The Give & The Get

An Essay by Beth Brown Ables & Photo from Death to Stock

My parents have friends living in Paris, but they really seem to be somewhere new each week: Dubai, Thailand…Columbia, SC.
Last week, they posted a picture to Facebook from the back of a mototaxi in Bangkok all tanned and carefree with a caption that read, “Sad to say goodbye to Thailand, heading back to Paris to ring in the New Year with our only resolution to enjoy life.”

Yes, those places and that life and those tans all tap tap at a deep yearning in me, but honestly it’s the end of that caption that still rings within.

Resolving to enjoy life.

Not to lose weight, to write more notes, to organize, to read, to not do this, to give up that…just to enjoy.

That’s something of a deep, soul-ringing inhalation isn’t it? So many of my resolutions aren’t anything I’m resolved to do, they’re chastisements and punishments. They’re rooted in the soil of guilt and shame so no wonder they wilt and stumble to do any good, grow anything green.

When I first began thinking about what it means to enjoy my life, I wondered if it just meant sitting back relaxed as my days tumbled at me. But that’s survival, right?  The result of that sort of living is physical and emotional chaos; it’s what leaves me craving a juice cleanse with a side of closet organization. Enjoying life isn’t a Netflix binge and a dozen Krispy Kremes, to me it’s more about awareness.  It’s opening myself up to moments and savoring the gentle subtle joys each day brings.

I asked around to see what others thought, and the resounding similarity was that enjoying life meant spending time with others and trying new things.  And you know what I see as the binding force within?  Both of those require intention and energy.  A true, life-giving relationship builds itself from so many moments: acts of service, moments of vulnerability, wide-open laughter.  Time–the careful intention of constructing and investing in love. Trying something new, exploring an unfamiliar place depends on courage, on a let’s-just-see-what-happens sort of bravado. I’m a creature of habit, and like it or not, you’re operating on a bit of that too. If I’m going to try something new, I’ve got to wad up some fledgling shreds of desire and DO the thing, see that place. It’s not coming through the door anytime soon, I’ve got to get out and hunt it down. Energy. Time. Intention.

Here’s where I land: the beginning of January is cold, often gray, and laden with look-back. It feels like the biggest dose of Sundayevening blues plated alongside undue pressure to perfect and get it right this time. Without fail, I always have a cold on New Years Eve so I ring in a new year with dulled senses and a box of Kleenex. Every year seems different, every year is the same. Hushed, dim, muted. Tree branch-bare and reaching—even the clouds lower and thicken, ear to the ground. Listening, always. That’s my Auld Lang Syne.

There’s something brewing in all of that stillness.

If I am open to the good—better yet (and possibly easier), if I slow my existing down to a savoring, to stillness, to listening: there’s the bang-up wonder of it all! Seek it, mark it, and miracle of miracles—there’s more of the stuff. Underneath joy? More joy. More love. More depth. More life in our living.

More to create, more to share.

Enjoy. There’s more.

The challenge is to not make enjoying its own resolution or rule. If I plan to stop each day to enjoy, then the act transforms into an unchecked box on an unfinished list: a failing. We’ve got to be in this together, reminding each other to enjoy. How?

By enjoying.

For me, I’m hanging up a roll of paper in our hallway. Nothing ornate, or complicated, just rough-hewn and simple. I’ll write, doodle, scrawl what I’ve enjoyed. As the paper crowds, I’ll be creating my own ever-growing reminder to enjoy enjoy enjoy. The hope is that my family and friends (and most of all I) will see it and add to it. Maybe daily, maybe hourly. No schedule, no pressure.

This year, I am going to enjoy my life. Because that’ll take effort and the payoff is going to be unreal: I’m pouring myself into relationships and challenges and opening up my anxious heart to life because that little word “enjoy?” I found out it means to GIVE JOY.  To give! Not to sit back and watch minutes and chores and opinion swirl around me willynilly. I get to give joy, I get to deepen my friendships, create new art, fill and be filled and fulfilled.

24 hours at a time. Again and again.