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Archive for the ‘Joy’ Category

Workplace Hygge

Once I started exploring what it means to have a lush life, the word cozy kept coming up. And the more I started searching for cozy things, the more I kept running into posts and books about hygge. For those unfamiliar with the term (and clearly not on Pinterest, because it is all over Pinterest), hygge is a Danish concept that takes cozy to the next level. In addition to embracing comfort, it also includes elements of warmth, well-being, and connection.

I’m way down the hygge rabbit hole, so it’s likely to come up a few times this month. If you want a quick and charming crash course, I recommend The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. Today, I’m giving you a brief overview of the five dimensions of hygge he outlines, which are essentially ways you can experience the phenomenon through your senses. Everyone’s preferences are going to be different, but I’ve included examples of mine. This is a particularly useful exercise for me, as I am easily overwhelmed by sensory input. It’s good to intentionally make note of the ones I enjoy.

Taste

Food is a big part of comfort, and the Danes know this. They have a whole pastry named after their nationality (which I really need to try in Denmark, I think. You know, to get the full experience.). When I think of cozy food, things that are familiar and satisfying come to mind:

  • Soups with a side of crusty bread
  • Eggs and toast
  • Oatmeal with dried fruit and maple syrup
  • Stir fry/warm salads
  • Peaches, nectarines, and apricots (really any fresh fruit, but those are my faves)
  • Antipasti – any combination of cheese, bread/crackers, pickles/olives, maybe salami or fruit
  • Burgers
  • Potatoes in any form. Particularly if there is also cheese involved.

There are also specific flavors that fit in this category for me. I love coconut and caramel and peppermint (not all together, though). And of course, a nice cup of coffee or hot tea increases the cozy factor of any activity.

Sound

I love rainy day sounds. Not just the rain but the things I like to do inside when there’s a storm outside. The tink of knitting needles. Soft instrumental music, particularly piano and/or acoustic base. Pages turning as I read. The washer and dryer running. Small sipping sounds as I try to drink my cup of tea before it’s cool enough to do so (this is the only eating/drinking sound I like at all, btw. All the rest are gross and upsetting. This is a hill I am prepared to die on.).

One of the reasons I find coffee shops so comforting is the combination of sounds coming from behind the counter. Kettles boiling. The clinks and clunks of the espresso machine. Coffee dripping and pouring. It’s very much what I imagine Heaven must sound like.

Also…when cats ekekekekek. That’s some good ASMR right there.

Smell

Coffee. Vanilla and butter. Citrus. Tomato or pea plants. Fresh bread. Food smells, basically, are my favorites.

The other scents I think of as comforting are those that remind me of a particular time, place, or event. For example, the very specific smell that hits me when I open up Mom’s Christmas cabinet where she stores all her decorations. It’s sort of like an apple/cinnamon smell but not quite.

Touch

One of the first things I did after I chose the word lush for my theme this year was to buy new bed linens. There was nothing wrong with the ones I had, but they were getting a little worn and scratchy. [So, I guess there was something wrong with them. I just feel wasteful if I get rid of something before it’s absolutely unusable (no worries – they have been refurbished into decorations/costumes).] I love flannel sheets, and I use them all year long. I also bought a comforter that is slightly weighted (not too much! Most weighted blankets are too much!), which helps me fall asleep. I like drinking out of glass or ceramic receptacles. I will drink out of metal or plastic or paper cups, but it’s just not the same.

I think I’ve gotten to the point where I absolutely refuse to wear hard pants. Jeans, slacks, anything that you have to button/zip? Not interested. I don’t even know that I own any such thing anymore. My daily attire is all dresses and skirts with either shorts or leggings. Comfy shoes that are designed for long hours roaming bookstores. Sweaters and other layers just in case the temperature suddenly changes because Texas. Bookcore for life.

Sight

I’m going to go into this more when I talk about having a cozy home later in the month, so I won’t dwell now, but muted lighting (I’m in the market for lamps), candles, and twinkle lights are my jam. I love dark, rich colors (and yes, classically eccentric is a good name for my preferred decorating style). In pictures or movie scenes or art, I prefer slow-moving ease to bustle. I favor open sky and beaches over woods or forest. I need intentional blank space in decorating, too.

