The Season of Simple Joys

 

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A glorious plate of fried green tomatoes

Truthfully every day of every season offers up simple joys, but there is something about Summer which brings to mind an abundance of simple joys like the fried green tomatoes pictured above.

While calendar Summer doesn’t begin until the Summer Solstice and cultural summer goes Memorial Day to Labor Day, for me, Summer begins when my teaching duties are over. This year Summer began today June 5th.

Instead of getting up at 4:50, I slept until 6 a.m. and then got to exercise in the morning followed by a leisurely breakfast with the Today Show. I did housework and ran errands, had lunch with a friend and indulgently took an afternoon nap. Even the housework I would count as a simple joy among this list of joys, because it was done on a weekday morning and not after a long day at work, or crammed into the weekend.

I am transitioning into my summer routine, and as this is the shortest time segment in my personal year, besides the to-do list of various house and garden tasks and finishing my fourth novel, I intend to celebrate the simple joys I find in every day.

I predict a few more fried green tomato dinners are in my future as well as some days with my toes in the sand and a great book in my hand. I want to spend time with friends and enjoy some reflective alone time. I want to find more ways to give back to my community.  I want to reset and renew so that come August I have more of me to give to the next school year.

The more life experience I gain (now doesn’t that sound better than the older I get?) I realize it’s not the big grand moments where I find the most joy. The big moments have their place, they create memories and help me grow as a person. But, it’s the way we live the ordinary days that bring us contentment for our lives.

Being cognizant of the simple and everyday joys helps us to appreciate all we have. It puts into perspective the needs versus the wants. There was a popular book back in the 90’s called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, Oprah talked about it and put into practice the idea of a gratitude journal. The idea was to put your focus on all you have and be grateful for it.

Tuning into our simple joys makes us grateful, it reminds us to savor the ordinary. I think it also helps us appreciate those moments that are seasonal as precious, they may be fairly ordinary like fried green tomatoes, oyster roasts, pulling out the Christmas decorations, etc.  but they appear in our lives for brief periods of time, making them extra-special simple joys.

So no matter whether it’s watching the lightning bugs dance around the yard, or spending an hour or two lost in a good book, I plan to recognize and be thankful for all the simple joys that fill my days.

 

Southern Winter Whiplash

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What will it be today?

I realize as I pen my thoughts, my friends and family that live in northern climes will have no sympathy for the plight of those who suffer from winter whiplash. What they would give for seventy plus degree days sprinkled among their winter days, or so I imagine. I certainly can’t imagine anyone enjoying frigid weather or snow day on end.

We truly have been blessed this winter, more warmth than cold. Still the swings have my sinuses working overtime and my daffodils are already blooming. What in the world will the yard be like in March?  Today was a lovely 74 and we will be dropping to the low 50’s by Saturday and then shooting right back up. One day it is sandals and short sleeves, the next is scarves and sweaters.

One thing Charlestonians are fond of saying is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes and it will change.” It is not quite that volatile but sometimes it does seem we can cover all four seasons in a week. The exception is summer, when the only change is what degree of hot it is and how bad the humidity is.

Rotating seasons in your closet is not advisable. You will need access to it all.There have been days, I have started off with a sweater and a scarf and ended the day in sandals. I am not a fan of cold weather, but I can find enjoyment in a cool day, particularly if it is accompanied by a bright blue sky.

There in lies the lesson I have learned. No matter what the season, weather, day…I should look for the gift each is bringing. There is always at least one thing and sometimes many things to enjoy. If we have a frigid day, enjoy the chance to snuggle up inside. If it’s hot, play in the ocean. Soak up all the sun you can and be thankful for the drops of rain that make our lowcounty so lush and green. It’s all in the mindset.

Our weather may be a roller coaster of conditions, so I’m going to enjoy the ride.

What Time Is It?

 

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My favorite watch.

I have been hyper-focused on time since the beginning of 2017. The passage of time, time management, how much time I have to do certain things or how little, depending on the subject.

