Like many people, I've had a lot of struggles in my life. I've had years where my writing career has been successful, and years when I struggled to make rent every month. There was the year my mother got sick, and the year my sister got a divorce. There was the year I was passed over for a fellowship I both wanted and needed, and the year I took on a holiday retail job that ended up lasting until June.
Now that I'm in my 40s, I am much more grateful about the little things -- the small pieces of my life that I would once have overlooked but now recognize as significant experiences.
Here are a few of them for you:
Seeing my books in the "local authors" section
I don't know if I'll ever write a bestseller, but I am extremely grateful every time I walk into my neighborhood bookstore and see my books stacked in the "local authors" section. I worked hard to write my three novels, and being able to share them with people in my community is important to me.
Participating in Relay For Life with my mother
My mom became a cancer survivor five years ago. Now she and I make sure to participate in one of Seattle's Relay For Life events every year. As she and I walk around the track and the sun slowly slips down, as the luminarias begin to twinkle and the children dart around us, laughing, we talk about her breast cancer struggle and how well she has recovered. We talk about health, and family, and life, and love. It's one of the happiest and most emotional experiences we share.
Having enough possessions to require a moving service
Between grad school, writers' workshops, caring for my mother, and other experiences, I moved a lot during my 20s and 30s. Because of that, I rarely had enough belongings to fill my Ford Focus. I slept on secondhand couches and secondhand beds, leaving them behind as I rattled from place to place.
I'm moving again this year, but this time it's for good reasons. This is also the first time I've searched for moving companies, because it's the first time I've lived in one place long enough to accumulate enough stuff. I had no idea it would be so simple -- they not only pack up my boxes and carry them out to the moving truck, but I also hired a maid service to give my apartment a final, thorough cleaning. It's so thrilling to be able to sit back and relax and let someone else take care of the work.
My new home
I'm moving to a modest house in Seattle's Mt. Baker neighborhood. It has just enough rooms for me and my work, and it's the first home I've owned that's truly mine. It's close to a branch library and a metro stop, and if I walk just a little bit I get a beautiful view of Lake Washington.
Coffee and biscuits at Geraldine's Counter
Once a week, I walk down to Columbia City and enjoy breakfast at Geraldine's Counter. Getting to see those familiar faces and enjoy a delicious cup of coffee is always a treat, as is Geraldine's delicious, fluffy biscuits.
Having time to write every day
I do a lot of freelance work online, which also gives me freedom to write every day. My fourth novel is looking for a publisher, and I'm hard at work on my fifth. Getting to spend every day with characters who continually interest and surprise me is one of the best experiences of my life.
Watching my sister's children grow
I get to spend a day with my nieces about once a month, and every time I visit them I'm astonished at how much they've grown. They're five and seven years old now, active in school and learning all about the world around them. I'm a proud auntie and so grateful to get to know these amazing, precious young people.
What about you? What are the experiences that bring you great joy? We all have some, both the ones we identify right away and the ones we tend to overlook, but would miss if they disappeared. Make a list like mine, and you'll have a source of joy and energy to rely on no matter what life brings you.