The wonderful everyday: How to hold on to the joy of today, even in the midst of a difficult season

joy wonderful everyday Feb 21, 2019

A few years ago Ikea had a campaign called “The wonderful everyday.” That phrase really struck me and lodged itself in my subconscious. 

I love to write about creating the life you want. I am interested in how we can continuously improve our habits to take our heads, hearts, homes and health towards where we want them to be. But I also don’t want to be so focussed on the life I’m trying to create that I forget to pay attention to the one I have right now. 

At the end  of this post I will give you some ideas about how to find the treasures hidden in your wonderful everyday. You can also download this FREE pdf with journal prompts to help you apply the suggestions.

A couple of years ago a video recording surfaced of my husband’s family from his childhood. In fact it was quite miraculous how we got hold of it. As part of his retirement package, my father-in-law’s colleague had received the company video recorder. The same one my father-in law had used to film a “day-in-the life” documentary to show family back in Scotland what life was like for them in South Africa. Somehow  the tape had got left in the video recorder and and more than 26 years later this colleague found it. In another interesting twist the colleague had now returned to Scotland himself, where my husband and I happened to be living at the time, so he came to drop it off with us.

Because of the unexpected nature of its arrival there was something magical about it. Like an unexpected visit from the past. The content of the video was just a snapshot of their daily lives: my mother-in-law showing us around her garden and gently chastising the gangly, 13 year old version of my now nearly 40 year old husband for forgetting his sports bag and having to return to the house not once but twice to get it. (She still has to remind both him and I not to leave stuff behind!) Then there was my sister-in-law rolling her eyes as only big sisters can.  There were takes and retakes. But to me that little snippet of the past was perfect in its imperfection. It was a snapshot of their lives as they were. 

It had an impact on me because it made me want to hold onto my today. Before I know it my little boys will be off living their own lives somewhere else. Many days they can drive me crazy with their bickering and loudness, but watching that video made me want to cuddle those little four and two year old bodies just a little bit longer, smell their little boy hair, and memorise exactly how they mispronounce some words.

 My mom, who I lost when I was 26, was a world class chronicler. She created amazing albums of our childhood, all with carefully handwritten labels. After she died I found boxes of old school newsletters where my brother and I were mentioned for minor victories in academics or on the sports field. (Very minor, I am a decidedly mediocre sportswoman!)  But I was touched by how those moments had mattered enough to her to record them.

Life can change in an instant, for the better, for the worse or just for the different.  It can also change gradually so that you don’t even know it’s happening.  One day you wake up and a season has passed. 

 Since I got married we have moved around a lot. I have loved all the travelling and the new experiences. The fact that I knew that quite often life as we knew it was about to change, has created in a me a strong desire to pay attention to the little things because I realise the routines of today are transient and won't last forever. In fact sometimes when I have been homesick or lonely in a new place, one of the best ways to help myself settle was to think “if I had to leave tomorrow, what would I miss about THIS place.” Sometimes it was harder to do that than others, especially if I was going through a low time.   

So often I allow my focus on what is not how I want it to be stop me enjoying what is. Can you relate?" "I can't have fun playing with the kids until the laundry is folded."  "When my business really gets going then I'll feel like I can enjoy my free time." Or maybe you don't want to go forward but back. "I was so much happier when we lived in our last home." I hear you. I have been there.  The thing is life will never be perfect. We will never be fully on top of everything and life can be a funny mix of happy and sad, hard and precious. Like when you have a newborn and you just want to enjoy their littleness but you are SO tired. So give yourself permission to be sad, and to miss what was, and to look forward to what will be, but in amongst that, search for the hidden treasures that are here, right now. 

Sometimes it's the daily grind that gets in the way of finding joy, other times it is really big life events that challenge us. Two times that come to my mind of when happiness and sadness were juxtaposed in my own life are when my mom's cancer returned just a month before my wedding and when my first son was in ICU when my second son was born. There were moments of great sadness and worry. There were times of extreme stress and of grief, but even in the midst of the sadness there were happy moments. I remember all my mom's siblings piling into bed with her, eating ginger biscuits and tea and laughing about shared memories even as the cancer wracked her body. I remember climbing into the bed  with my biggest to whisper to him that he had a brother, even as machines beeped around us. I have found it helpful to seek out moments of joy, especially when it is very hard to do so. 

Maybe you are having a hard time right now. Maybe you are in the midst of grief, or exhaustion, or depression or divorce. Maybe there are a lot of moments that are hard. I’m not asking you to pretend everything is ok when it isn’t, I’m just asking you to find some chinks of light amidst the darkness.

So today I want to encourage you to think about your wonderful every day. Pay attention to all the mundane little routines of your life now. Squeeze every little bit of pleasure out of them. Record the moments in your head and heart. That is where joy is to be found: in this moment and the next. As one of my favourite quotes by Annie Dillard says “how we spend our days is, of course how we spend our lives.” Don’t wait till everyone looks good to record the moment, don’t wait till the house is perfect, don’t not take the photo because your hair is not exactly as you’d like it. Don’t put off enjoying your life because of all the unfinished tasks on your to do list.

These are some of my wonderful every day moments:

  •  That first cup of coffee my husband brings me in bed
  • The whole family piling in to bed for a few minutes before we head off for our days
  • Greeting the day with a gulp of fresh air and the view  from the balcony of my bedroom
  • The way the kids run up the driveway to say goodbye to their dad
  • The kisses they insist on giving me through the school gate (who knows how long that will last!)
  • Running through the vlei with a group of women who spur me on to keep running even when I want to give up 
  • Sitting down in my favourite coffee shop to write and do work that I love  
  • The “run-up” when my littlest spots me arriving at school and barrels into my arms screaming “mommmy, mommy, mommy”
  • The quiet time after lunch when my littlest is napping and my biggest is watching his allotted tv time and I can have a quiet cup of tea and read my book
  • Watching by biggest's fantastic imagination come to life as we build creatures together
  • Our afternoon bike rides when the sun is starting to turn everything golden 
  • Watching the joy of the reunion when their dad gets home from work and the shrieks of delight as he tosses them around and chases after them 
  • Sitting down to dinner amidst the flicker of candles 
  • The smell of freshly bathed children
  • Bedtime stories
  • A clean kitchen
  • Settling into the couch in front of netflix amidst the smell of the clean laundry I’m folding
  • Getting into bed knowing the day was full of ordinary, beautiful moments. 

Here are some ideas to hold onto the wonderful every day

You can also  download this FREE pdf with journal prompts to help you apply the suggestions and figure out what is keeping your every day from being wonderful

  • Be intentional, these moments are happening all the time and we will be so much the richer for being aware of them  
  • Take photos, even (or maybe especially) if things are not perfect. You will want to see photos of how exhausted you actually were in that newborn stage! 
  • Make photobooks or albums. Organise the photos and also record the memories in words. These days we take loads but don’t always store them in a way we can easily access. 
  • Write morning pages. Julia Cameron suggests 3 A4 handwritten pages of stream of consciousness each morning. It's there that I try to remind myself of the funny thing boy#1 said yesterday, or the smell of rich red earth and the exact way the weight of a sleeping little boy body felt in my arms. 
  • Use all your senses to describe your life in written form as though you were explain its richness to someone else
  • Make “a day in the life” video where you catch your family in all their every day glory  
  • Write lists of the precious ordinary moments 
  • Be still and just notice 

I hope you found this helpful. If you can think of someone else who needs to read this please share. And if you haven't already like my page mental wealth for more articles on investing in your mental health.  

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