We’ve all seen it a million times, the advice passed along by Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without A Country: “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”
The thing about this advice that I find so helpful, though, is that you don’t really have to be happy for it to work. Or at least, you don’t have to realise you’re happy.
I have had a shitty, shitty week. It was one of those weeks that’s death by a thousand paper cuts. I got stew on my new shoes. I bought the wrong chocolate. I kept forgetting about my tea until after it was cold. The temperature was too warm for a jacket but too cold for a hoodie. Nothing was exactly right or terribly wrong. Everything was mostly fine, but just wrong enough to be noticed.
But yesterday the sun came out and if there is one thing I refuse to be, it’s cranky on the first beautiful day of spring. I put my boots on and I took myself for a stroll. I went to the Botanic Gardens and looked out over the city and wandered through the planetarium and let myself think about how crazy the universe is. I did a little shopping. I bought good bread. I talked to one of my best friends.
I still felt a little off.
So this morning I got up and read for a while, had a cup of tea, and went to the market. The market is one of my favourite things about Wellington. It’s a huge farmer’s market with a bunch of food trucks that sets up right behind Te Papa every Sunday. Fruit and veggies are insanely cheap (I can get a week’s worth for under US$10), there is good coffee, music, and street performers. And today there was sun and just enough wind to make me grateful I’d worn a hat.
So, with nothing exactly right or terribly wrong, why not just concentrate on what was good? I took my veggies and my bag and sat down and just listened to the music and enjoyed the sun. I bought gelato and ate it while people rowed through the harbour. I sat and let myself be grateful. There are horrible things happening in the world right now and I’m lucky enough to have sun and food and time.
It wasn’t an instant attitude change and things still feel vaguely unsettled, but for a few minutes I let myself ignore everything in favour of just appreciating this life that is so big and so small all at once. I may just be a speck of stardust in a vast, unending universe, but hey – it means I was once part of a star. That’s pretty damn cool.