I feel like the older I get, the faster time seems to pass. Sometimes when I look back I am overwhelmed by what I accomplished in 2016. I feel equally overwhelmed by what I need to accomplish in the coming year. So I take a deep breath and think about how no matter how I proceed, it will be day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute.

I am one busy girl. I teach full time, I tutor, and I write novels and try to learn about and manage all that goes into the life of an author. Plus I take care of a household and maintain relationships and carve out a little me-time here and there. It takes careful time management to make it work and occasionally I get off plan. Deep breathing. a step back, a re-prioritizing and then we’re back on track.

Like every adult, there are things we must do and things we want to do. Balancing that can be exhausting, sometimes I really wish there were twenty-six hours in a day. I also wish that there were times we could slow the passage of time down, think more days with our elderly loved ones. At other times I wish we could speed it up, think standing in line at the DMV.

The passage of time is unmerciful. We can let it have great influence in how we live our lives, or we can go with the flow as the optimists like to say. I hope when I get to the end of my life, ideally, age 108, I will be able to look back and think I used my time on this earth wisely. I also hope I managed to work in a fair number of days where I frittered the hours away doing things that brought me joy.

We don’t know how much time we have ultimately, but we do know it is finite. If you think about it too much you can stress yourself right out. As I’m typing this I’m stressing that I have only a few hours to get some chores done before I have to get into bed. Maybe I need to give myself permission to put some things off for another day and instead get some good snuggles in with my golden retrievers. I think it is safe to say at the end of my life I won’t be remembering how great it was that I got that other load of laundry done on a Wednesday night. Yes, the laundry will need to get done at some point, but if I only have so much time to spend, I want to spend it on more important things.

So I am choosing to think about time as a gift with an expiration date. I am going to make the most of the time I’ve got.

 

 

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The Practice of Joy

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Part of my Christmas Light Display

Joy can seem elusive for some folks.  Is it the epitome of happiness?  Is it fleeting and rare?  I used to think so.  I once thought joy was something that happened to you at the special moments in life and while I  definitely have felt joy in those moments I have come to realize joy is attainable on a daily basis.  The secret? You have to practice.

 My boss a few years back when things were particularly stressful would remind the staff to practice joy and would even sign off his weekly missives and emails with negative news, practicing joy!  I would chuckle, which did bring a smile to my face, not so sure I felt joy. He used it so often it became a bit of a joke around the staff. It was bantered back and forth as frequently as good morning. After all how could we find joy in furloughs, deep scrutiny of job performance or extra work expectations (not from him but from the district or state level)?  Really what he was saying was if you adjust your reaction and attitude it will get better.

As I have written before, the loss of signifigant people in my life close together caused me to have what Oprah would call an “aha” moment. In that moment I made joy a choice and began to practice it in earnest.  Daily joy takes work at first, especially because the rest of the world is not necessarily on board. Daily trials and tribulations big and small, still lurk around every corner. By adjusting my attitude and choosing to react to negative people and situations with love and compassion, everyday life became more joyful.  The ordinary became extraordinary. The mundane tasks in life became more enjoyable.  Joy became part of daily life, not just fleeting moments in life.

I’d like to think I am a better person for it and perhaps my joyful approach will help someone else experience daily joy. I am not saying I no longer experience sadness, anger, or disappointment, I am human after all, but these emotions are the ones that have become fleeting.  Now I feel as if my joy is my suit of armor, protecting me as I move through life, allowing me to deflect the negative emotions with greater skill.

The Christmas season is a natural time for Joy it is in the sentiments on our cards and we feel it in our hearts when we give to others.  Here is the challenge, let this season be the launch pad for your own practice of joy and then carry it forward with you into the new year.  What do you have to lose?  Just the negatives.  Daily joy can make a significant difference in how you feel and how you view the world.  So, I wish you joy each and every day. I am off to spend gobs of money on car repair, (ugh!) but I am looking forward to sitting in the waiting area, sipping a latte and reading a good book practicing joy!