A stormy week it has been at work, with some deeply painful, challenging and difficult moments. It felt appropriate, therefore, to have the working week come to a close in the midst of a spectacular display of torrential rain and pinging hail – hailstones large enough to send me rushing bare-armed into the storm to move my car swiftly to shelter.
Neglected gutters clogged with discarded waste gushed their temporary rivers into the street, puddles swallowed entire sections of road, and I pondered on the fleeting nature of storms and troubles.
Driving out of the storm and straight into a traffic jam on the highway, I shifted from the adrenaline of the downpour to breathing into my patience. I relaxed into enjoying the space I was in, accepting my inability to change the reality around me and deciding that rather than resist it, I would put on some great music and unwind from the week.
After some time, we started to move again, and there ahead of me on the horizon was the start of a rainbow.
My heart aglow, filled with joy, I turned onto the dirt road that leads me home each day just as the clouds cleared and the sun broke through to light the soft evening sky – the air washed clean, and my hope renewed.
I’m often amazed when I’m absorbed in easily-accessible joys that I don’t do these delightful things more often! Twice during the weekend my boys and I headed out for very simple adventures quite literally on our doorstep, and while my wanderlust and pleasure in wider travels and adventures remain, it is even more satisfying to be grounded here, in the pleasures of home, family, and our beautiful surroundings, utterly content to be just where I am.
The soothing sound of the ocean, the sand between my toes.
Sipping Port under the stars, my feet warmed by a fire.
Birthdays that are full of joy, surprises, laughter and love.
Concrete actions that further my wish to surround myself with things that make me happy – this week’s greatest satisfaction being planting some jasmine, whose sweet scent will bring me regular pleasure in future years.
Unexpected phone calls at just the right moment.
Finding, at times when I feel utterly alone, that I am surrounded by support and love, and can reach out and connect with them at any time.
Finding the courage to share my experience and perspective in circumstances where I would usually stay quiet and doubt their validity.
Spending time gardening, affectionately reclaiming growing space for the plants I love amidst the lush abundance of a tropical spring.
Deep, long, passionate, loving kisses at unexpected moments.
Planning family adventures and projects, some of which will become solid realities and some of which will remain pleasurable dreams.
Seeing opportunities where others around me see risks and difficulties, and sensing that my optimism can perhaps help them overcome their fears.
Feeling very tangibly how much I am learning from each tough decision, each challenging situation, each failure and each newly emerging solution.
Seeing in my friend’s internal battles the truth of the fact that while we may keep coming back to the same challenges and internal weaknesses, our lives are spirals and not circles – we come back each time with slightly greater knowledge and experience, however negligible the shift might feel.
The evocative scent of Rosemary, and all the rich memories it awakens.
I wrote the next ten additions to my happiness list on an aeroplane, flying to Ghana for a gathering of colleagues from across Africa with a shared vision for people-centred land governance: the International Land Coalition Africa‘s Annual Regional Forum and Assembly.
I wrote in my journal that night, “Here I am again, miles above the earth, filled with the usual joy and thrill of being between departing and arriving; suspended in a magical bubble.
I fly towards a new country, with few expectations other than to be surprised by many things that I can’t predict, but wish to simply enjoy as they arise. There are people to meet, things to see and learn, adventures to have and pillows to sleep on I couldn’t imagine if I tried.
Behind me lie my home, my family; friends and spaces I shall enjoy intensely on my return. Ahead lies simply the new, the unexpected.”
And so, my happiness list continues to grow….
Flying towards new adventures.
Flying home to my beloved family.
Sitting miles above the earth, capturing my thoughts in words.
Seeing how we try and understand or at least express something of our human experience through so many forms of art.
Sharing things with my children that have a great deal of meaning for me, particularly from my childhood.
Feeling my chest tight with love.
Going with the flow.
The excitement of a work vision having some concrete steps closer to reality.
Trusting my instincts, and seeing that the trust itself, and the letting go it enables, is often a catalyst.
I’m writing now from my hotel bed, on the eve of flying home again after a wonderful four days of intense learning, engagement, and connection. The things in my heart as I write that fill me with happiness are:
Exploring some of the colours, scents, sounds and unique experiences of places new to me.
Meeting a wide range of amazing people from diverse countries, some of whom are likely to become and remain friends and connection, some of whom I will probably connect with from time to time, and others who I may never see or speak to again but am so grateful to have met.
Getting back to a sense of balance and certainty after having briefly felt off course.
Catching myself wanting to drive others along with me in a process in my own excitement and desire to move forward quickly, and noticing in time to be able to slow down and keep the process moving forward collectively without pushing or dragging others with me.
Listening to what my body wants, being gentle with myself, and finding relaxed and restful spaces.
The excitement of knowing I’ll be back home in my own bed, with my beloved family, in less than 24 hours.
Exploring new (to me!) local dishes.
Conversation that integrates the personal and professional seamlessly and comfortably, just as the two are intertwined in our experience of life.
Mementoes, particularly ones I can wear that remind me of travels and people I love.
Panoramic views that provide the thrill and beauty of wide perspectives.
Inspired by a post called ‘Things that Make Me Happy’, I was amazed at how many things on her list resonated with me, and thought it would be fun to write my own list! So, since I am stuck in bed with a fractured ankle, and keeping my thoughts on positive things can only assist with my patience and healing (especially after a tough day), here are the first twenty. I’ve been interested to note how many of these have shown up in my past gratitude lists, as my intense and conscious pleasure in them never seems to diminish, no matter how often I enjoy them.
Lying in a hot bath watching the steam play with the sunlight.
Family chatter around the dinner table.
Weekend pancake-making with the kids.
Watching the moon on early-morning winter runs, feeling the fresh, chill air and loving being just where I am.
Messages from friends when things are tough.
Engaging and stimulating conversations in unexpected contexts.
Falling into sleep wrapped in the warm delight of the body of the man I love close against me.
Being able to offer love and comfort during difficult times.
Singing along to favourite songs.
Warm sunshine on my skin, especially when the air is crisp and fresh.
Finally getting things done that have been on my to-do list for a while.
Relaxing with lovely people.
The relief of tackling a problem that has been worrying me in the background for some time head-on, and finding solutions, or at least ideas for ways forward.
Breathing into the pleasure of a massage, feeling the muscles releasing and relaxing, and knots unwinding.
Watching favourite old films and remembering why I love them so much.
Absorbing the fleeting beauty of skies lit up with the rich colours of sunrise and sunset.
Friends – enjoying time together, connecting when far apart, and just having them in my heart.
Climbing into bed when it is deliciously toasty from the electric blanket, feeling safe from the chilly night air.
Watching my kids having fun doing crazy dances, or joining in the fun.
Pausing to consciously appreciate the rich pleasures of savouring flavours and textures on my tongue.