In the midst of our everyday routines, it is easy to forget how extraordinary — and fleeting — life is. It’s easy to think that this is just one day amongst many: one more coffee klatch with a friend, one more day of carpooling kids around. It’s easy to give our spouse or lover a distracted peck on the cheek as he zips out the door. It’s easy to throw on those ho-hum sweat pants because we’re “just running to the market.”
We can easily live as if our days are innumerable, but they’re not.
The secret to living an extraordinary life is remembering, as often as we can, what a miracle it is that everything lined up to land us here on Earth, experiencing moment-to-moment joy: seeing orange dragonflies, tasting lemon drops, hearing the sound of a piano from the second story of a house we pass at twilight. What a miracle it is that we are alive — sharing this days-are-limited journey with other living creatures.
I am not one of those naturally joyful people who has always gleefully bounded out of bed in the morning. I have a history of anxiety and depression. Things once got so bad I started to imagine ways to end my life. I wanted out.
And then by some grace, I was led to a meditation class. On one deep inhale of breath, I felt relief — a tiny pinprick in the iron wall of pain that was always closing in. That pinprick became a lifeline for me. I started to notice other extraordinary moments of “no pain,” like when my cat curled against me purring or the first bite of warm toast with blueberry jam. I noticed my mother’s handwriting on a care package, the smell of eucalyptus.
I learned to scan for these “pinpricks of light,” wonderful little celebrations. The more I looked, the more I found.
I realized instead of waiting for them to show up; I could create these moments. When I was feeling alone, I could paint a colorful card and send it to a friend. When I was scared, I could wrap myself in my grandmother’s quilt, brew some licorice tea, and read an inspiring book. I could ask the grocery clerk how she was and listen closely to her response. I could linger and share a laugh when my son walked out the door. I could wear my favorite “good” black velvet cloak anytime I wanted, especially “just to the market.”
Joy doesn’t just land on us; it is a practice. The best way I know to practice joy is to remind myself that my life and the people I love are gifts that can be taken away at any moment. I recognize what a gift it is to be alive this moment, right here and now —and to make the most of it. I look for and create extraordinary moments of joy and celebration. I can be that pinprick of light for someone else today. Wanna join me?