What makes you feel cozy?

I’m writing about lush life this month.

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My favorite part of this picture is the reflection of the sheet music in the black keys.

Other than the benefits and the frequent free food, one reason I stay at my full-time job is that I will be officially eligible to retire on August 1, 2030. That’s just eight years away (or seven years, nine months, and 27 days, but who’s counting). Assuming I am in a good financial position to do so at that point, this will allow me to dedicate significantly more time to what I actually want to be when/as I grow up.

An artist.

More specifically, a writer/musician/dancer, but I’m open to other forms of art. The relatively small amount of time I spend working on my works in progress, writing this blog, collaborating with Sarah and other friends, singing in the choir, and other artsy pursuits is what makes me come alive. It is my joy. Retiring this early will also afford me some flexibility in my schedule for attending performances (as well as performing in them) because there will be no office to report to the next morning. I can finally fully embrace the night owl I was born to be.

One of the most challenging realizations I’ve had this year while pondering what it means to live lushly is that doing a job that is consistent but doesn’t really allow me to use my strengths or do what I enjoy puts inherent limits on how much of such a life I can really have right now. Is it worth it? Is there something else I could be doing that would be more rewarding and still give me the stability I currently need? I don’t have answers to these questions yet, but the questions have prompted me to look for ways to incorporate my creative skills into the work I do and to be pickier about the things I volunteer for that don’t really fit my preferences.

At the very least, engaging in creative activities gives me something to look forward to, even if it’s not how I spend most of my time. I’m excited to go to choir practice tonight. And after taking a few years off, I signed up for NaNoWriMo next month. I’m going to try writing my novel in second person. That’s about as far into planning as I’ve gotten, which is actually good for this particular time frame because I write a lot faster as a pantser than a planner.

I’m writing about the lush life this month.

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This post is for the schedule nerds. Those who mark “set up new planner” as the last thing on the to-do list in the old planner. Those who put the release date for next year’s edition of their favorite planner on their calendars as an actual event.Those who send out the office invitations for fun events that everyone else misses because they’re buried in a mass email that no one else reads.

My people.

It’s also for people who are curious about what reading for 24 hours in three days looks like. Spoiler alert – it involves way more sitting than you imagine. Plan active breaks and audiobooks you can take on walks or listen to while cleaning. All types of reading count. Not all my 2-hour blocks of reading will be done sitting down.

This is the tentative schedule for my retreat this weekend. I say “tentative” for two reasons. First, I find that I follow a schedule more easily when I give myself permission to veer from it (i.e., don’t view it as set in stone or something I have to do). Having to do things is a lot of pressure for a weekend that’s supposed to be fun, and if I need a more extended break, there are several things that I may decide to do that aren’t on the schedule. Also, my focus has been shit lately, so a certain degree of playing it by ear may be necessary. Shorter, more frequent breaks may become the rule.

Second, individual pockets of activity may be shifted depending on how much of my to-do list I get done before the weekend officially starts. For example, ideally, I will have time to make the Earl Grey shortbread dough tonight so that all I have to do tomorrow afternoon is bake and box the cookies for cookbook club. If that doesn’t happen, though, I have allowed space for this task to cut into Friday’s proposed reading time without derailing the whole read-24-hours plan just as it’s getting started.

I started planning my schedule by putting specific activities during the breaks, but I think breaks will work better if I leave them flexible. So just know that a break without a specific activity listed next to it may involve one or more of these things:

  • Dancing
  • Doing Pilates
  • Switching out/folding loads of laundry
  • Washing dishes
  • Tidying something that’s been visually harassing me out of the corner of my eye while I’m trying to focus on what I’m reading
  • Journaling (writing or art)
  • Taking a walk
  • Eating a snack

I also have potential reading times that I’m not including in my planned hour count. This gives me even more flexibility just in case I go rogue (a very real possibility). Additionally, I have planned 26 instead of 24 reading hours, just in case. So there’s a lot of wiggle room.

