Earlier this month I read (… listened to. If you are new here, I am in sales so I drive a lot. Books on tape and Audible keep me sane.) “Loving My Actual Life” by Alexandra Kuykendall.
It circulated around Instagram this fall and I thought it would be a nice little Advent read. Plus, the cover looked cute with the bright strand of lights and text done in doodled penmanship.
I started the book while driving Theo to school one snowy morning, so it was just a quick trip and Alex was only introducing her concept; But, I liked what she was putting down even just in the first few minutes. There’s a common thought of needing to buy this tool or getting these elements in place and then you will love your life. Then you can be happy. Alex charged herself (and her readers) to think about how can we all love our life right now.
As I marched out of Theo’s school I thought about how I can love my life right now with the cards I had been dealt and with the things I had in that moment.
To me, it actually seemed pretty easy.
I am perpetually optimistic, as well as incredibly fortunate- something I recognize and count my blessing for everyday– so loving my life? No problem!
Sure, not every moment of every day is perfect, but this life I lead? I really can’t complain. It’s pretty good.
This quick self reflection put me in a good mood, so I treated myself with a Starbucks and hit up the grocery store on the way home.
I thought I was so clever by recognizing 1. It will make me happier to get the grocery store out of the way first thing in the morning. The store isn’t busy and I am not carting around an increasingly heavy eight month old. And, 2. The good fortune I have to be able to work from home which permits a quick twenty minute pit stop on the way home to knock something off my to do list.
Look at me loving my life, I thought with pride as I rounded the store for the few odds and ends on my list.
Then, another thought: I love when I have dinner essentials on hand, especially when it’s cold.
I can use some preserved garden goodies or frozen meat and make all sorts of good meals without much effort so long as I have some basics like pasta, olive oil, baking goods, quinoa, lentils, wine, butter, and soy sauce in the pantry. So, I loaded up.
I love that I have the cooking skills, the forethought to menu plan for the days I fail to menu plan, a bunch of food to work with at home from our homesteading efforts and now a pantry full of non perishables.
Intention towards a more simple and joyful life though a quick and every day task? I am rocking this loving my actual life thing. I beamed. Life is so good!
I continued to listen to Alex on the short drive home. Her family sounded adorable and her premise reminded me a lot of “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, a book I have read twice and enjoy.
I hopped out of my car in the garage, ready to take on my work day while loving and finding joy in whatever it may bring.
And that’s when things came crashing down.
As I pulled my grocery sacks from the trunk, a handle broke on the plastic bag. (I know. I know. There’s my first problem; I didn’t use a reusable bag…) Gravity kicked in and the bag’s contents dropped to the cement garage floor.
A glass bottle of soy sauce shattered onto the ground and broke into a million little pieces.
Seriously a million little shards of glass.
All over my many cardboard boxes of pasta.
Soy sauce perfumed the air, covered the garage floor and all the other items in the bag.
The last thing that I could do was to even try to love the actual “life” in front of me.
I hated this. I had to clean this up.
I had to inspect my pasta boxes and make sure the tiny shards of glass didn’t pierce the boxes. And, even if they didn’t, I had to find a way to store the noodles as soy sauce seeped into their cardboard containers.
All of this would delay the start of my work day. The work day that I was so ready and excited for, but also really needed to get to after my grocery store stop.
I was so ticked off.
All it took was a crash and a few explicatives (just a few, I swear…) and my morning’s joy was gone.
I carried on like a grump the rest of the day. Nothing was fun. Nothing brought me joy. I can’t think of one moment that I loved.
As the sun began to set, I wrapped up a crummy work day and got in the car to get Theo. Alex’s voice picked up right where she left off and I listened.
She carried on into her first month of her experiment. Ironically, it was December for her too and they were in the midst of the holiday hustle- something that was weighing on my mind as well.
Even though Theo is so little and he wouldn’t be remembering this Christmas, I wanted to.
And, I also want to be able to provide a trove of happy memories for my children through actual moments and photos. So, at Christmas time, that means pulling out all the stops: Christmas cards, getting a tree, buying and wrapping lots gifts, making traditional cookies, travel, parties, Christmas crafts and more.
All of these tasks were already nagging me and now my intentional Advent book- picked with the hope of being a salvation from the craziness- was reiterating just how crazy this time of year is. And, after the day I had, it all was just stressing me out.
But, still I listened more. A few days and couple car rides later, she mentioned a phrase that her friend often uses: Life is big in the little.
Her friend uses this to remind others and herself that life doesn’t have to be made of big grand gestures. In normal moments the best memories are made.
I thought and thought some more, but only could see how this was so right. And, I loved it.
Birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas can be huge and a whole lot of work. Or, you can just be present and celebrate.
There could be pressure to make sure every conversation with your child, friend or loved one leaves an impact; but, they don’t need a well thought out lecture or the most sage wisdom every time you connect. Just connect. Listen. Be.
And even my spilt bottle of soy sauce- as little as it may seem- can be big.
Big in the sense that I gave something as silly as a spilt condiment the power to ruin my day.
(I mean, really. It was soy sauce. Not a bottle of wine!*)
Big in the sense that, if I take a step back, yes- okay, shattering the bottle of soy sauce and having to pitch it as well as a couple other grocery items was a little annoying. But, it didn’t throw off a set budget. A budget that could already be stretched trying to purchase Christmas gifts.
Or worse, my careless error didn’t mean my family wouldn’t have a meal. When it comes to food, I don’t think about a budget and I can easily go buy more of the items that had to be thrown away.
This truly little thing to me, could have been huge for someone else.
Perspective and a little grace.
Both good things and just the Holiday season reminder I needed.
So, as I approach a New Year, a year that already has a lot of big packed into it, I am keeping this phase in my back pocket.
I will remind myself of it as I continue to balance life, fight off overwhelm, and remind me of what is most important as a wife, mom and career driven woman.
It will serve as an anchor as Adam and I plan to grow the farm and our purpose even more.
It will keep me from getting sucked down the rabbit hole that we call Pinterest as I host my first child’s first birthday party.
And, as I turn thirty this summer I hope- and kind of already know- that I will reflect on the past thirty, look forward to the next great decade, and be able to say with clarity that life really is big in the little.
Happy 2017! Make the little big.
* So, the irony of this all is that just yesterday- well after this post was written- I dropped a bottle of red wine on the cement carrying in groceries. But, strangely, it didn’t effect my mood at all! Perspective and grace.