November 22, 2010

The Small Sparkles That Life Up Your Life

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 awe. 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. 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.

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  1. Bob: I think we're on the same wavelength today, although you put it much more beautifully than I did. I think the key here is presence. When you're enjoying the sparkles, you are in the moment, you are focused on the now. And that makes us happier than when we're doing all those day-to-day things (which allow our minds to wander and not pay attention to the moment.) If we could find a way to be engaged in the moment more often, we'll be happier. (With that teaser--you'll have to go read the NY Times article I refer to in my post today . . .)

  2. A sparkling example of how to enjoy the special moments and survive the rest. Beautiful shot of the lake- I can almost feel the relaxation flowing into me looking at it. It would be nice to control everything but as that is unrealistic, at least we can focus on enjoying the high points, the special moments along the way.

  3. My wife and I take an occasional "free day" when we try to stay in the moment for much of the day. We keep the calendar clear and enjoy things like looking at old photos, taking a walk together, having a late breakfast...stuff that seems to slow down the rush of time.

    Today is one of those days so I have time to check out your new post! Isn't that the one with the word "sex" in the title?

  4. LoveBeingRetired,

    That photo was taken in Idaho on our driving trip this past summer. There was a huge storm coming up that chased us back to the hotel right after this was taken. The end result was a free afternoon...very relaxing after all the rushing around that day.

  5. As someone who just this week gave notice that I am going to retire, I am so grateful to stumble across your blog. It is now on my favorites list and I will checking it every day!

    I am excited about this new chapter in my life, but quite honestly, right now, in the days after giving notice, I am moody and perhaps a wee bit depressed. I have loved my job and my colleagues so much, and even though the time is right for me to leave and I'm ready, I am at the same time sad and grieving to leave a life that has fed my spirit for two decades, but no longer does.

    So I am eager to read more of your wisdom as I make this transition over the next several months. (My last day is May 31, so I have some time to adjust.)

    Thank you!

  6. First of all, Galen, welcome! I am so glad you found my blog. I hope you will find what you are looking for here. I have been at this retirement thing for 10 years and learn something new almost everyday, often from folks like you who take the time to stop by and leave a comment.

    If you have the time, I suggest you start going through the various posts, beginning in June. Skip the ones that don't interest you at the moment, and linger on the ones that may be helpful.

    The sadness you refer to is absolutely normal. Virtually all soon-to-be or just-retired folks have that sense of "what did I just do?" I know I certainly did. The good news is you come out of it charged up and excited to start the new stage of your life.

    Again, welcome and let me know if there is anything I can do to help. Drop me an e-mail if you'd like to discuss something a bit more privately than on the blog.

    By the way, I just checked out your looks fascinating. Expect to see me over there quite a bit.