Friday, April 29 (8.5 hours)

12a-2a – Going to get it started at midnight, per my usual habit (2 hours)

10-11:30 – Leisurely wake up/scroll social media/have breakfast/watch an episode of Boston Legal or Arrested Development

11:30-2 – Read (2.5 hours)

2-2:30 – Make shortbread dough (or another break activity if that’s already done)

2:30-5 – Read  (2.5 hours)

5-5:15 – Check personal email/social media

5:15-6:45 – Bake/box shortbread for cookbook club. Listen to audiobook while baking (1.5 hours)

7-? – Cookbook club

?-bedtime – Potential reading time (or just go to bed early because carbs and wine)

Saturday, April 30 (10 hours)

10-11:30 – Leisurely wake up/scroll social media/have breakfast/watch an episode of Boston Legal or Arrested Development

11:30-1:30 – Read (2 hours)

1:30-2 – Put lasagna in slow cooker for evening

2-4 – Independent Bookstore Day Festivities at Patchouli Joe’s or read (potential 1.5 hours + break)

4-6 – Read (2 hours)

6-7 – Dinner/break/TV/social media

7-9 – Read (2 hours)

9-9:30 – Break

9:30-11:30 – Read (2 hours)

11:30-12 – Break

12-2 – Read (2 hours)

Sunday, May 1 (7.5 hours)

10-11:30 – Leisurely wake up/scroll social media/have breakfast/watch an episode of Boston Legal or Arrested Development

11:30-2 – Read (2.5 hours)

2-2:30 – Break

2:30-5 – Read (2.5 hours)

5-5:30 – Eat sandwich or salad

5:30-? – Attend private concert event to which I will definitely take a book and sneak in at least an hour of reading (1 hour)

?-bedtime – Read (1.5 hours, or however many are left at this point)

It’s likely that I’ll post updates on Instagram or maybe here (if I have actual commentary about how it’s going) throughout the readathon. Whether you are reading or spending time with family or working or doing a little bit of everything this weekend, I hope you have a good one!

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Spring/summer at the farm

Making to-do lists to match my yearly theme always delights me. This is especially true when my word of the year is something like “lush.” In the spirit of Joy The Baker’s summer bucket lists, I’ve been musing about the next few months.

I’ve decided that my lush summer starts now. As I was reminded by Tsh Oxenreider’s newsletter this morning, the pursuit of beauty is important, especially in hard times, so why wait? Also, let’s face it – the weather in Texas basically thinks it’s summer from April-September anyway. And to my amazement and mild chagrin, April is LATER THIS WEEK.

The first step is to find some things to drop so that I have the freedom in my schedule and the energy to do the fun stuff listed below. I’ve already been practicing. My typical response to busyness has been to tough my way through something, even if a pounding headache or sensory overwhelm or exhaustion from panic attacks or some other not-at-all-subtle signal is telling me not to. I have been really good at paying attention to those signals lately, though, and canceling things when I need to. Sure, I’ve missed some things that I wanted to do. But you know what? The world did not end, and I got the rest I needed. Then, I got to actually enjoy the next thing I wanted to do instead of having to trudge my way through it, too. Ultimately, I hope that listening to my body better looks like not making too many plans in the first place instead of having to cancel them, but baby steps.

Here are some snapshots of how I want my lush summer to look.

Plants

Despite my angst about the heat and the pollen, this is a great time of the year for plants. I never met a fruit I didn’t like, but in-season (and I cannot stress that distinction enough) spring/summer fruits—specifically, blueberries, peaches, apricots, and cantaloupe—are my favorites. I have a small space for some containers on my porch, but most of my produce during this season comes from farmers’ markets.

  • Buy fresh produce and/or seeds from Denton Community Market (opening day for the season is this Saturday yay!)
  • Plant tomatoes and basil and all the random seeds I have in my containers 
  • Go to a pick-your-own flower/fruit/veggie farm. Perhaps one of these?
    Wow! U-Pick Farms – veggies
    Gemini Peach and Rose Farm – peaches, roses
    Green Valley Gardens – flowers 
  • Keep fresh flowers (carefully chosen, because allergies) on the table and around the house
  • Repot the office plant and perhaps pick up another new green friend or two along the way

