If you only read one of my blogs, please make it this one because I want you to grab some of the joy I've found and make it your own. You have to join me in doing this. Really. You have to.
Okay, guys, repeat after me "It’s the little things. It’s the little things. It’s the little things." Keep saying it because these words are important.
I’ve been mulling this over while celebrating another year on this spinning blue ball, something I don’t at all take for granted. Before the kids were up, I sat outside in the sunshiny quiet yesterday and said a birthday prayer that started with thanksgiving for every good thing I could think of in my life. I didn't stop until I couldn't come up with anything else. There were big things like God and faith, health and family and a place to live, but there were many more small things like my dogs and ice creams cones, easing into a cold pool of water on a scorching summer day, haircuts that make me feel like a new woman and friends who call just to say hi, hot coffee in the morning and picking a ripe tomato off the vine. I'm not sure why, but this time I said these things out loud and it felt different. It somehow made gratitude more tangible and bigger inside of me, filling me completely and overwhelming me to the point of joyful tears. I'm convinced that happened because I intently focussed on these things and said them out loud, naming them and claiming them and holding them up to God with extreme thanks.
Not long after I finished my gratitude list, prayers and meditation, the phone rang and a sweet friend on the other end of the line wished me well and asked what my celebratory plan was for the day.
“Not much,” I replied. “Andrew is out of town. Tonight Christian is going to a concert he’s been wanting to see. J’s doing some jobs for neighbors. So it’s kind of quiet. The boys and I will just do something small. Maybe a matinee and my favorite ice cream. That's about it.” She paused. "Oh. Are you disappointed?” “No,” I answered, "Not a bit." Focussing so intently on what I was grateful for made me thankful for these little celebrations of my day and that left no room for disappointment. Then my husband called en route to his out of town client and talked non-stop about how things were going there, asked what was happening here at home, but made no mention of my birthday. There was no card either. Even though he felt bad, I ordinarily would have been hurt and, honestly, kind of mad. But this time there was only a bit of disappointment and even that didn't linger. I think the difference was that I had claimed the good things I already had and this little misstep couldn't undo all of that.
The effect of intentional thanksgiving lasted all day long. This big, deep gratitude made me notice more things to be grateful for: friends down the street who made cupcakes and sang Happy Birthday, cards in the mailbox and phone calls from near and far, the feeling of a warm shower washing over me, and digging into left overs from one of my favorite restaurants. It all seemed to matter even more than usual. Gratitude grew gratitude and it was positively invigorating.
Here’s the bottom line. Living in gratitude is more than just noticing. It's claiming the goodness in our lives. It's savoring the little things rather than waiting for the big, exciting things to come our way. The truth is if you spend your life waiting for the big things to happen, you'll spend most of your precious time waiting. But when we notice the little things and choose to be grateful for them, they become bigger and better. And so does life. There’s less waiting and more joy. Even in hard, sucky times, there are always good things to hold onto: a sunrise, an ice cream cone, a smile from a stranger, an uplifting phone call or text, God’s ever present love. There is always something. We just have to be in the habit of noticing and claiming every bit of goodness that comes our way. We have to consciously choose to be grateful in concrete ways. (Yes, it is a choice.)
So today, in honor of gratitude, I'm kicking off a year of The Big Joy of Little Things, a daily practice of noticing and noting the things that make my day brighter. And I hope you’ll join me and do the same. Say it out loud. Write it down. Add the things you notice here so the rest of us don’t overlook them in our lives. If you need a little help getting into the habit of looking for The Little Things, add your email below and I’ll send you reminders. Send this out to others so we can spread the joy far and wide.
Let’s see how this changes us in the weeks, months, and one year from now… when I turn twenty-nine. Again.
Peace and love Underdogs!