Sunday, January 2, 2011

Taking Time to Count What Counts

"Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys.  If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it." (Fyodor Dostoevsky)

It's a late Sunday afternoon on my last day of Christmas break.  A wonderfully peaceful and relaxing two weeks away from work is coming to an end, and tomorrow I return to the hectic world of a high school teacher: bells buzzing, lessons to be planned, stacks of papers that have been "hibernating" for two weeks, meetings and schedules, and the challenges of interacting with 120 different people, teens and adults - all with their own energies and agendas.  Quite a change from my quiet little world for the last 16 days!

Many times I find myself feeling a little blue on Sunday afternoons, or spending the time watching the time slip by and wishing, hoping desperately, it wouldn't.  But a question my wife asked me last night has stuck in my head all day and was what I wanted to explore instead.

"What's something that makes you happy?", she asked me. 

A seemingly simple question to answer, yet it caught me at a loss for words - which seemed odd since here I was, the lucky recipient of 15 days to do whatever I wanted to, and yet, why couldn't I name anything that made me happy (other than saying sincerely, "Being with you!")?

Have I been spending too much time, "counting my troubles"?  How can whole days, weeks, or even months go by and we haven't done what we say we love, or what makes us happy?  (A case in point - writing in this blog!  I've been absent from it for 6 weeks!)

So, a simple, but valuable exercise for remind myself to more frequently and intentionally remember what it is that brings me joy.  I'll be curious what comes to me in the next few minutes...

  • The first cup of coffee, sipped slowly in the morning (any morning!) in my quiet home, as I and the world get ready to meet each other.
  • Watching the flames flicker and dance in our fireplace always warms my heart as much as the heat warms my skin (and my wife's "popsicle toes"!)
  • Being surprised by a beautiful sunrise on my way to work.  Rembrandt, VanGogh, or Monet themselves couldn't have painted masterpieces as breathtaking as the pink sunrises I've seen across the skies this year.
  • My wife's gentle touch - her hand resting on my back - as I fall to sleep.
  • Finding a good story to read - one that just makes me want to race until I've finished it, hungry to read more and more!  I just finished such a book, "Unbroken", by Laura Hillenbrand:  an unbelieveable story about the heroic life of Louie Zamperini, Olympic medalist, WWII veteran and prisoner of war.  Two lessons learned from reading this:  Everyone I meet has "a story" - both amazing and painful - that I can never imagine... and secondly... That we are all capable of far more than what we believe we're capable of.
  • Cooking!  I love making things that are wonderful to eat and fun to look at to.  Whether it's BBQ or brunch, a simple salad or hearty homemade macaroni and cheese, something exotic like Thai Chicken Satay or something simple like an omelet, I love being creative in the kitchen (and even learning to love to clean up after my "creativity" - I'm like the Swedish Chef on "Sesame Street" sometimes!)
  • Raking the leaves on an autumn afternoon, knowing I won't get everyone one of the golden "paratroopers" dropping down as I work, but being OK with that.
  • Being at the beach.  Watching the waves ripple and foam during the summer, and boil and crash in the winter.  Smelling the salt air - squinting through my tears as the wind whips around me.  Feeling the power of the ocean and being reminded that there is much in the world that is greater than me, and so much bigger than my little desires or worries.
  • Seeing how excited our little chihuahua Izzy gets when I get ready to take her for a walk.  Oh, if I could only be so enthusiastic, and see everything I do in life as being fresh, and new, and as exciting as she does!
  • The joy that comes from giving.  Everytime I've remembered to give freely, I've always been rewarded by so much more in return.
  • Sharing my life - all of it:  adventures and quiet times, passions and pleasures, as well as painful lessons and challenges - with a partner, a friend, an ally, my wife.  Such a blessing...
Well, what do you know!  There's eleven things that make me happy, and so much more I could say!  I might have to return to this exercise again sometime.

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."  (Abraham Lincoln)

Here's to taking more time in 2011 to count the things that really count, and to finding the joys I tend to overlook, that are the "pearls" simply waiting for me to discover them.

1 comment:

  1. Oh so well said, brother!
    Happiness is in all the littlest things, and it does us all well to pause sometimes to name them--we are all blessed!