Food

  • Try a new local restaurant. Osteria il Muro is the one I have in mind, but spaces are super limited. Maybe I’ll be able to get a reservation someday.
  • Make sun tea and lemonade
  • Buy cold brew from Coffee Hog once(ish) a month (yes, I could make it myself. But will I?)
  • Snow cones!
  • Make ice cream (or at least an icebox pie or two, which frankly is more likely than dragging out the ice cream maker. But hope springs eternal.)
  • Test some of the updated recipes for my Epic Meal Planning and Feast projects

Events/Travel
(if the aforementioned improved minding of my schedule allows, of course)

  • I’d like to take a small road trip if I can make room in the budget for it. San Antonio to see Hope and Nowhere? Beach getaway?
  • Attend a summer festival (or two). Maybe these?
    North Texas Lavender Festival (June 26-27) – TX-Ture Farm
    North Texas Book Festival (Aug 20, 3-7pm) – Greater Denton Arts Council
  • Visit the family farm once a month
  • Hang out at a winery with friends
  • Enjoy afternoons/days on the Denton, McKinney, and/or Gainesville square(s)

Social/Miscellaneous

  • Pool time with friends
  • Girls weekend with Maggie and Michelle
  • Lounge around in bookshops
  • Continue my cleaning streak by cleaning out closets and actually taking donations where they need to go
  • Redecorate or organize one small space in the apartment each week

What do you love most about warmer days? Anything you’re looking forward to?

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March TBR

I finally finished bingeing (is it really a binge, though, if it takes you the better part of a year?) Once Upon a Time last month. The final season had a mostly different cast, and I was not a fan of one of the new actors in particular, so it took me a little more time to get through it. But I kept coming back because Alice (in Wonderland but she’s “been to lots of places”) was one of the key characters in the last season. I loved her part in the storyline as well as Rose Reynolds’s portrayal of the character.

So this month, in addition to tracking down the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland spinoff, I’m prolonging the Alice magic by re-reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. As I love all manner of tweaks and retellings, I may also read one or several of these:

I’m open to other Alice/Mad Hatter/Queen of Hearts/Wonderland retellings, of course. Fortunately, there are so many. Hit me with your faves. 

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges

Most of the books I’ve read so far this year have completed prompts on my challenges. A proper update on how each one is going is coming in the next few weeks, but these are the ones I’ve picked out specifically for this month.

  • Read Harder – Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust (queer retelling of a fairytale)
  • Girlxoxo – The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh (keyword: beautiful)
  • 52 Book Club – The Maid by Nita Prose (we’ll try this January book club selection again to fulfill the prompt “published in 2022”) 
  • POPSUGAR – The two original Lewis Carroll selections listed above (from the advanced section – a duology – although I do have a lot of duologies on my general TBR list)

Lush Reads

A nice blend of challenge and comfort.

Additional Options

Mostly books that need to go back to the library soon but also some long-standing TBRs.

What are you reading this month?

