IMG_7073

Remember when you were a kid and how you loved to sound off in front of a fan to hear the distortion in your voice? And how you’d giggle with delight?

That’s exactly what I did last night when I rode my bike through this wonderful tunnel with walls of corrugated steel. ‘Whoooooooooo!’ and ‘Wheeeeeeee!’ and ‘AHHHHHHHHHHHH!’ And then: GIGGLE!

Husband and I have rediscovered the joy and exhilaration of bicycling again. The pleasure – and freedom – of flying along the many beautiful bike trails here in the Des Moines metro area brings out the kid in me. Life is good.

IMG_4808

My 20s and 30s – and a sizeable chunk of my 40s – were spent allocating far too many hours, days, weeks (and more) agonizing over matters of little import, wasting precious time, energy and mojo fixated on imperfections, minutia and Other People’s Business which only served to diminish my own standing with self.

It should be easy, intuitive even, to recognize that the less stressful path to peace of mind is best pursued not from forceful, hand-wringing, futile attempts to guide events toward a self-determined outcome but rather in accepting and responding to life’s outrageously misfortunate slings and arrows with as much dignity and resolve as we are able to muster.

Don’t like how something has turned out, unfolding in directions that are out of alignment with your own wants, needs and desires? Adapt and / or find your own way, your own path, your own happiness, your own destiny. Stop lamenting over what is and wailing (to any who will lend an ear) about how life done did you wrong.

And yet, this is difficult to do. Certainly, it’s challenging enough if one is circumspect and so able to analyze a bump in the road with calm, steely resolve but damn near impossible once you find yourself already tightly coiled (guilty as charged!) within a maelstrom of anxiety and emotions, frustration and annoyance.

A few years ago, I set a goal for myself (continuously renewed!) to try to live more in the moment, to tackle life as it comes with a quieter strength, with grace and good humor while actively seeking to live more delightfully, giving myself up to all that is good and real and lovely much as a child sees and interacts with the world. Listening to children’s laughter, watching their sense of wonder and curiosity, seeing them play with such freedom and abandon, gently reminds us of the innocence and joy we knew (or were entitled to know) when we were young.

Living delightfully – thrilling to the sight of a hawk perched on a fence post or soaring overhead, observing a lone egret, legs akimbo, standing in a marshy field, smiling at the recognition of a cardinal’s call, laughing at a shared private joke with a loved one, savoring a special meal surrounded by family and friends, enjoying the crackle and roar of a blazing fire, resting peacefully in quiet solitude after a hectic day – these experiences and others that provide immense satisfaction and peace are the lifeblood of our existence. If we don’t appreciate, cherish and relish these nuggets of happiness, we do ourselves a great disservice. I don’t know that anything is sadder than to observe someone who is merely plodding through life without enthusiasm, without gaiety, knowing no festivity or frolic, one whose life is anything but filled with comfort or warmth or cheer.

For me, I choose to live delightfully. Because otherwise, really, what is the point?

IMG_1501

The world is a bad place, a bad place. A terrible place to live. Oh, but I don’t want to die. ~ Reflections of My Life, Marmalade

The news stories that we have been bombarded with for far too long are sobering indeed. Reminders that there are some very bad things and people and places in this world. Although we’re often told that “life isn’t fair” this little pearl of wisdom sometimes seems to be staggeringly true. I recall being told when I was a kid that despite any hardships or difficulties I may have to encounter there is always someone who has it worse than I do. I suppose the reasoning behind this is so that I might put things into perspective and not complain because somewhere out there is someone who is worse off than me and that I should be grateful for what I have. True, so very true. However, my youthful mind took this rationalization a bit further. If this statement was true and there is a person out there, say Person X, who has more problems than me then you could extrapolate that to say there is someone out there who is worse off than Person X. And then someone who is worse off than that person and so on and so forth.  That means (my youthful – and not so youthful – mind is really humming now) there is that one person, that poor schmuck, that miserable wretch who has it worse than every single gosh darn person in the whole entire world. And that is just too much unfairness for this mind of mine, however old, to take in.

While we acknowledge the brutality and horror and unfairness that does, unfortunately, exist in this world there is also much beauty and goodness and light and majesty as well. My oh-but-I-don’t-want-to-die list looks something like this:

  • Children: Their laughter, their inquisitiveness, their energy, their little hands and feet, the way they run and squeal with delight, the way they react to music even when they’re just toddlers, how they learn to talk and reason and think and mimic what they see around them – basically how they are able to LEARN is utterly amazing.
  • My husband: His smile, his patience, his sense of humor, the way he so fiercely loves and cherishes me, his goodness, his green eyes, the gray in his temples and beard and mustache, his can-do attitude, the way he’s been such a good father figure for my son (who thinks the world of him) and well, just pretty much everything about him!
  • The fresh growth of spring: Green buds on the trees, flowers poking up through the soil (incredible!), the light airiness of it all, the promise in the breeze, the wonder of new life all around us.
  • My son: His creativity, his absolutely unique sense of humor, his dedication and love of science and his motivation to learn more and more including how to be a better teacher, his love of music and the way he’s thrown himself into learning to play the drums (which he didn’t pick up until his early 20’s), the way he has always been able to make new friends even as (especially as!) a child, his way of calling me Mother and how, despite the many mistakes I made in that role as he was growing up, he has always been my ally and most ardent defender.
  • Nature: If ever there was an element of this world for which the adjective majestic was intended, the gifts that Mother Nature has provided for us would be it. The changing of the seasons, awe-inspiring mountains and deserts, glorious rivers and lakes, lush forests and mysterious oceans, all teeming with a diversity of creatures. To be still and silent in the midst of such grandeur is to know what it’s like to really breath, to truly live, to just BE.
  • Kindness: This element of the world, when it makes itself known to you at unexpected moments, is perhaps one of the most beautiful things of all. Whether you are the recipient of any act of caring, generosity or warmth or you are merely an observer, to know or experience the beauty of kindness in any of its many forms can move even the most hardened individuals to tears. The best example of kindness? That which is done anonymously, totally without mention to anyone else – ever – in any way, shape or manner, is true kindness for it comes directly from the heart and as such it reaps its own reward. Or rather it doesn’t require anything for its efforts. The doing of the deed is all that truly matters.

So yes, while there is much to lament and grieve for in our world today, much that causes anxiety, pain and fear there are many more causes for joy and celebration. We, too, must remember that we don’t live in a vacuum. The things that touch us are often the result of our choices even while we are sometimes at odds with the platter that was placed before us by way of where we were born, how we have been raised, our genetics and our heritages. But we can choose, we can do, we can decide.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. ~ Desiderata, Max Ehrmann

IMG_3205

Nothing like a field of flowers to instill dreamy thoughts of summers past especially those of one’s childhood.  These carefree blooms, photographed at a winery in Missouri, were beautifully swaying in the breeze that day.  Watching their movement, set on an slight elevation overlooking a small pond, with birds  chirping and tweeting as they flew through the mix it was easy to imagine running through the flowers and grasses and wanting to escape to simpler times without the day in, day out worries and demands of our adult lives and responsibilities.  To only think and act as a child, chasing dragonflies and searching for turtles and frogs along the water’s edge.  Leaping with joy and abandon and living only in the moment, shrieking with delight at the smallest discoveries.  Perhaps we should allow ourselves the simple pleasure of appreciating a summer afternoon spent the way a child would enjoy it.  Probably easier said than done since our adult minds seldom let us go too long before thoughts of more serious, pressing matters intrude and spoil the party.  A worthy goal though nonetheless.