I have a neighbor, Nina, and I kid you not when I say that she is the bestest, most sweetest, most considerate neighbor in the world! We’ve lived in our house for 12 years and I regret to say that only recently have we actually gotten to know our neighbors. I suppose on could say that when your extrovert child stands on an open grill (RELAX! It isn’t in use anymore!!!) and has a discussion over the wall with the “fun lady next door,” you just kinda wanna know this person he’s already established a relationship with, no?
The thing that makes Nina special is not that she shares her excess produce with us or that she is patient and understanding that I have a rather inquisitive child who is determined to see what she’s up to on her back patio, it’s because of who she is…one of the most positive spirits I know. We’ve talked over time about this and that, in passing on our way from the car to the house and it’s always been a pleasant experience. We’ve bonded over the weeds in the front yard, summer heat, and talking about ditching the chemicals in our home for more health conscious, environmentally friendly alternatives. But it wasn’t until she delivered a bag of oranges to our front door with a cute little note on it that I thought, now this is a gal I’d like to know more of.
“Create a beautiful day!” is how she signed the card. So simple and so sweet. It’s a notion I’d been struggling with for a time and I was just coming to the realization that I am in control of certain things and not others. This served as confirmation of what we all know but we don’t know. Those things I am not in control of need to be shadowed in the reality that I can decide to end the day off on a beautiful note. And as Nina puts it, “No matter what happens in the day, no matter how cruddy it was, what if this is the last day of my life?” I don’t know about you, but put in that context…I’d want to go out with love, grace, joy (even in the midst of chaos or heartache), contentment, and gratitude. In the busyness of life, where materials and overworked bodies are becoming the norm and even celebrated, I look at my note on my desk and remind myself that when the tough days come, I can acknowledge them and then make a move to create beauty from that point on.
Perhaps Mommy woke up in a really grumpy mood for one reason or another, but dear Mommy: at any point in the day, you can choose to take a few moments to yourself, acknowledge the less-than-ideal day you’ve had, wash your face, and determine to change the trajectory of the outcome of your day. I like to start the day off going out back in the yard and checking on my plants. But by the middle of the day, the kids will have bombarded my ears with perpetual bickering and antagonizing. I still have the choice to either start feeding the flame or go outside, check on my plants again, snip some herbs for my dinner salad, and then come in mentally prepared to turn the situation around. It takes literally two minutes but even a short time away to decide how I’m going to respond in that situation makes a world of difference…and trust me, the bickering will still be there after I’m done putting my ‘tude into place. As parents, the kids rely on us to keep our wits about us when life seems to be going south, or even sideways, so showing them that it is possible to “turn that frown upside down” (insert teenage eyeroll here) is a life skill that will empower them to hopefully make wiser decisions later in life.
As Spring has arrived and many of us are performing our Spring Cleaning ritual, perhaps we can challenge ourselves to shed the burden of the nasty parts of our day and work to create beautiful surroundings, inspiring hope in our day and nurturing our sometimes weary hearts.
Oh! As for my friendly neighbor, we continue to pour into each other, exchanging lemons for oranges, zucchini and winter squash for bouquets of cilantro but most importantly, encouragement for encouragement. I hope and pray that you have people in your life who make your world a lovelier place and would love to hear about them if you do.
As always, stay safe and God bless!