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In no particular order…

  1. The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton Morgan – I grew up on a farm, and my parents still live there, so I get to go back and visit frequently. I am drawn to any story about farm life and making it work. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the resources of two successful actors to fall back on, but I digress. Actually, that’s not a digression. This book is a good example of how much work it takes to make a farm functional, even if you have a lot of resources. She also charmed me with various instances of finding things and causes they loved and throwing all their excess money at them rather than just buying more stuff for themselves. I really enjoyed that.
  2. Wintering by Katherine May – I took so many notes on this book that I’m not sure I can summarize them. Instead, I leave you with some of my favorite quotes (lifted shamelessly from Goodreads because I’m wintering and reserving energy for other things because…just read the book):
    – “If happiness is a skill, then sadness is, too…[that] is wintering. It is the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need. It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience and to commit to healing them the best we can. Wintering is a moment of intuition, our true needs felt keenly as a knife.”
    – “Here is another truth about wintering: you’ll find wisdom in your winter, and once it’s over, it’s your responsibility to pass it on. And in return, it’s our responsibility to listen to those who have wintered before us. It’s an exchange of gifts in which nobody loses out.”
    – “Doing those deeply unfashionable things—slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting—is a radical act now, but it is essential.”
    – “Winter is when I reorganise my bookshelves and read all the books I acquired in the previous year and failed to actually read. It is also the time when I reread beloved novels, for the pleasure of reacquainting myself with old friends. In summer, I want big, splashy ideas and trashy page-turners, devoured while lounging in a garden chair or perching on one of the breakwaters on the beach. In winter, I want concepts to chew over in a pool of lamplight—slow, spiritual reading, a reinforcement of the soul. Winter is a time for libraries, the muffled quiet of bookstacks and the scent of old pages and dust. In winter, I can spend hours in silent pursuit of a half-understood concept or a detail of history. There is nowhere else to be, after all.”
    – “Much to my regret, I have yet to befriend a robin.” (ME TOO I HAVE THIS SAME REGRET)
    – “The right to sing is an absolute, regardless of how it sounds to the outside world. We sing because we must. We sing because it fills our lungs with nourishing air, and lets our hearts soar with the notes we let out. We sing because it allows us to speak of love and loss, delight and desire, all encoded in lyrics that let us pretend that those feelings are not quite ours. In song, we have permission to rehearse all our heartbreaks, all our lusts.”
    – “Now my evenings have the consolation of mugs of emerald-green tea made with fresh mint. It’s not so bad, but the time seems to stretch, and I’m finding myself in bed by nine, perhaps earlier if I can get away with it. It’s a profoundly unsociable way of living, but it gives me those clearheaded early mornings in the inky dark, when I light candles around the house and relish two straight hours when nobody can make any demands on me.”
    – “That’s what humans do: we make and remake our stories, abandoning the ones that no longer fit and trying on new ones for size.”
    – “They say we should dance like no one is watching. I think that applies to reading, too.”
  3. How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell – Do you sense a theme? The title is a bit of a misnomer, because it advocates actually doing quite a lot. Just…things that are important and not necessarily the things that society/patriarchy/capitalism and other such nonsense wants you to believe are important. Is it possible that when you can truly stop doing those things you may have time for the things that matter most to you? I hope so.
  4. Loveless  by Alise Oseman – “Give your friendships the magic you would give a romance. Because they’re just as important. Actually, for us, they’re way more important.” Oh, the young adult angst! Perfectly captured. Reading this book was like listening to my students/customers. I had never read a rom-com with an ace main character, and it was lovely. I particularly enjoyed the parts that illustrated the impact and importance of friendships.
  5. Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade – I only read this because it is the first in a series brought to my attention by a Happy Endings Book Club selection from a few months ago (I have a habit of only reading series in the order they are written if possible, so the book I received as part of my subscription had to wait). I’m so glad I started with it! It’s basically a fandom fantasy wherein the fan meets/befriends/falls in love with the celebrity. It reminds me of good times on the MRMB (Michael Rosenbaum Message Board). Now I’m excited to see what happens with Alex and Lauren in All the Feels

What have you enjoyed reading lately?

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Bookcore

I thought I had to take another picture for this post. But then I looked through my phone and discovered what I really had to do is just narrow the selection.

With my focus on joy last year and my exploration of lush this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about my aesthetic, not just in my home but also in my personal style. Once upon a time (like two decades), a friend commented that I dressed like a cartoon character. I tried to protest but then looked down at the black t-shirt, oversized green cardigan, and bright blue pants I was wearing. Ok, he had a point.

That may be the time in my life when I loved my look the most. It was mostly pieces in solid colors tempered with a lot of black, as it coincided with my goth “phase” (which, let’s be real – I never really grew out of. It’s a fun look that I still often enjoy breaking out today).

Then I read this article about bookcore (i.e., dressing like people who frequent bookstores). And I am fascinated, enchanted, and enthusiastic. Of course, this is my look. There’s not really one distinct thing that sets it apart (although the writer gives some key elements to look for toward the middle/end-ish). But looking at the pictures at the end, and reading through the whole piece, I think my particular brand of bookcore looks something like this:

  • Layers – Depending on the season, my trusty pea coat, sweaters, t-shirts, scarves. I particularly enjoy the suggestion of “a questionable hat.” After reading this article, I may have to start wearing blazers again (throwback to my early teaching days). Layers allow me to adjust to the store’s temperature so that I can spend a while there and still be comfortable. Speaking of comfort…
  • Low-heeled boots or other comfy footwear. I don’t know that I can commit to ugly shoes, but I do enjoy something with some support.
  • Knit skirts/tunics/dresses with leggings – Again, comfort is key. I technically own a pair of jeans and one or two pairs of trousers, but I don’t remember the last time I actually wore real pants. And why would I, when there are leggings? Real pants are so uncomfortable with their hard seams and lack of give. Also, they cover up my cute boots.
  • Backpack and/or tote bags – For my everyday bag, I need something that I can wear – leaving my hands/arms free for book browsing – that can also hold a book if I know I’m going to be standing in lines a lot that day and will need something to read. And I have so many tote bags, but I also use them regularly. Nice to think of them as an actual part of the look.

