Enjoying the little things

July 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Lately I feel that I’ve needed a reminder of how to enjoy the little things. Below is a list of this week’s little things. Although it’s intended primarily as a sort of note-to-self, I do hope my readers are inspired to remember their own enjoyable little things.

1. First week of school
Deceptively stressful, but subtly enjoyable. My previous entry recounts the butterflies I felt ten minutes before walking into my classroom for the first time this summer. Two hours after that post, I left campus feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and unsure. My confidence was shaken because I spent the full ninety minutes yammering on and on about classroom policies. Our room was uncomfortably warm, and I could tell that 45 minutes into the class I was losing them. I worried. On the second day, we discussed The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the day was only marginally better. By Wednesday, I was answering “I just don’t know about this crew” when asked about my class. We’ve completed a single week, and I know about this crew. This is a good group. It’s a strange semester, a grueling workload, and an uncomfortable classroom. But these are good people. This is where I find the enjoyment. My students are working with a new class project (they don’t know they’re actually piloting it), and it’s going incredibly well. I hesitate to reveal it on this blog, but suffice to say they are writing a great deal more (three times a week) and interacting with each other’s writing a great deal more than my students ever have in my previous classes. I’m enjoying this because their writing is slowly improving; it’s insightful, funny, entertaining. I feel like I’m getting to know them better than classes in the past, and we’re only five days into the semester.

2. Dissertation accomplishments
One of my friends, who is also ABD and slogging through her own dissertation, made a great point the other day: “ANYTHING being done is awesome!!!!!!” No, I didn’t write an entire chapter in a single sitting. But I wrote. I made progress. I feel I’ve misrepresented myself in an alarming way through this entire process. I came to this realization when talking to my mom last weekend. She sounded concerned with whether or not I was getting work done. This is a fair concern, considering I haven’t really explained what I’ve been up to these past few months. The work I’ve been completing has been substantial (to my standards at least), in spite of the fact that I haven’t been writing much. Instead, I’ve been researching. I’ve done a great deal of research in the past several months, and I hope that once I sit down to compile it all into a cohesive chapter, that research will be evident. I’m proud of the work I have done and excited for the work to come. I’m learning to look at the dissertation as pieces of a whole rather than as a single 300-page tome. As I said, I enjoy that I’ve done work, and I’m learning to pat myself on the back.

3. Learning to relax and have fun
Sometimes when I’m overwhelmed with the stressors of graduate school or of teaching or of life in general, I have to make a conscious effort to relax and have fun. I actually do believe it’s something I have to learn to do. Today, Robert and I spent the fourth of July at the lake with his family and my cousin (who’s dating my brother-in-law). Before everyone arrived, Robert and I hung out with each other on the floating dock. I dipped my feet in (I’ve shrunk out of my bathing suit and haven’t replaced it) while Robert swam around…until the little fishies attacked him one time too many. He also talked me into riding the SeaDoo with him. In the three years that we’ve been together, he’s attempted to get me on the SeaDoo every single time we’ve gone to the lake. For two of those years, my herniated disk and subsequent surgery were reasons enough to keep away. Today, however, I realized that I as all out of excuses! So, I hiked up my skirt, straddled my husband, and clung to him like a koala bear while screaming like a little girl on the SeaDoo. I have literally never been on a jet ski in my life, so I didn’t know to expect the bumps and banks. I eventually stopped screaming and started squealing and laughing (although Robert wasn’t able to reach the speed he really wanted to because I begged him to slow down). We finally agreed that I just needed to learn to relax and have fun. I think it’ll take practice. Maybe the next time he takes me on the SeaDoo I won’t be as scared.

4. Cleaning out my closet
The clothes, towels, shoes, and sundry other items had slowly and steadily sieged my once walk-in closet, to the point that I could only open the door wide enough to stick in an arm to reach in and hope I grabbed what I was aiming for. Yesterday, it needed to be handled. I was surprised that it took me only an hour and a half to tackle the beast. Now that it’s finished, though, I am happy to walk in my closet, stand there to look for a specific outfit item, and feel relaxed while doing it. I’ve always been a believer in the concept that one’s home is a reflection of one’s state of mind. My mind has been cluttered, overwhelmed, and generally inaccessible. Now that my closet is clean (and the rest of my home is clean and organized), I feel like my mind is relaxed and ready to think through other, more important matters (like a dissertation).

5. A new dishwasher and the cleanest dishes ever
Our dishwasher, the one that must have come with the duplex itself (and therefore could be around 15 years old), officially went kaput this past week. It basically stopped flipping the soap dispenser open…so our dishes were sometimes cleaned and sometimes weren’t. We were wasting soap and water on multiple loads just to wash a single load of dishes. So, when we felt like we couldn’t stand it any more, we talked to our landlords (Robert’s parents) about investing in a new duplex dishwasher. Thank goodness there’s a tax credit right now, too! Our new dishwasher isn’t the bottom-of-the-line, but it’s not top-of-the-line either. But it’s a good, sturdy, large capacity Kenmore and we’re in love. It’s super quiet, cleans our dishes the first time, and is extremely easy to use. We are so completely grateful that his parents were able to help in that way, because lord knows we couldn’t have done it on our own. Yet another benefit to renting rather than owning a home in the first couple of years of marriage!

6. Getting back to basics…in the kitchen
For the past couple of months, we haven’t been able to cook as regularly as we had been. We have been blessed with family gatherings and vacations because of graduation, our anniversary, and my sister’s wedding. It has been a month just absolutely chock-full of wonderful food and meals provided for us. And, trust me, we have been so grateful for every moment and every bite. Our finances are tight this summer, so the less we spend on groceries, the easier it is on our budget. But now that our schedules have slowed down, we realize that it’s time to get back to our previous cooking schedule. Robert taught me how to grill last weekend, which really opened my culinary horizons. We’ve felt better because we’re back to our previous diets (meaning daily dietary consumption, not prescribed and prohibitive eating schedule). I enjoy cooking with my husband because he teaches me little tricks to boost my confidence, and he’s always so complimentary about my meals (which also boosts my confidence). I love him. And I love being in the kitchen with him. It’s my second favorite room to be in with him. 😉

7. Getting back to basics…in the gym
Now that I’m back home and back to a schedule, I’ve resumed my previous workout schedule. I’ve had to make some alterations to allow for class in the middle of the day (for instance, I’ve had to stop going to morning yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which actually makes me sad), but I have been able to resume my RPM classes as well as my personal training. I’m still losing weight and have made a new goal for myself. I would like to lose 20 more pounds by my next birthday (September 20th). I’ve already lost a total of 21 pounds, which would put my overall goal by my birthday to be 41 pounds. I believe in myself and my goal, and I’m so happy I can get back to the gym. My muscles actually felt good to be pushed again–my heart especially. It feels great to sweat and to feel the heart pump hard. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m grateful for my body’s strength and ability.

So, those are the little things that have given me enjoyment this week. I’ll admit that it was a little bit of a struggle to come up with seven (one for every day of the week, you know), but I was able to think of something when I gave myself a moment to think. I truly encourage you, my readers, to pay attention to the little things that give you enjoyment. Especially if you find yourself overwhelmed or in a place of depression right now. Remembering that we’re blessed even in little ways can help us all refocus our attention on what’s truly important.

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