A First Bit of Unsolicited Advice

Every now and again a newsletter or a friend will send me over to Kevin Kelly‘s website (hat tip to Tim Ferris’ newsletter for this gem). He has offered 68 bits of unsolicited advice as a token for his own birthday. Go have a gander. They will amuse if nothing else.

But I actually found myself surprised by certain snippets, and decided that they bore a greater discussion. Today’s tidbit: If you are looking for something in your house, and you finally find it, when you’re done with it, don’t put it back where you found it. Put it back where you first looked for it.

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My office. So many things lost and found here.

This one kind of blew my mind.

It is intuitive, yet breathtakingly unexpected. At least, it wasn’t obvious to me. Every time I have stumbled upon a sought for item my response is that I was simply mistaken in where that thing belonged.

BUT IT’S MY FREAKING HOUSE!! How can I possibly be wrong about where something in my own home “belongs?” Either the last person to use it didn’t put it back where it should have been, or I put it in the least logical place for that object. And thus, I must fix this situation so as to save time later.

If I had just taken a few minutes to return the quested for item to it’s most rational locale I would be cutting the hunt for it short the next time it’s in use. I mourn the number of hours this could have saved me, and exalt in the minutes to be gained in the future. I also anticipate a great deal of yelling at people who continue to “put stuff away” in obscure places, e.g. “Stop leaving the measuring cups in the silverware drawer. They are cups! THEY BELONG IN THE CUPBOARD!!”

Beyond the basics of where the duct tape got stashed, I wonder if we don’t also do this to our peace and happiness. A nature walk- ocean preferable but not required, an afternoon of quiet reading, a few golden hours spent building momentum on an important (not necessarily urgent) project, cloud watching, star gazing, cuddling under a blanket with someone I love, dancing in the kitchen to Mongolian folk metal (yeah, it’s a thing, go look up The Hu) are all pursuits that bring me deep satisfaction.

Yet after I’ve found them, often by accident rather than design, they get returned to drawers marked Later and When I Have Time and After the Work is Done. When I stumble upon such pleasures the relief is visceral, and makes me a much more bearable person to interact with. But they always get tucked back into the invisible spaces I discovered them.

Such precious commodities deserve pride of place at the top of To-Do lists. They should be visibly displayed on refrigerator doors with labels like Necessary, Do It Now, and Cannot Wait. These mindful daily loves are what make the rest of our lives worth living.

So the next time you find your bliss, thank Kevin Kelly, and put it in the first place you looked. It’ll be there waiting the next time you need it.

~Anika

The Magical Child Experience

I have some bizarre form of a stomach virus that only causes pain for about 18-24 hours and then goes its merry way. So last night while hovering around the bathroom just in case I heard a sound. It was a cross between a bird call, a metallic gonging like a Himalayan singing bowl, and the sort of glittering tinkle that is often associated with cartoon fairies. Being indisposed I was unable to investigate, but it was such a magical sound that I thought, “Some kid must be having a marvelous adventure. I hope it’s one of mine.” Yes, these are the sorts of thoughts I have while ill. I am totally willing to entertain the possibility that it was hallucinated.

But of course this thought led me to a second, “I wonder what Mum Pevensie, of the Chronicles of Narnia, would have thought of her children’s great romp in the wardrobe.”

I mean, mom and eventually dad were backdrop characters to the world of Narnia, though never really explored. Did she notice when her children returned to London from the country that Peter was significantly more self possessed, but also more willful, like an adult accustomed to making his own choices? Did she pick up on Susan’s mature demureness? Edmund’s new reverence? Lucy’s confidence? Did the transformation of years of experience in Narnia get chalked up to, “Well, aren’t they just growing in leaps and bounds?”

But how often to we as parents dismiss our children’s development as a matter of course, that inevitable progression that we all go through. How often do we blithely go about our days, maybe making note of a new trait, and then dismiss it without much thought at all?

I’m not suggesting that our kids are taking magical journeys behind our backs and we aren’t noticing. I’m saying we have an opportunity to celebrate small miracles in our daily parental slog.

When a three year old says, “No, I do it myself!” or a nine year old rolls their eyes at a request for the first time we have a choice– frustration or wonder. I’m not good at making this choice, though the above three year old was one such time. I too often chose to plant my feet in my own path without taking advantage of the vista before me. I have a view of my own childhood experiences and I can use that to marvel at how far I have come. I can dispense loving advice and recognition when those chances come.

Or I can be Chihiro’s parents from that bit of Studio Ghibli brilliance, Spirited Away. She blossoms in the days of adversity she experiences, and they don’t even notice. Their blindness not only gets them into trouble, but it keeps them from seeing the growth in their own daughter. As a kid watching such a movie I’m not sure I even noticed how dumb and self absorbed they were; to me they were just parents. Now as a parent I wonder what they could have been thinking and how does your kid go from, “I don’t want to move, I hate all of this,” to someone poised and ready to meet the new challenges that will come her way. She is in a sense a different person and her parents can’t even tell.

I wonder, as a mom of six, how often my kids undergo such metamorphosis and I don’t notice. How many times do I have the blinders of daily responsibility on so tight I cannot see the magic of my growing kids before me? Do I know them well enough to sense the changes coming or at least recognize them when they do?

I think from now on whenever I hear a magical, unplaceable sound I will hope it means my babies are experiencing an enchantment, and make a point of celebrating their moments of developmental transformation as the evidence of the fantastic they are. If I can increase my ratio of wonder to frustration perhaps this stupid virus and the attendant headache will be worth a little something.

Anika Goes to the Movies: Birthday Edition- Murder on the Orient Express

So it’s my birthday… and in honor thereof I have a very special review. Quick reviews: Birthday donuts 10% off- 5.5/5 stars Seeing a good movie with friends- 6/5 stars Murder on the Orient Express… All the stars!! Well, 4.8/5 … Continue reading