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How do you name what is unnamable? I don’t know. Except, it is profound.

I find it difficult to describe it in the way I can give meaning to other emotions. My anger is full of fire; my irritation, a constant hot friction; my annoyance, ever-present and something I’d like to flick away.

But joy, instead, presents itself with subtlety. It whispers. If you are paying attention, though, you know when it is there. It passes through like a beam of light, illuminating everything, permeating every cell and hair and curve of your body. It is a resounding yes in a world full of nos.

My word of the year is joy. I plucked it from the ether, hung on the hopes of beginning again. It sounded lofty and unattainable. I tend to choose things like this because they are hard, because achieving them means I have done something. It means I am living a life and not simply taking up space.

But you cannot achieve joy, any more than you can achieve love. Nor can you possess it. It simply arrives one day, and then it leaves, sometimes all on the same day.

This summer has not felt like summer in all the ways it is supposed to feel. I’ve had exactly zero beach days and precisely the same amount of time to meander aimlessly through my city with no obligations. The things I love about summer are ones I haven’t had time to embrace.

But, in lieu of days that end with sand in everything, perhaps I’ve discovered something better. It has been a season of friendship. Of reconnection. Of community. I have found myself bonded in all ways, unexpected and humbling.

I remember the January day when I struggled to find a word, the idea of what this year would represent. I settled on joy—if you can settle on such a thing—and it felt right. Last year (and the year before that, and the year before that, and maybe even the one before that) was one long slog through emotional mud. Maybe I’d earned a bit of joy.

And then I went on with life. Every now and then I’d check my joy barometer. Nope, not yet, was always the answer.

Throughout the year, I manage to maintain a sense of wonder about the world. I look up and see clouds in wispy, angelic formations, sun rays beaming between buildings, birds playing and swooping in flight. Wonder is my thing.

But joy? Not so much.

And then, the fault lines of my inner landscape began to shift.

On the last morning of a fun birthday weekend a few weeks ago, I sat down for a meditation. Almost immediately, I was overwhelmed as gratitude washed over me, ebbing and flowing like the ocean at high tide. I felt humbled by the love I’d been shown.

I felt such deep gratefulness for the old friend who spontaneously asked if I wanted to meet for a cocktail, which turned into a fun evening where I’d felt more seen and understood than I had by anyone in years. For a generous friend I deem my fairy godmother, who gifted me with a birthday evening with more champagne and fun with a group of strangers than I thought possible. For girlfriends who make a day of wandering through new neighborhoods ridiculously fun. For co-workers who are kind and funny, always laughing in spite of the craziness of what we do for a living.

When I was done, I even felt a profound appreciation for the pigeons who take a breather from the summer heat on my windowsill.

This gratitude opened a doorway to joy. It didn’t shout its presence; it crept up slowly, kindly. Joy welcomed me, and beckoned for me to sit with it awhile. Maybe it’s always there, lurking just underneath the layers of irritation and annoyance.

I’ve wondered, how do you hold onto this thing, so blissful…yet slippery? The answer is stunningly simple: you don’t. You allow it to sneak up on you and, when it does, you let it permeate every cell and hair and ounce of you.

And then, you wait until the next time.

This morning was one of those cozy times when I could have stayed under the covers for hours.  Something about the end of Daylight Savings Time made me feel justified to do the things I love, but lately haven’t had much time to do.

I slept in and lazily snuggled with my pillows, then made breakfast and watched Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday conversation. Today she interviewed Rob Bell, an author and pastor.  It was an interesting enough conversation, one that I listened to as I checked my social media sites. But then he said something that got my full attention.

We have this crisis of wonder.

He went on to say that wonder is the thing that lets you wake up in the morning and say to yourself with joy, “Guess what I get to do today?”

This is the big unnamed thing that has left me restless recently.  In all of our busyness, in the midst of doing everything we think we’re supposed to be doing to make a life, sometimes we actually forget to live a life.

I find myself trying to get through days and the sea of details they bring.  But getting through a day is not the same as living it.  You cannot find joy when your intention is simply, “If I just make it through today…”  There has to be more to life than that.

So, where am I missing the wonder?

Could it be in the swirl of leaves that were flying outside this morning while the wind blew, making it seem like I was in the middle of an autumnal verison of a technicolor snow globe?

Or is it in the deep envy I feel as I look at the Instagram feeds of the photographers, chefs and food stylists I follow?  Some pictures literally leave me breathless, as if they are beckoning me to pay more attention to my love of food and pictures, the lifelong passions that get neglected in the midst of my chaotic days.

