Because They Make You Smile

I’m a big believer in simplifying your life. The less stuff, the better. I had recently been reading about how hanging on to things—even in the name of sentimentality—crowds your life, stresses you out and is just a bad idea in general. So when my walk in closet had begun to be more trip-over-ish than walk-in-ish, I decided to spend a Saturday trying to remedy the situation.

I’ll just blow through this first box, I thought, as I started shuffling through the paper. Within minutes, I had stepped into a time machine and was engrossed in notes from high school girlfriends, cards from old coworkers, letters from family and people who had drifted in and out of my life so quickly that I had forgotten about our time together. It’s funny how you walk around in the present most days as if this is all that’s ever existed and it’s how it always was. But then you open a box one day and find a whole different life.

My daughter came in and started looking at my piles and asking questions. I began telling her about some of the paper memories.

About the thank you note from my funny friend Cindy who worked with me at my first crummy grocery store job when I was 16. She left to go to a different store and her card to me said “I’m wearing the bluebird pin you gave me. You always cared about how I was doing and what I was feeling. I appreciate that.”

About the snowflake cut out by high school friend Joe who lived down the street that said “Friends are like snowflakes…each one is unique and special!”

About the letter from my dad when I was 20 where he told me how proud he was of me and that he was sorry he wasn’t around more.

About the bunches of cards from my best girlfriend I’d kind of lost touch with over the years, encouraging me and thanking me for my friendship.

About the thoughtful and funny tips from my sister who had had her first baby just 3 months earlier, but had composed a thoughtful 3 page list for me of things she thought I should know.

About the letter from my hilarious partner in crime when I worked at the newspaper citing all of our famous catch phrases and jokes that I had forgotten about.

About the many notes from my mom, who had passed away just 3 years earlier, telling me what I meant to her and how she couldn’t believe what best friends we were.

About the sweet letters from my 99 year old great, great aunt who was my pen pal when I was a young girl and never missed a letter.

About the tickets stubs from 3 movies. “What are those from?” my daughter asked. “Oh those are movies I saw with a boy I really, really liked,” I told her. “Who?” she pressed. So I told her the story of the boy I met after college when I was a waitress who was sweet and charming and I adored. When I finished, I started to throw the movie stubs toward the trash and mumbled “What do I need to keep these for?” and my daughter answered simply, “Because they make you smile.”

She was right.

Sometimes we tend to recall the bad stuff with a lot more ease than the good. I had forgotten most everything I found in that box that afternoon. Cleaning out my closet allowed me to rediscover so many blessings. I felt a huge wave of gratitude for my entire life. The special friendships, the clever jokes, the thoughtful people in my life and even ways I had touched others. And my daughter made me realize that “because it made me smile” is a good enough reason to keep it all around.

movie tix

It’s like we are all flowers in a field

My daughter was fretting over school one day. I believe it was our first school fret ever. She had a fourth grade teacher and subjects that were challenging her (and making her really mad).  I could see the unconvinced look on her face as I gave her the usual parent pep talk. “Things will work out…” “You can do anything you set your mind to…” “You have to believe in yourself…” Even I’d always felt those words were a little meh.

Then suddenly an idea popped into my head like a spark. I explained to her that we are all like flowers in a field and the sun is love, positive energy and peace. When we come upon challenging people or situations in our lives, each flower has a decision to make. We must decide if we want to stay where we are, shrinking in the shade or if we want to stretch and grow up towards the sun. If you run away from situations, treat others badly and make only self serving choices—you stay low and in the shade. If you face challenges, treat people as you’d like to be treated and live with an open mind and heart—you’ll feel yourself growing toward the sun and peace every day.

“When something is hard, you know that working through it means you’re growing toward the sun,” I told her. “You’re getting closer to love and light and you’re becoming stronger. If you come across someone who is being ugly or difficult and choosing to squat in the shade, that’s when it’s most important to make a choice to stand tall and grow toward that sun. Always move toward the sun and leave people who want to stay in the dark behind.”

She listened intently and I could tell what I was saying was registering. She loved it. In the days following, I was surprised when she started mentioning it in times of frustration. “Oh! This is really going to help you grow toward the sun!” or “This is really a grow toward the sun moment, Mommy.” Now we apply it to our lives in so many ways–big and small. From really, really hard math homework to having patience with something at work to being kind to an unpopular child at school.

So I’m starting this blog as a way to record our journey as we Grow Toward the Sun day by day. I’m hoping it shows everyone that spirituality it something that we live each and every moment, even on the most ordinary of days.