Taking the moment to take an artsy photo. This culture likes to look down on the effort that goes into getting that perfect pic for Insta, and sure it can be a little excessive. But there is charm in hitting the pause button on your life long enough to capture a moment from your point of view. Everyone sees the world from a different angle, a different lens. Feel free to let the world in on yours.
Curling up in a chair with a blanket across from someone you love dearly and just talking about life. God put some pretty cool people in this world. One of my favorite things to do is spend time in their presence, just soaking up who they are as a person and enjoying the part they play in my life.
The sounds that silence makes. We don’t often experience true silence. This world is constantly shifting, growing, settling, changing. Those things make noise, even if the noises they make are minuscule. If you sit and simply listen, you will hear the breathing of the floorboards, the wind flirting with the trees, your own heartbeat reminding you it is there. If you listen even more closely, you might catch the swaying of a rope swing, the dust sinking through sunbeams. Mysteriously full of life, that is what silence sounds like.
Driving with heels on. As far as I’m concerned, this is about one of the most reckless pastimes I could possibly engage in, and yet it is a little bit thrilling. The idea of having no frame of reference for my foot to follow. The knowledge that any little movement could give the car a giant jerk of acceleration. The hyperawareness of any fluctuation in speed. All of the variables make it nothing short of a triumph to actually pull the feat off.
Trying on old wedding dresses for fun. There are not many times during adult life when playing dress-up is socially acceptable. One of the few times you can put on something completely impractical and fun is to try on wedding dresses. Put your mother’s on, your grandmother’s, one you find at a thrift store, whatever suits your fancy. The best part about old ones is that you know you are putting on not just a dress, but a really beautiful chapter in someone’s story. And that is so much more than simply wearing a dress.
Asking for help. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you are cheating or inadequate or for some other reason you feel like you can’t do it. You can ask for help. You can let people help you. It takes a whole lot of courage, but you are strong enough to reach out even if you don’t feel like it. And when you do, you can accomplish so many things that you could never have done on your own.
Wearing lipstick. I confess, I didn’t really get the point of lipstick for a long time, but it is so much fun. There is no end to the amount of personality you can convey simply by changing the hue of the shape your words and expression take. It’s a pretty cool idea. Also, lipstick is fun.
New good friends. It is easy when you settle into an environment to stop exploring it when you think you have the gist of what is going on. It’s easy to do the same thing with friends. You find a place, make your friends, and settle down. But when you do make the effort to continue to meet and grow with other people, you realize that there are gems out there that you would have overlooked for a casual acquaintance if you had not reached out.
Doing someone else’s hair. It seems like every little kid constantly wants to make my hair look pretty, because apparently I don’t do a quality enough job of that myself for their standards. They get all excited, telling me what they are doing and what it’s going to look like and all the while I do my best to grimace through the yanking and the tangles I can hear them creating. But I can’t blame them, because it is still just a little bit thrilling when someone trusts me with a curling iron near their scalp and puts their appearance into my hands.
Tangibility. How cool is it that God made human beings with an active tactile sense? And how cool is it that we can physically interact with other people and things in creation. We can understand if something is comforting by the way it envelops our skin and we can ascertain danger based on pressure or heat. How cool is that?
Fonts. How is it that our letters can look completely different and still mean the same thing? A word in Helvetica means the same in Arial and in Times New Roman and Garamond and cursive even Comic Sans. We can read the shapes of letters even when they take slightly different shapes. What’s even cooler is that, while these fonts can all say the same words, they can convey drastically different messages. Times New Roman is academic and professional, usually a polished work. Johnston has London written all over it because it’s written all over London. Cursive is formal and usually involves some sort of invitation or personal correspondence. The only place anyone takes anything seriously that is written in Comic Sans is in an elementary school, and even then it seems to be screaming silent sarcasm behind the cheerful curves of the characters. Human perception is so cool and the fact that the details matter so much even when we don’t realize it is astounding.