Or is it possibly in my tiny kitchen, where I should cook more meals than I do, not because it’s one more “should” but because I actually am gratified and nourished by it?  Last night, armed with a new pie plate from my mother’s kitchen, I honored that by making this Apple Tart with Almond Cream.

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Creating it made me happy.  Is that where wonder lies?

I looked out the window late this afternoon, my attention directed towards the sky.  As the darkness of the early evening descended, I caught a glimpse of blue sky, the last bit of afternoon holding on.  Right in the middle of all that blueness was a massive fluff of a cloud, beautifully lit up with a pink glow.

It was a magnificent sight.

As I sat thinking about wonder, it was as if the universe not only gifted me with beauty, but also with a thought to go along with it.

Ah, there it is.

Perhaps it’s always there.  Maybe we just need to be ready to see it.

There’s a guy in my apartment building that tries to flirt with me every time I see him.

This is unfortunate, mainly because I am not least bit interested in him. He talks too much, cracks unfunny jokes and his energy is too intensely focused on me.

I hadn’t seen him in several months, but when I got on the elevator this evening, I heaved a heavy internal groan. He was looking down at his phone, so I thought he didn’t see me and that I would make a quick getaway when we got to the lobby.

“OMG, I can’t believe it’s going to snow tomorrow!” Another sigh on the inside as the bad joke signaled that he definitely saw me.

As we walked out the building, his stride was a little too close to mine. The doorman looked at me quizzically, as if to ask if we were together. I wanted to mind meld with him so he’d know the truth.

I let out a heavy, and audible, sigh of relief when he walked in the opposite direction.

I’d come downstairs to make my way to my neighborhood park.  I’d just finished doing the laundry and had done a bit of tidying up in my closet, so I wanted a respite from my chores.

As I sat on the bench, I took in the late summer evening and its uncharacteristically cool breezes. I felt the wonder of nature.

The interconnectedness of everything became apparent to me: the symphony of insects in the ivy behind me, the sway of the trees surrounding the park, the intimate conversations of neighbors all around the perimeter of the park. Everything felt woven together as part of some big cosmic tapestry, myself included.  I felt transported by the serenity and mesmerized by the sense of connection everywhere.

I was humbled and grateful.

The spell was broken by thoughts of the guy on the elevator.  Why did it always seem that men I wasn’t interested in were interested in me?

I wish I could say that the answer came to me in that moment and now I’ve found the secret to finding true love.  It didn’t and I haven’t.  But, if I could feel grace of the world just sitting in the park, then couldn’t I find the space in me to appreciate that someone finds me attractive?

After all, aren’t we all connected?  Aren’t we all bound by love?  Couldn’t I turn my annoyance into compassion?

I may need some time before testing those theories on my overzealous neighbor. For the moment, the grace will have to be in the quest to find the answers.

This past Friday night, I watched the snow fall.

It was 2am, far past the time my body wanted to be asleep. But the kid in me wanted to stay up and gaze out the window as the blizzard took shape, turning from a light dusting on the street and into a full-blown snow shower.

The snow was falling fast, yet softly, soundlessly. I hate winter—hate winter—and its cold and biting ways, but I’ve become mesmerized by the beauty of snow. I hate winter, but I have come to love walking in the snow, soft and fresh and pure. I have come to love watching the smattering of snowflakes as they fall from the sky and onto the ground. It makes me feel like I’m 8 years old again, wrapped up in the wonder of the world.

There was a lot of hysteria in everyone as we all anticipated the blizzard. One weather report said that we could get somewhere between 2 and 30 inches of snow, which seemed like a completely absurd thing to say. But, apparently, there were many scenarios that could occur, too many what ifs to make an accurate assumption.

But if you think about it, life it a lot like that. So many scenarios, so many variables, so many directions your life can move towards. And one tiny thing—a look, a smile, the way the wind decides to blow—can alter the course of your life.

I think about this often. I think about the way my life is very different from a year ago, when a completely different rotation of people were in my everyday orbit.  I think about how much I’ve grown, even though a year ago, I had no idea that I would feel anything other than what I was feeling ever again. I had no inkling that my perspective on life would have shifted so much just 12 months later.

I think on these things and I embrace the wonder of life, giddy about the possibility of what will be just around the corner.  For now, it may just be another icy winter day, and I’m okay with that.

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