Love is as close as the refrigerator door

When I was a girl, our refrigerator was stocked. Not just with food, but with memories.

My mother liked to collect magnets from places she had visited — and while it’s difficult to remember exactly from where and from when, I do distinctly recall a trail of experiences splattered like paint across the front of a series of refrigerator doors of my childhood.

It’s a tradition I’ve, without much serious intention, carried forward. It started when I moved in with my now-husband. He already had a few refrigerator magnets that predated me, but we began building a refrigerator of love of our own. The first addition was a magnet we found at a gift shop in Hoboken where we lived at the time.

We loved the quote so much we incorporated it into our wedding invitation.

Marcel Proust let us be grateful

A few weeks ago, after a bunch of dreams of messy houses, I realized my home was in need of attention. In the middle of mopping up the kitchen floor, I noticed how dirty, disorganized and jumbled our refrigerator had become. We had been mindlessly putting up A+ exams, beautiful art class drawings, and promotional magnets from every local business, from the hairdresser to Pinchi the clown, birthday party extraordinaire I don’t ever remember being entertained by.  I don’t have “before pictures,” but imagine a Leap Frog alphabet game scattered in more than 26 places; a Made in China set of Hebrew letters ready to be choked on by a visiting baby; and hidden beneath five field trip permission forms was the Marcel Proust quote.

I held it in my hands — saw how smudged and worn it had become in 13 years — but smiled knowing it remained. Intact, across continents and seas; still stuck to my refrigerator door.

I spent some time then sorting, throwing away, and putting the dusty alphabet letters in a bag to give to a friend whose children would use them — mine had grown too old for them while I wasn’t paying attention.

I filed away some papers, recycled others. I organized the promotional magnets in a big square on the hidden side of the fridge.

Afterwards, I pulled out the Marcel Proust quote — made it a centerpiece holding up a series of photographs that represented experiences we treasure, times and places … faces almost forgotten in the everyday rush of life.

I made love, once again, the focus of the refrigerator door. And said a quiet prayer that Proust’s words would continue to carry this family forward in 2014.

“Let us be grateful for people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Yes, our days, if only we are lucky, will still be filled with exams to study for, dentist appointments to run to, and permission slips to sign, but somehow, in spite of it and in light of it, let us be grateful for the people who make us happy.

I’m happy and I know it … clap your hands

I giggle.

I work hard to make others giggle.

I dream…and enjoy analyzing my dreams.

I engage on social media.

I innovate (at work)

I create (at home)

I write.

I share my writing with others.

I bake cookies.

I surprise the people I love with small treats or notes.

I want to be around people.

I want to know them.

I want to learn more about them.

I want to discover what we have in common and how we can help each other.

I sing.

I kiss my husband.

I take beautiful pictures.

Or silly ones.

Mr. Sunglasses Face

This isn’t a list of the things that make me happy.

It’s a list of ways I know that I am happy.

That life is working for me.

These are ways I know I am doing what is required to care for myself so that my life is one I enjoy … or, at least, feel reasonably satisfied by.

Often times, we think  — if we think at all — about the things that make us happy.

Ice cream.

Sex.

Vacation.

Money.

Baseball.

Air conditioning.

We make mental or actual lists of all the things we need in our life in order to be happy. Or we delineate end goals or possessions we are convinced will make us happier if only we reach them or one day have them.

Better job.

Better wife.

A baby.

Older kids.

A degree.

More sleep.

More quiet.

Less stress.

And while some of us are good at being grateful for what we have– and even acknowledging the good in our life — I don’t often hear from my inner voice listing off the ways I know I am happy now.

Right now.

Or what happy looked like back when it colored my life.

What does happy look like?

Who are you when you’re happy?

If we don’t know what happy looks like, how will we ever get there?

I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that my happy evidence is somewhat missing from the scene.

This was a red alert for me to DO SOMETHING.

So I started thinking about my list.

The list of things that act as evidence that I am happy.

And I started doing those things.

Even though I wasn’t yet happy.

And today, I’m happier.

(I didn’t say HAPPY.)

But

I’m writing.

I’m baking.

I’m spending time with real live human beings.

And engaging a little with the imaginary real live human beings on my screen.

What does happy look like for you?

How will you …

How do you…

recognize it?

Unconventional workout

I started running.

Yup.

I’m a runner.

A short-distance, short-time runner.

For almost a month, I have been running for 15 minutes every day except for Shabbat.

That’s it. 15 minutes.

And it works. I finally found an exercise regimen that works.

For now.

Maybe it’s not enough for everyone, but it’s enough for me.

For now.

I’ve also committed to writing more.

Tiny tidbits here and there.

A blog or the start of a new short story or a poem for fun spurred by a random writing prompt.

I find, the more I write, the more I write.

And the better I feel.

So between the running and the writing, my physical and emotional health seems to be on the up and up.

I know because my hormones say so.

They say so by being quiet when they are normally loud.

Quiet hormones. Quiet head.

Ahh….

But I think I could add a third element to my personalized workout:

Gratitude.

Gratitude, as we know, is such an energy boost. It’s a life lifter.

When we feel gratitude — the day after a violent stomach bug, or the minute after you avoided a tragedy or danger, or simple moments of love between you and your spouse or your child or your cat — we love life.

In the very moment we feel gratitude, we love life.

And loving life is all any of us ever want. It’s why we exercise. It’s why we write.

It’s why we exist at all — to love life.

So, I’m going to try to add 15 minutes of gratitude to my daily workout regimen.

If it’s that easy to love life, why wouldn’t I?

Want to join me?

My life in pictures

When I was a girl, I imagined my life a movie.

In fact, I have a few distinct memories of moments in which I felt very present to the experience of being watched.

This makes me sound crazy. Paranoid. Egotistical.

I know.

But, nonetheless, every once in a while I’d be walking down the street with a friend or engaged in a song and dance with my brother, and suddenly sense an observer.

I’d look around. Nobody was there.

Over time, I resolved this to be an inexplicable sensation I labeled, “My life in pictures.”

Now, as an observant adult, as a mindful lifer, as a humbled human being awed by her children, terrified by her own mortality…I find I am a member of the audience, instead; with one greasy hand inside the popcorn box and the other gripping the side of the aisle seat wondering…

How will it all end?

Meanwhile, I’m also the excited, but cautious cinematographer.

Struck breathless by extraordinarily poignant scenes

moti penina piano

Obsessed with capturing light

lights tangled

and angles

boys in the grass

Wondering all the time if other people can see what I see…

If other people feel the love and the loss inside a half-eaten cupcake

cupcake

Or the extraordinary sadness of a broken plate

plate

I sometimes watch my husband chase the children and know that once there was someone who watched me.

Someone is still watching.

A critic, a fan, or just a curious spectator of my life in pictures.