one of my favorites – I was inspired to brainstorm my own “little things” list – the ordinary things I take for granted but would miss dearly if they weren’t here or that I enjoy but have forgotten to actually do.
I remember reading about a palliative care nurse who shared what people said they regret most in their last days, and also about an ambulance driver who takes people on field trips for their dying wish, and I was struck, in both cases, at how much we complicate life when we think it’s the weekend or vacation or a decorated house or a super successful business that’s going to bring us happiness and fulfillment. Instead, what we need to remember is that what we’ll wish for most at the end of our days is a cup of coffee with our spouse on an ordinary, weekday morning and to spend time with the people we love.
I’ll share my list with you in the hope that you, too, will be motivated to take a few minutes for yourself this weekend to figure out what your little things are and how to get more of those into your life. Because September is busy – back to school, back to sports, back to the family craziness. But it’s so important for us to figure out how to enjoy the little things.
Here are the books I read on my retreat – great messages for how to live a more peaceful, meaningful, connected life (rather than a crazy, people-pleasing, frenetic one!):
Thank you for reading, and have a happy day!