I was sitting in the backyard, reading a book, enjoying the fine summer day. All was calm. Out of nowhere appeared a whirling dervish of purple and teal. My youngest daughter came zipping around the corner on her bike, sporting an oversized helmet and a big toothy smile. The sun illuminated her light hair, making it look like a halo on fire in the golden sun. Saying not a word, she pedaled through the grass like she was on a mission – and I’ve no doubt she was – but with a look of contentment as if she had not one care in the world.
And then, just like that, she was gone.
The moment lasted all of seven seconds, but it was the one that came to mind that night, as I lay in bed thinking about my happiest moment from the day.
I’ve adopted the routine of falling asleep contemplating the day’s happiest moment. It’s a good practice in gratitude, it’s easy to do, and it beats falling to sleep worrying about all the undone things waiting for me when I wake up.
It’s helped me see that even though we spend so much of our lives pursuing happiness, sometimes it streaks by us unexpectedly, in seven-second bursts.
It often feels like my life is oriented around making lists of things that need to be done. These lists almost never contain what will end up being my happiest moment of the day.
My happiest moments are rarely the “important” accomplishments of the day. They are small moments, like a lakeside walk with Kim, or waking up to six deer using our backyard for their living room, peacefully lounging about with their backs coated in snow.
Or the joy on Ben’s face after catching his fifth ball in a row.
Or the spontaneous conversation that bubbled up with Ginny while sitting on the Healing Swing, when we talked about Wisconsin birds and calculated how many of her is the deepest part of Lake Michigan. (It’s about 230 Ginnys deep, in case you’re wondering.)
Again, these happy moments are often not the sort of thing you plan for. I didn’t write “sit in the backyard and wait for Ginny to ride by me like the cutest thing in the world” so I could dutifully check it off later.
No, you don’t plan them, but they do require your presence. Physically, and mentally, and spiritually.
Happy moments can happen anywhere, but in order to have them with people you care about, it turns out you have to physically be with them. (And call me old-fashioned, but scrolling social media on your phones side-by-side doesn’t count.) Some people preach quality over quantity, but the truth is that the less time you have with someone, the less likely magic of the spontaneous kind will materialize, which is the very best kind. How much time are you spending with the people you love most?
Of course, it’s possible for your body to be right next to someone while your brain is a million miles away. Your daughter can be on your lap, telling you about her day, but you miss all of it because you’re trying to figure out the best way to respond to that email lingering in your inbox. Our attention is the most valuable gift we have to give. Where are you giving yours?
And finally, when we’re spiritually present, we can see the bigger picture, the truer one. Every minute is pregnant with the possibility of a happy moment. But many of us are sleepwalking through life, blind to all of it, too focused on the material world. Creation is conspiring to show us its best stuff, but in order to see it, you have to expand your horizon to the spiritual plane, beyond your email inbox, your phone, and your to-do list for the day. Wonder is everywhere. Are your eyes open to it?
We’d all hoped that 2021 would have been a little less pandemic-y than 2020. No one knows what 2022 will hold, but I can guarantee you this:
The year ahead is bursting with possibilities for happy moments.
Like the one I had recently, when I surprised the kids with Dairy Queen Blizzards (frosted animal cracker for me) before rolling through the automatic car wash. They delighted at the sight of the purple and blue “unicorn” soap and squealed in equal parts terror and delight when I suggested we roll down their windows. Alas, I did not.
Maybe next time.
These happy moments are treasures, every last one of them.
I wish you the unhurried mind and clear eyes to see and appreciate them all.