In October 2014, I participated in a 31 day writing challenge, and in this series, I explored how to find joy and inspiration in my ordinary life. This series marked a real turning point for me in terms of my photography and my creative life in general. Through the process of writing these posts – the reading, the studying, the exploration – it gave me a sense of direction and helped me to sort of hone my creative vision.
This idea that there is beauty and magic and joy and wonder to be found in ordinary life – it’s not just a clever tagline for my blog, it has become a way of life for me. And it has made all the difference.
Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are. ~Jose Ortega y Gasset
When I first discovered calligraphy and decided I would try to my hand at it, the first thing I did was scour the internet for helpful websites. Then I bought a couple of books. Then I started following inspiring calligraphers on Instagram. And because I’m me, I created an entire pinterest board of beautiful calligraphy.
Please…don’t say it…i know…
Anyway, since I’ve been focusing (pun intended) on calligraphy for the past several months, now it seems like I see calligraphy everywhere…from the sign on the hair place down the street, to the packaging on my favorite brand of coffee, to the design on the t-shirt that Tripp’s mom brought him back from her cruise. Calligraphy is hardly a new thing, but because I started paying attention to it, my world seems to be filled with it.
The same phenomenon holds true with my interest in obsession with monarch butterflies. Since I started studying their miraculous life cycle and their even more amazing annual southern migration, every September I start looking for them. And as expected, every day for the past couple of weeks I see at least one of these winged wonders everywhere I go. In fact, one night last week as as Tripp and I were getting home from our run, we saw seven!
I’m going to venture a guess that it is not just in the past three years that monarch butterflies started making their way through my neck of the woods on their to journey to Mexico. So my seeing them everywhere (in my neighborhood, along my running trail, at the garden center) has very little to do with them and everything to do with me paying attention.
I think this same phenomenon holds true with life in general. Whatever we focus on is what we tend to see.
From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. ~John 1:16
A few years ago, as I approached my long-dreaded empty nest, the nagging fear in the back of my mind was that the best years of my life were coming to an end. That motherhood was my only calling. That life would not be nearly as meaningful without my daughter home as the object of my vocation.
After one particularly melodramatic empty-nest meltdown, I decided that i was going to make a conscious decision to look for the good things in my life that didn’t directly involve motherhood. Things that made me happy for no other reason than that they made me happy. Find a way to enjoy my life.
It’s amazing what happens when you start counting your blessings.
Ann Voskamp wrote an entire book about counting her blessings – 1000 of them to be exact. And in her book One Thousand Gifts Ann says,
“I am a hunter of beauty and I move slow and I keep the eyes wide, every fiber of every muscle sensing all wonder and this is the thrill of the hunt and I could be an expert on the life full, the beauty meat that lurks in every moment.”
Paying attention takes practice. For me it requires that i s l o w d o w n. Stop rushing through my to-do list and just stop. Be present. And it is a constant struggle for me…I work on it every blessed day. But oh the joy when I get it right.
Because joy is the gift of paying attention.