Bookcore definitely has taken over my home, as there are shelves and/or stacks of books in every single room. When you basically live surrounded by books, it just makes sense to dress the part.

I may have to do some reconnaissance this weekend to see how well I match the local bookcore aesthetic. Do your local bookstore patrons have a particular style?

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Lush

My word for 2022 is LUSH. It’s the sort of word I feel compelled to type in all caps and use italics for emphasis. I like that. This is gonna be fun. 

According to Merriam-Webster, the word LUSH means…

  1. “…having a lot of full and healthy growth”

I often come to the new year feeling as if I haven’t quite finished exploring the word for the previous one. In a way, this makes sense. Growth is continual, lifelong, etc. I wanted my word for 2022 to acknowledge that. My first thought was “nourish.” I wanted to look forward and continue to grow in all the things I have learned these past few years. I want to continue to have experiences and read books that explore joy, but also that feature hope, wild, alive, lucky, fun, true, and other core values.

But LUSH encompasses my underlying goal better. There is an implied immoderate quality to this word. Not just growth but a lot of growth. An abundance of growth. A fullness. All the growth I can possibly squeeze into this little pocket of time and space. Maybe I should add “rest” to that list above so that I remember that it, too, is important. Overworked and stressed out does not fit in with a lush lifestyle. Healthy is a vital part of the definition.

  1. “…covered with healthy green plants”

I am currently looking for a place in my apartment to put a huge Poinsettia that I bought in honor of my MeMaws for the Christmas season at church and gazing fondly at my faux Christmas tree. I don’t even want to think about what’s happening in the office with The Little Juniper That Could (but if I did want to think of it, I might confess that I fear its days are numbered. RIP, probably). On the porch outside, my briefly successful tomato plant has long given up the ghost (but that’s not my fault – that’s just on account-a it being not summer), but the flowers that died when I was caring for them have resurrected now that I’ve stopped doing anything, which seems unnecessarily petty of them.

When it comes to plants, I have great plans and motivation but little success. I’m going to take this part of the definition literally. My goal? Have a live, thriving plant in each room. Also, flowers on the table make me happy, so I’m going to make more of an effort to do that more often.

Don’t think I didn’t notice that they snuck in “healthy” again. I see what you did there, M-W.

  1. “…having a pleasingly rich quality”

I love this turn of phrase. Yes, I would like this to describe my life. In many ways, it already does. But wouldn’t it be amazing if just about every aspect of my life had a pleasingly rich quality? I think so. Let’s delve deeper into how to make that happen this year.

  1. “…lavishly productive: such as…”

…fertile. NOPE. Unless we’re talking about a fertile bank account. Or garden. Or birthing a book and an album. Otherwise? Nope, nope, nope.

…thriving. That would be lovely. Not just to make it through but to flourish. 

…abundant/plentiful. Are we talking about books? Trips? Friends? Coffee? Peace? Love? Kindness? Cash? To all of the above I say yes.

…prosperous/profitable. I could definitely handle a little prosperity. Let me go submit some more applications and write some more articles. What I would really like? Get paid for the work I already do in my spare time (and that I actually enjoy) so that I can ultimately spend more time doing it and also still have a place to live. #CapitalismIsTrash

…savory/delicious. I’m not sure if this means enjoying more savory and delicious things or recognizing how savory and delicious I am. Either way, I’m on board.

…appealing to the senses. As a sensory sensitive person, this is a welcome goal. Too much of my time and energy are spent having my focus derailed by extraneous, irritating sounds or that smell that NO ONE ELSE CAN SMELL BUT IT’S THERE I’M NOT IMAGINING IT BECAUSE IMAGINARY THINGS DON’T MAKE ME SNEEZE. Finding ways to better navigate (escape?) consistently assaulting environments would be grand.

