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if this isn’t nice, i don’t know what is

Lately my heart has felt near to splitting its seams. It’s partly because this is my first Christmas far from my family. It’s also the Newtown tragedy, and the polar ice caps melting, and the slowly subsiding pain in my body. Lately the world’s immeasurable sadness has been crowding the margins of my neat little life.

My friends and I often catch ourselves in the midst of complaining about our jobs or busy schedules. “First world problems,” we wryly observe. But I feel the sadness of my privileged time and place, too. I can’t be the only one struggling to hear the music of the season above the drone of my mental to-do list. I’m alive and I’m well, and so are my loved ones. If I could just stop rushing around, maybe I’d sense what a gift that is.

Am I stressed because my desk is such a mess or is my desk a mess because I'm stressed?

This morning as I packed up gifts and food and clothing for our Christmas with David’s family in Rowley, I cued up a Tara Brach podcast called Committing to Joy. She quoted André Gide: “Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.”

So that was my goal for the day. Never mind global warming. Never mind all the monumental and miniscule heartbreaks that loom so large in my imagination. Today I determined to take Kurt Vonnegut’s advice: “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”

Playing outside with nephew Jack. Taking in the sweet-smelling trees and his imperturbable exuberance and the fact that I was running around without pain.

Jack & me

Watching Jack refuse to let David up until he sang a song.

David had to sing the ABCs before Jack would relent

Delicious food with beloved people.

Jack, Ally & David at dinner

Board games.

the family gathers round the Uncle Wiggily board game

Eliza’s first Christmas.

Eliza joyfully clutches an Uncle Wiggily game piece while Mom Becca looks on

Not enough hooks for the stockings.

So many stockings!

I thought it again and again. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

3 thoughts on “if this isn’t nice, i don’t know what is”

  1. Oh wow, Hannah, this is just beautiful. I love Tara Brach’s podcasts too. I do believe that her words and her talks have kept me sane and blessed these last several years since I discovered her! Did you know she has a new book coming out very soon? Thank you for your beautiful writing, which indeed is full of GRACE!

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