Allow me to explain what I mean by that.
A few years ago I was working out weekly with a trainer, and to change things up a bit, we devised a game where we would stand in the gym a few feet apart, and toss and bounce a ball back and forth to each other while standing on one foot. (This was to help with balance and core strength.) One day toward the end of a workout he asked me if there was something specific that I wanted to do and I was like, “Oooh, let’s play the ball game in the gym!” So we started playing, and I would miss and have to run after it, dodging other people who where there, and then I started making up silly rules and I was giggling and laughing the whole time, and at one point he stopped, held the ball in his hands, looked at me and said, “Wow, you are really enjoying this.” And I was like, “Yeah, it’s so much fun!” And then he broke into a big smile and said, “This is called living life.”
That same year I worked for a week at a remote camp up in the mountains. When I arrived and got the tour of the place, several people said to me, “You’ve got to go out to the tennis courts at night and look up at the stars. They are amazing out here.” I made a mental note of that because there are few things that I enjoy as much as looking up at the stars at night, especially when you can see a lot of them. The week went on and when I got to the last night I realized that I had never taken the time to go out and see the stars and I really didn’t want to miss out on that experience. I was a little afraid to go by myself since I only had a rough idea of where the tennis courts were and the cell service there was spotty at best. So after dinner I went up to the other music teacher there and asked him if he would be willing to accompany me that evening to go and look at the stars. He happily agreed, admitting that he wasn’t so sure exactly where the tennis courts were either.
Figuring that between the two of us we’d be able to figure it out, we set off after dark, almost immediately regretting our complete cluelessness with regard to bringing a flashlight. We used our phone lights to illuminate our way, scrambling through overgrown brush and nearly tumbling down a hill to find these ever elusive tennis courts. We finally got there, giggling the entire time as we made our way through the gate and found a place to settle down to look up at the stars. As we propped ourselves up against our guitar cases, the guy looked over at me and said, “This is called living life.”
I thought it was interesting that two people in my life, neither of whom I knew very well, made the same exact observation using the same exact words. That got me thinking…I wonder if I do things slightly differently than other people at times. For example, I have been known to stop my kids in their tracks in the early morning rush to get out the door to take the time to witness a breathtaking sunrise. On a recent nighttime drive to South Dakota when it was pitch black on the road, we all stepped out of the car in the 25 degree night to look up at the gorgeous array of stars that could be seen in our distant location. We did the same thing when we visited the Grand Canyon this year, again using our phone lights as a guide as we carefully picked our way through a nearby forest, taking care to notice bear traps along the way.
Doing these kinds of things are very regular for my family and me. It’s perfectly normal for us to be in various corners of the house and then someone will yell “Sunset!” and we’ll all come running to see it together. Even though my kids are older now, whenever we go to a beach we will always construct a sand castle together, complete with moat, and then stay long enough to watch the tide come and fill it in. We always take what we call a “Leaf Drive,” in the Fall, making sure to take in the magnificence of the changing colors of the leaves on the trees - maples and oaks in the Pacific Northwest and New England, and now aspens in the Rocky Mountains.
While these things are simply a part of how we choose to live our lives, when they are pointed out to me, it makes me realize that I wonder how many of us are rushing along from one thing to another, and not taking the time to notice the beauty of nature or to see the humor in a particular situation. Not that I am saying that this is something that everyone should do or how people should live their lives - I know that this kind of pausing to take in the little things or to proverbially “smell the roses” isn’t for everyone. But if you feel like you are caught up on a hamster wheel and can’t quite find your way off, maybe stopping your car to look at the stars after working late could be a way for you to take a moment to absorb the bigger picture and get some peaceful perspective. Or maybe if you work near a playground, take a few minutes during your lunch break to climb onto the swings and feel the wind in your hair like when you were a kid. Or it can be as simple as making the choice to take out your earbuds and forgo listening to music or a podcast on a walk so you can be fully present and embrace your natural surroundings. It may take some practice, but choosing to deliberately do these things, replacing other elements of our regular rushed routine, can make a big difference in the happiness in our lives.
After all, “This is called living life.”