Spending time with someone and not talking at all. Something about this constant noise culture makes us into chatty people. We like to talk. A lot. And there is the phrase “awkward silence” which perpetuates the idea that if you are with someone and the conversation dies out, it must immediately start again or the silence is awkward. Here’s my advice: live in the silence. It can be so cool to simply listen to the sounds of life around you. Take a moment to take it all in before you start spilling more out. You learn to be comfortable with someone else when you don’t feel the need to always talk with them. It is soothing to be with another person and do nothing except be.
Actually doing the thing you have been talking about doing forever. Dreams and aspirations are wonderful wonderful things, but it is so easy to let them stay just dreams and aspirations. To talk about and think about and obsess over what you are going to do instead of getting up and actually doing the thing. But when you do put not only your mind to it but also your actions, you can accomplish such huge things.
Putting the house to bed. We live in a world where so many things are on and going so much of the time. But, as we are still human, we still need to sleep. At the end of the day, everyone goes to bed and that’s when the house does too. When you turn out the lights, shut the cat in the basement, lock the doors, pick up stray possessions that have wandered out of their rightful places, it’s all tucking the sheets snugly around the shelter you call home. Telling the place to have sweet dreams and kissing it on the forehead as it drifts off to sleep.
The way the world feels after the first snow of the year. Love it of hate it, there is a definitive seasonal switch from autumn to winter and that is the first time the world wakes up frosted in white. Other seasons make gradual shifts, but the winter is dramatic and knows how to make an entrance. When it comes it brings with it a buzzing energy that is inescapable. Something has changed and although it’s the settling in of a long, drudging cold, it’s refreshing.
Good lighting. The way a room is lit can determine the entire tenor of the space. If it is dominated by large windows that let in enough natural light that no other lights are necessary, it feels cozy and inviting. When the drapes are drawn, a few lamps turned on, and perhaps a candle or two, the same space can feel cozy and intimate. A room with the right lighting for the occasion makes any place just fit together.
Looking back at a long day’s work and realizing just how much you accomplished. You have been tediously toiling for what feels like hears, fixing one minute detail after another until it feels like you might explode. Then you check out and turn around to survey the expanse you crossed during the day. The terrain which was ragged and collapsing stretches back into the distance, neat and gleaming. Suddenly that endless, overwhelming day seems to be at least a little bit worth it. Which was all the affirmation you really needed.
Getting to be a nerd. As you may know, a film called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was released today. It is a spin off of the Harry Potter series created by the extraordinary J. K. Rowling herself. I also went to the cinema to see this film today. I took my wand to the theater. It was awkward as all get out because no one was really dressed up or going hardcore fangirl on a Thursday night in South Dakota, but I’m glad I did it. After all, how many chances do you get to freely exercise your nerdinesses in public? It’s like being a kid at Halloween all over again except that instead of candy, the reward is more content from Harry Potter’s wizarding world.
When someone sees something and thinks of you. I curled my hair in sausage ringlets the other day and posted a picture of it with the caption “Shirley. Freaking. Temple.” The next day, one of my friends brought me a small scrap of paper. It was a postage stamp he had torn from an envelope he received in the mail. On the stamp was a little girl with sausage ringlets named Shirley Temple. He said it made him think of me. That tiny little postage stamp was enough to put a smile on my face for the rest of the day, because it came with the words “I thought of you.”
Those blankets that are unreasonably soft. You know, those blankets. The ones that you can’t help but gasp when you reach out and touch them. Sometimes, you question whether you are touching anything at all because there is no end to the softness. It doesn’t matter how many of those blankets I encounter, they will always fascinate me.
Eating brownies straight from the pan while they are still warm. Who needs a bag of popcorn to watch a movie when you can just bake a pan of brownies and eat the entire thing warm while the story plays out on screen? Get a glass of cold milk to go with it and a box of tissues if it’s a sad movie and you are set for a perfect girls’ night in.
Full on cuddling. Sometimes, cuddling means sharing a blanket and maybe the same couple of feet as another person. Sometimes, cuddling means laying your head on someone else’s shoulder or maybe their lap. Sometimes, though, cuddling means being squished up against another person and wrapping your arms all the way around them and maybe your legs too and never ever letting them go. That is a rare sort of cuddling, but it is a cozy burrito of happiness when it does happen.
