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March 13, 2014

Little Sparklers of Joy.

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But if I get too strung out, or too numb I’ll miss the good stuff, the sparklers that light up the darkest times.

I’m pretty good at keeping myself centered, and working to accept things as they are, but sometimes I spiral off into a long, painful emotional conspiracy theory thing about how the universe is against me, a person should only have to bear so much, stuff like that.

(All patently untrue, but all very satisfying for about 15 minutes of wallowing).

No matter what, though, there are beautiful, wondrous islands of joy in my life. They are mostly pretty simple things, but for me they are the antidote to self-pity and anxiety. They are proof of magic, of love, of good things.

They are the luxuriant new growth on the tree that you miss because you’re obsessed with a worrisome spot of rot.

And they are these:

When the Hummus Blends.

I make a lot of hummus. It’s good for me, I love it, and if I make it at home it’s less than half the price of “store-bought” and I am not contributing another plastic container to eternity.

I make it in a blender, and because the recipe I use makes pretty thick hummus, it takes a really, really long time for the chunks on the top to get pulled down into the smooth part on the bottom.  I stir it, occasionally, with a special chopstick, maybe add more liquid, and turn it on again until that incredible moment when the little tornado forms in the middle, and everything from the top is getting pulled down to the bottom and it’s blending.

Don’t roll your eyes at me; it’s magic. (Also physics, but I’m all about the magic).

“I Think You’ll Like This Book…”

People tell me I “should” read things all the time. They always mean well, but most of the time it’s because they liked the book, they loved the book, they think everybody should probably read the book. Which is fine, as far as it goes.

The treasure, the gift from the heart is a recommendation from someone who really believes that I, personally, will love a book that they, personally love. Because they thought about it. Because they either know me really well, or pay attention.

A fellow elephant journal writer suggested that I read Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, which is kind of saving me right now. Another friend randomly remembers books read long ago, quirky, eccentric out-of-print books that she thinks I would like. (And I do, every single time). My niece, a fellow lover of nerdy science fiction and fantasy gave me the amazing gift of Neil Gaiman.

There are few things juicier than than opening a book recommended with love and care, because I take the recommender with me as I read. I see what they saw, what they loved and what made them think of me. It’s maybe the only thing that could make me love reading more than I already do.

Awesome Showers.

I can take a quick shower, but it’s a utilitarian kind of thing. The joy is in my shower ritual, which makes the whole “Calgon, take me away!” thing seem much less ridiculous.

When I can, I burn scented oil, play music through a little speaker, turn the lights out and light a candle. On a really organized day I have a cup of chai on the edge of the tub. I do my Metta meditation in the shower, and then I focus on the pleasure of the water on my body, the smell of the soap, and the way my kinks come out in the heat and warmth. If I need a good cry, I let it happen. When I come out, I feel cleaner, calmer and renewed.

Bargains.

I am not a fan of the whole buy this thing you don’t need for 20% off and have more money in your pocket thing because, well, if I don’t need it in the first place I can keep more money in my pocket.

I am a fan of finding things I need at a better price than I expected. To me, the deeply discounted organic fruits and vegetables at the health food store are miraculous. The brown bananas get frozen for smoothies and banana bread, the wilting spinach can be sautéed that very night with some garlic and olive oil, and the mushy strawberries are perfect for freezer jam. I feel all pioneer woman, getting the best food for the least money and knowing that I can make it into something wonderful with my own two hands.

I also love the thrift store, where I can replace two broken glasses, score a pair of broken-in Doc Marten boots and pick up a novel for a total of ten bucks. It’s green, I get the thrill of the hunt, and I come away with things I need for less than the price of a single piece of plastic junk at a “regular” store.

Being Chosen.

Being selected by an animal or a small child is like a lottery win for me.

Ida, who is nearly three, hangs out with me at work sometimes. She admires (and wants) my necklaces. I feed her cups of shredded cheese. She trusts me, comes to me, and puts her sticky little hands on my neck to touch the silver crescent moon that hangs there. That just feels all kinds of good.

There is also a transcendent joy when one of my dogs flumps down for a nap with its head on my chest, or when the most skittish of our cats snuggles into my big, warm body and begins to purr.

It’s okay to wallow sometimes, for a while, maybe (hypothetically) with some trashy television and a jar of cashew butter.

But if I get too strung out, or too numb I’ll miss the good stuff, the sparklers that give off light, and heat and magic.

Which are just as real as the bad things, just harder to see.

 

 

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

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Tamara Mar 14, 2014 12:40pm

Annie, your humor, wit and infinite compassion, evident in *everything* you write, has enriched my life in ways that continue to reveal themselves. Sometimes I laugh until tears; sometimes I'm moved to tears, and always because you manage to somehow touch upon a common feeling/experience/lesson I have experienced at some time. Your writing is inspired by your journey through life, and I find that honesty so rare and brave, and the compassion that is truly your default, illuminating. Truly, You sparkle.

GabbyAbby_Jax Mar 14, 2014 10:36am

I want your hummus recipe. You gave me Gaiman. My most recent purchase was 6 Pottery Barn glasses for $1 and I'm still smiling. And I'm completely in love with your description of a good shower cry. You are my sparkler on many days when I come to this place (and the other place) for a dose of sustenance, a bit of reassurance, and a little fun conversation. Sparkle on Annie.

wickedboardmember Mar 13, 2014 6:27pm

The tiny moments can add up to a whole lot of happiness and joy, to mull over in the darkest of times. Beautiful piece, Annie.

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Ann Nichols

Ann Nichols has been everything from a cellist to a lawyer, and is currently a Buddhist who gets paid to cook at a Protestant church. She lives in a 100-year old house in Michigan with her husband, her son and an improbable number of animals. You can hang out with her by joining the Facebook group “Metta-Morphosis.”