Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Finding Joy Is An Exercise Worth Repeating

Once again I start out my search for random joy in the last week when I'm not feeling particularly joyous.

It's like going to PiYo when I'm not feeling very limber, or Zumba when I don't really feel like dancing for an hour. It's like getting on my exercise bike when I don't really want to sweat, like putting on my shoes and gathering up leashes when I don't eagerly anticipate a stroll with my dogs.

It's an exercise that at some point during the procedure makes me feel better.

Like my physical exercise routines, once I get warmed up, it doesn't actually hurt as bad as it seems like it will. At some point I usually start to enjoy it: I can flex that far; I can remember the dance steps; I can push myself that long; the sun feels good and my dogs are happy. By the time I'm finished, I realize how much better I feel and I recommit myself to doing it again.

So, looking back, on a day that isn't nearly as spring-like as I'd like, what brought a smile to my face last week?

1. Starlings bathing in a puddle. The change in time means we're traveling the roads with different amounts of daylight, so instead of taking the girls home from gymnastics in the dark, it was still light out as we headed down South Main Street. There, in a random beam of sun, a group of starlings were taking a late, and chilly, bath in a puddle in someone's driveway and I smiled and realized I had smiled at something so trivial.

2. My cuckoo clock chirping. Even though the clock had kept near perfect time for more than six months after a trip to the repair shop, it started randomly stopping recently. I missed its chiming out the hour, but wasn't ready to spend any more money on making it work for such a short time. I took it down and oiled its little wheels again and although I've not got it quite calibrated to accuracy yet, when I hear it chirp out, it is a bright point. Also, the girls from 1-3 love it.

3. E3 snatching a cupcake from her mom. It wasn't even a dessert cupcake, just the ones I make for my breakfast. They started out with a recipe that I probably found on Facebook and are centered around a few overripe bananas, oatmeal and mini chocolate chips. No flour, oil, eggs, etc. It's like a really small bowl of oatmeal baked in a cupcake wrapper and I can pull it from the refrigerator and heat it up for breakfast without a lot of forethought. The recipe has evolved to include rice protein and the last batch had instant cinnamon apple oatmeal as well because I didn't realize I was out of the old fashioned kind. When Mom offered the baby a bite of hers, E3 emerged with the cupcake and Mom had to get another. We now call her "food ninja." Oh, and cinnamon and apples may be a recurring addition because they are extra yummy.

4. Getting a day that was both warm and dry enough for me to work in the garden, just a little. I bought a used tiller a couple of springs ago and it is a monster to operate and takes as much room as a tractor trailer to turn around (well, maybe not quite that much but a lot compared to the Mantis I sold) and I love it. It always cranks on the third or fourth pull and will chew down anything. I ran it through my blackberry patch, which had quit producing berries or canes, and a couple of swipes across the garden. I love the fresh turned soil and have high hopes for a better season this year.

5. Rain that smelled like spring. (Yes there's a theme here in that I'm tired beyond words of winter.) I know everyone doesn't notice it, but I can tell the difference between growing season rain and winter rain. One day last week I stepped out the front door and didn't even know it was raining but I smelled it and it smelled like growing things. It made me happy, even if it was more rain.

6. Toad eggs in my goldfish pond. I haven't heard any spring frog or toad songs, but while I was milling around the yard Saturday I discovered a clump floating among the dead leaves. Granted, those on top will wind up frozen and not hatch, but the little creatures think it's spring and I'm all for it.

7. Deer. Deer have been a random source of smiles several times and it's a shame I really want to kill and eat one. All the same, twice during the last week they've surprised me by flashing their white tails and suddenly being in a field where I would not have seen them at all had they just stood still. Once I was dog walking and the neighbor's dog (who I call Black Jack after a favorite blackberry wine from Slightly Askew) went bounding after them. My dogs agreed with me that they were too far away and instead walked home with me.

8. Reminding myself that having fun at E2's gymnastics class is more important than doing everything right. That means this grandma winds up doing handstands, jumps and rolls with her granddaughter, because that makes us both enjoy the class so much more. I'd rather see a big smile on that little face than see her do a perfect flip any time.

9. My granddaughters crying that they wanted to go home with me. OK, I'm not happy they were crying and hanging around until they were over their sudden separation blues threw me behind, but much of the time lately I don't feel like a very good grandma. Having them want to spend more time with me, while I didn't want it to make them sad that I was leaving, made me feel better about who I am with them. Perhaps I'm not the utter failure I often feel like I am after all.

10. Icicles. Little people don't generally spend a lot of time outdoors in icicle weather, but while we were loading up to go home Monday, I pointed them out to the bigger girls and they were intrigued by the bits of frozen water hanging on my car. They wanted to touch them and taste them. E1 said I had popsicles on my car, which was just too cute.

There, a few memories to make me smile after all. I hope if your week has been tough you can still find some of your own. Stretch your memories, treasure your good times, it's a worthy exercise at any time.

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