|BabyO discovers the joy of a Christmas tree.|
But our cute neighbor, S(age12), sure did. Camera around her neck, she was perched as high as the tree would support, sticking whole strawberries onto the ends of the bare branches.
So much joy over a bird I hadn't even noticed.
A red book caught my eye at the library this summer called Teaching Your Children Joy. Strange topic, I thought. Perhaps a more useful book would be Teaching Parents Joy. If you have spent any time with young children, you already know they don't need to be taught joy. While they are not always "little bundles of joy" [e.g. midnight feedings, grocery store tantrums, home demolition, so much vomit], I feel like children are natural, undeniable generators (and receptacles) of joy.
So I checked out the book and found the authors actually agree with this thought, and should probably have titled their work, Teaching Parents How to Not Snuff Out the Joy In Their Children. It was an interesting skim with some valuable insights, but for me, the biggest take-away comes from this quote:
There is such beauty in the earth. Joy comes through sensing it--with all five senses. I remember a poet I knew who wrote mostly of the earth, who saw so much in the world that I didn't see. He had a sign on his wall that said: "Five Sense Sagacity." I asked him about it. He said that serendipity, which means happy accidents, pleasant surprises, comes about through sagacity, which means acute awareness, appreciation, sensitivity, which in turn comes about through applied, thorough use of all five senses. Think about that for a moment; it is quite a message: Happiness comes through awareness. (pg 51)Serendipity comes about through sagacity.
Happiness come through awareness.
Last week my H(age3) suddenly dropped her slice of pear, mid-bite, and ran for the playroom. She was too excited to say anything intelligible, so I just waited. And waited. Eventually she brought back a tiny, plastic model of a centipede she had found in one of the toy bins. With great pride, H showed me how she had unintentionally bitten her pear slice into the exact shape of the bug's head. Then she giggled as she gobbled up the rest of the pear.
A "happy accident/pleasant surprise" to be sure, but it only brought about such joy that morning because of the "acute awareness/sensitivity" of a little, three-year-old mind.
I can't say I climb trees or look for serendipitous shapes in my food for happiness these days. Nor do I want to discover the world by tasting everything I can get my hands on, as does my baby O(age7months).
And yet, a closer look at how my children process their surroundings helps me realize I am grossly underutilizing my five physical senses. The intangibility of my ongoing mental to-do lists, of my internet interactions, of my stilted ideas about how grown-ups are supposed to behave, are desensitizing me to so much of the physical beauty and potential joy that surround me. If I would just notice it.
How many moments of happiness do I skim over because I am merely existing, unaware?