Finishing a decorating or renovation project. Your home is your space and there is a certain way that you place it to make living feel comfortable and personal. When you are in the midst of adding to that comfort or personality, everything else goes into disarray around the breach. Nothing is in its rightful place and you cannot wait for life to simply return to normal. And maybe this hassle wasn’t worth feeling out of place in your own home after all. But then, when the last piece is finished and the last part of your life moves back into place around it, that one thing becomes your pride and joy, if only because it is blessedly done.
Switching from an old, fading dry erase marker to a robust new one. The writing is fading, each letter seems lighter than the next. Soon, you won’t be able to see anything at all. You chuck the culprit marker in the trash and pop off the lid of a brand spanking new one. The instant that ink hits the white board, it is like life suddenly burst into color again. Everything is visible and smooth sailing and life is good.
Seeing all of the different things that come together to create beauty. We use the word “beautiful” pretty ambiguously, and sometimes it is simply the filler adjective when someone doesn’t know what positive adjective to use in a given situation. But beauty is diverse and collaborative and it really does come from all sorts of places and things and ideas. The band OKGO just released a new music video for their song The One Moment and it is a masterpiece. The sequence of events for the entire video happened in real time in 4.2 seconds. From that perspective, it looks like one huge bundle of chaos, but the song begins and the video plays again, this time slowed down immensely. In the slow motion version, all of the explosions and motions happen on beats with the music and the band even occasionally lip-syncs a few lyrics. I have watched it at least a couple dozen times so far. That is beauty. And part of what makes it beautiful is the fact that so much math and calculation and trial and error and technology and precision went into making that vision a reality. To be beautiful is a collaborative experience. It involves interaction and cooperation sometimes. But always beauty is something that, once seen, cannot be unappreciated.
When people leave little notes for you. You come home from a long day at work and there is a slip of paper pinned to the fridge that reads “I left you some ice cream in the freezer” and you can’t help but smile at your roomie’s thoughtfulness. Or you walk into your dorm room and there are sticky notes scattered around the whole place praising your hair and your passion for life while also telling you that you are not an old woman and that your eyes dart back and forth like a badger. Maybe your mother stuck a note in your planner before that huge test telling you she believes in you. They don’t have to say much, but the fact that they are there at all makes the day seem brighter – if only because the sticky notes are abrasively bright yellow.
Seeing the sun for the first time in days or maybe weeks. This time of year is pretty bleak here in the good old Midwest. There are always clouds and it’s either raining or snowing or trying to make up its mind about which one it wants to go for that day. Colors start to seem permanently muted and the great outdoors feels even colder than it already is for the lack of brightness. But those days make the sunshine all the richer. The moment you walk outside and see a bright blue sky and feel the sun on your face is the chance to finally take a breath after you didn’t know you had been holding it for so long.
Wrapping your hands around a warm mug. Honestly, sometimes the sensation of holding a mug is more motivation to make a hot drink than the drink itself. It’s as if the mug is pulsing not only warmth but comfort and peace and relaxation through your body starting with your fingers and emanating toward your heart. Paying it back for working tirelessly to keep you alive. The therapeutic value of warm ceramic between your palms is completely unique, and completely wonderful.
Finding significance in your passions. As a college student, I am asked relentlessly what my major is and what I want to do when I graduate. As I am majoring in theatre and English with no solid career ideas, these questions are a little bit terrifying. My passions don’t often seem practical. But, true as that may be in some respects, it by no means renders the things that I care about unimportant or incapable of doing wonderful things. God gave me a passion for stories and I don’t think it was just for kicks and giggles. I write, therefore I have a voice, and that makes the words I put on paper valuable and purposeful.
Spontaneous late nights. Don’t do this all the time, your body will not thank you. But, every once in a while, you just have to give life a little more time to do its thing before you can close your eyes on the day. There is no bonding quite like 2 AM bonding, and no ideas quite like 2 AM ideas, and no atmosphere quite like 2 AM atmosphere. Savor the moment when it comes, enjoy the camaraderie, and be sure to take a nap the next day.