…exuberant/profuse. With vigor and vitality, and without restraint. There are some areas of my life that could definitely use this treatment.

…opulent/sumptuous. Oh, gosh I love these words. Also known as rich, luxurious, lavish. Splendid. And ostentatiously so. These words make me want to crawl right into a cozy bed with scandalously soft fabrics and pillows of the exact right firmness. Or a warm bubble bath with a glass of wine and some good cheese. 

And finally, speaking of wine…

  1. “…intoxicating liquor” or “…a habitual heavy drinker”

I mean, it’s not a goal, per se (although my limoncello, while mostly delicious, could use some tweaking). But if it happens, it happens. Here’s to enjoying life a little more and worrying about what all could go wrong a little less. Just as long as I remember to hydrate.

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This was not a Christmas Eve 2020 fire. I was definitely fantasizing about throwing parts of 2020 into a fire, though.

Today’s December Reflections prompt is “one year ago today.” On this specific day, I was likely driving to the farm to spend time with the family. The vaccine wasn’t a thing yet, so I was still in general isolation – working from home, social distancing, endless Zoom meetings – and even more so in the week or two prior to seeing my parents. But in anticipation of the new year, I was also already starting my reflections on joy. I talked about comfort food and books and animals and the parts of being outside that I find least objectionable.

Throughout the month, I also wrote quite a bit about the difficulty of holding on to joy (and hope and other good things that we’re often told we’re supposed to feel, particularly around the holidays). I remember not being excited about joy being my word for the new year. There were too many moments it seemed too far-fetched to be a possibility. I felt particularly lonely last year at this time.

But there were already little sprouts of joy poking up through the soil. If you’ll indulge the navel-gazing (and you’re reading my blog, where that phenomenon often runs rampant, so I trust that you will):

“When I think of the characteristics I particularly love in a partner – and especially when I meet someone new who embodies a lot of those characteristics – there is that jolt. The familiar memory of loving someone combined with the anticipation of the possibility of feeling that way again? That feeling is pure magic. This is the sneaky good thing about joy that may just be my favorite part. It doesn’t just show up in the middle of a particular difficulty. It shows up, in part, specifically because of it. Joy will tailor itself to you.”

And that’s precisely what joy did all year long. Several things about the past year have not been easy or great, and a big part of how I handled them had to do with where the joy showed up. It’s become a bit of a navigator, and I really like that.

I wonder where it will lead next.

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Bring Me Joy

My word for 2021 was joy, and I loved it. I think what made a big difference was the commitment to study it rather than just pondering or wandering about, looking for something that might resemble or cause feelings of joy. Choosing books with joy in the title was a simple way to keep it in the forefront of my mind, so I want to remember that in future years. Some books were humorous, some serious. The ones in this category I finished this year were (sometimes wildly out of order of planned start date):

  • The Joy of Being Online All the F*cking Time by Jennifer McCartney
  • The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place by Jennifer McCartney
  • The Joy of Doing Just Enough by Jennifer McCartney
  • Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
  • Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
  • The Joy of Less by Francine Jay
  • Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • Dancers Among Us: A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday by Jordan Matter
  • Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore by Patric Richardson and Karin Miller
  • Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee
  • A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
  • The Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal, PhD

Still working on The Joy of Cooking. It’s so long.

Because I was reading about it and reflecting on it a lot, it was easier not only to notice moments of joy when they happened but also to find ways to seek it out. Savoring a favorite dish, spending time with people I love, remembering habits and hobbies I enjoy rather than just tolerate, creating a comfortable and joyful space to inhabit, etc.

I’ve chosen a new word for next year, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop looking for new ways to explore joy:

  • Random acts of kindness, especially toward people in the service industry and retail (because whew – the things I have seen lately, particularly yesterday when finishing up the shopping – they all deserve raises, pastries, and foot rubs)
  • Making an even cozier, more joyful home
  • Love notes to friends, family, and other loved ones
  • Positive gossip (talking about how much you like someone behind their back) (and also to them – see above re: love notes)

I hope you all have at least one solid moment of joy this week (and every week forever).

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