Joy Triggers

As my 15-year-old ran through the living room, she yelled, “Do you want me to show you something that makes me smile?”

And my answer, of course, was, “Absolutely.”

In the middle of midlife, I finally figured out a solid piece of advice: Anytime a 15-year-old girl asks to share something with you regarding smiling, you say, “Yes.”

She proceeded to show me the 5:22 opening number of this year’s Tony Awards. We sat and watched the Neil Patrick Harris lead a song and dance routine that made us both smile — on a number of levels. The first reason was for the sheer entertainment value — the cleverness of the lyrics, the music and the dancing. But the second, more profound reason it made me smile was that she was showing me something so wonderful, something I hadn’t seen. My daughter was introducing me to something new. The little scene brought me joy.

In the meantime, I was searching high and low for this week’s column inspiration, when a friend suggested that I write about “joy triggers” — things that prompt joy. She had created a list. One of hers was one of mine. She wrote, “Crunching leaves under my feet on a long walk.”

I’m with my friend on that one. Stepping on leaves (or riding my bike over a crunchy leaf) is one of my favorite things. But in the bigger sense, taking note of the little things that give us joy goes so far in building a greater sense of peace and happiness in the big picture of life.

Here are some more of mine:

Cooking in my tiny kitchen while people I love sit and talk with me.

Finding and reading a great book — which I am doing right now. (I highly recommend Ken Follett’s new trilogy, starting with Fall of Giants, followed by Winter of the World.)

Watching my younger daughter dance.

Listening to my older daughter play her guitar and sing.

When my husband tells a truly funny joke. (He is in the business of telling a great quantity of jokes. They often lack in quality. He doesn’t mind. “You’ve got to keep swinging,” he says.)

Listening to a good song, especially with a friend who appreciates the music.

Canoeing.

Mapping out a trip.

Fresh sheets.

A cool pillow.

The smell of my mother’s cold cream.

When my Gerber daisy blooms.

Getting a light bulb changed.

Going through an automated car wash.

A children’s choir.

A cool morning.

Marking something off the list.

When the moon is a sliver.

When I can see more than seven colors in the sky.

Years ago, I took a wise man’s words to heart and began to make a point of celebrating tiny moments of bliss and victory. He told me, “Take joy in the little things, and you’ll live a happy life.”

He was right.

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