May 30, 2012

Light Up Your Life With The Little Things

Under a slightly different title this post originally ran in the fall of 2010, not long after I started this blog, and well before there were many readers. As we enter the summer season when most of us have the chance to take life a little easier, get outdoors more often, and simply slow down, I thought the words and the thoughts were worth running again in case you didn't see it the first time or need a reminder that life is to be lived.


The sky was beginning to cloud over, kids were playing, ducks were looking for bread crumbs, bikers rolled by while teens on skateboards defied gravity. Sitting in a folding chair and watching the scene my eyes were drawn to the surface of the lake. The sun was at just the right angle to cover the water with sparkles. It was beautiful. I was enjoying a satisfying retirement day. Within a few minutes the sun's angle had changed and the sparkles were gone. Or, were they? From someone else's viewpoint they probably were just as fabulous. They were simply gone from my view.

Isn't life kind of like that? There are brief moments that sparkle and shimmer. We look upon them with wonder. We remember them. We talk about them. But, real life takes place in between the sparkles. It is how we fill the space between them that matters.

Relationships are certainly made up off sparkles and spaces. There are the everyday moments in relationships which occupy most of your life. Those are the large spaces filled with chores and responsibilities, some arguments, making tough decisions, cooking, cleaning, and shopping. These don't sparkle at all. They are the mundane activities that fill your day when you have other people in your life. They are what we call living.

Then there are those times when you and your spouse or significant other are exactly on the same page. Everything is going according to plan. You are communicating well and any disagreements are minor. Your love life is on track. If you have children or grandkids there are times when things just sparkle: a vacation by the lake, a great day at the zoo, a family night watching a favorite movie.

As a retired person, you have control over most of your day. At least you think you do. But, when you must wait for a repair person, or your car is in the shop you are the mercy of others. When you spend a few hours waiting for an overworked doctor you are reminded you are not in control quite as much as you thought. Menus must be planned, food must be bought, bills must be paid, gardens must be tended, the bike should be ridden. The days and weeks pass by so quickly you wonder where the time went.


Then, there are those moments when you grab a little time and sit down to read that new novel you've been aching to open. Your hobby bench invites you to build that project or fix the broken lamp you want back in the living room. You find some time to write, and out flows everything you have bottled up while the spaces of life are filled with everyday stuff.


You remember you have time with the school kids tomorrow night to tutor them in math or English. As they grasp the concepts you are explaining their smiling faces sparkle and shine. Maybe you sit in the sun at the coffee shop sipping you latte, reading the paper, and people-watching the afternoon away. These precious times make you feel alive and vibrant. They are the sparkle that make a day special and memorable.

John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens while you're making other plans." That is the human condition. We want a life that we control. We would like a day with nothing but sparkles. No chores, no irritations, to disappointments, no hassles. A day that goes according to our plans.

But, that isn't how things work. We can be much happier and much more satisfied when we learn to accept the large spaces into which we put our everyday life, while being on the lookout for those sparkles of pure joy and beauty that brighten and enlighten. After all, if every meal was nothing but desserts, then desserts would not be so special and delightful, would they!


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15 comments:

  1. Yeah, and the older we get the more we seem to have to "wait for overworked doctors". :) If life were nothing but a bed of roses we certainly wouldn't appreciate them as much as when we just happen upon them.

    In other words you have to have some "dark" days in order to appreciate the sparkling ones. Being a quotes guy I certainly like the quote from Lennon. I have heard it several times but didn't realize it came from him.

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    1. The quote sounds like it could have come from Will Rogers!

      There is no happiness without sadness for comparison. And, as the Bible points out numerous times, we learn the most when we are under stress and going through hard times.

      Hopefully as we mature (which is different than just growing older) we begin to appreciate the good times even more.

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    2. We are currently studying the world's five major religions - Hinduism, Buddism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, and all five religions have variations of this exact theme within their religious writings . . . so I guess we should all probably pay attention to the wisdom all are trying to impart!

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  2. "When you do that which is difficult, life becomes very easy. When you only do that which is easy, life becomes very hard." That is a quote from Ernie Zelinski in his book, "The Joy of Not Working," though I don't know if he was the originator.

    We try very hard to abide by that principal, understanding that daily peace and contentment can not be achieved without an offsetting release of determination and effort elsewhere in our day.

    We are on vacation currently, (is it still considered vacation if we are both now retired by the way?) but even on vacation this rule applies. Actually, perhaps it applies even more when on vacation! Each day of our trip we have pushed ourselves physically to ensure we reach a point of relative, sustained discomfort. The offset is that once we are done, showered, and resting comfortably, we have a deep seated sense of contentment we could not have achieved otherwise. Yep, it's a lot of work, and sometimes it's a pain in the tush . . . we hiked up a small mountain yesterday and sweated buckets in the process . . . but the rewards of doing so are sweet and consistent.

    As always, a most thoughtful blog post Bob. Thank you.

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    1. The unexamined life is not worth living...a life without some struggles is only an imitation of real living. Frankly, as I read your posts you bring that message home loud and clear. I am paying attention and attempting to follow your lead more often.

      Yes, vacations are a critical part of retirement. You must change your perspective by shaking what is your normal routine.

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  3. So very true Bob. We wouldn't savor the sparkling times if there wasn't a bit of reality for contrast.
    Great post!
    b

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  4. Great reminder that life is not supposed to be just dessert. I find that it's a balance, or everything in moderation, as my mother says.

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  5. My dad is nicknamed "Dessert Man" because he believes a dessert is what makes the rest of the meal worthwhile.....not a bad philosophy

    Thanks, Barb and Cari.

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  6. I think you just described one of my days:

    http://cindyonrhinebeck.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/a-day-in-the-thrifty-life/

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    1. Hi, Cindy. Thanks for stopping by. I just checked out your blog and yes, we seem to be on the same page. I'll be a regular visitor.

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  7. Glad you dusted this one off. I love that John Lennon quote. So true. Another version of that is this Yiddish proverb -- "Man plans. God laughs."

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  8. Some of the comments remind of this scripture: "I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need; I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me." Phillippians 4: 12-13

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    1. One of my favorite verses. Thanks, Rick.

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  9. On the license plate of my Accord: "Make God laugh. Tell him your plans."

    I have a calendar on my computer that's usually packed with activities. But the cool part is, I can often just delete them if they don't look interesting!

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    1. I do that too! Sometimes I will list an activity or appointment just so I can cross it off. That's a little wierd, I think.

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