Life Lessons From My Dog: Taking Joy In the Little Things

All it takes is one look at my little girl Peanut to know she has a happy life. She beams her joy from every tuft of hair on her body. It is as unmistakable as the smile on her face. I wish I could take all of the credit for her exuberance in life, but it would be like me taking credit for the brightness of the sun or for the sparkle of an expertly cut diamond. My baby girl shines as brilliantly as she does because she takes joy in the little things in life, and she actively seeks it with every ounce of energy she has.

My little girl can take the mundane in life and turn it into something marvelous. She writes about it on her blog. It doesn’t matter to her if I buy her the most expensive toy in the store or the most dazzling haute couture on the web. She is just as easily entertained by a ‘happy sock’ pulled from the laundry basket (clean or dirty – it makes little difference to her), and she acts as if she is adorned like a princess if she is wearing an ugly sweater I crocheted myself. Don’t worry, it is not a task I attempt often. The point is, Peanut finds everything in her world to be marvelously made and wondrous to behold.

And don’t make the mistake of believing my little girl is some ‘dumb dog’ who doesn’t know any better. She is in truth perhaps the wisest person I know, because she has enough sense to take joy in the little things in life and savor each moment as if it was a miracle. She performs this ritual of joy and joyness every day, in everything she does. She is the Martha Stewart of dogdom. She can make a toy out of anything….a used dryer sheet, a cardboard paper towel tube (or doopty-doo as we call them), a sock, a leaf, a tag from just about anything, a scrunchie pulled fresh from my hair. Each one has had their day in the spotlight. She can make a happy moment no matter where she is or who she is with. And so as I watch her and delight in her silly-billy ways as I call them, I learn from her and try to apply a bit of her joyful wisdom to my own life.

So what does that mean as a writer? How can I apply this ‘happy sock’ mentality to my every day living? Maybe it is not the best idea to pull my socks off in public and start whipping them around. That might be the moment they call the men in white coats to come and take me away. What I can do, however, is try to take the joy in the little things, and when the little joys seem few and far between, I can actively look for those joys and hunt them down if necessary.

I will give you an example….as practical an example as I can offer and one which came up just the other day. I was having a discussion with a writer friend of mine and made a comment about wishing my sales were better for my first novel, especially since there is no threat of me quiting my day job any time soon. It was one of those offhanded remarks, but the answer I received made me stop and think. He said, “the (sales) will ALWAYS be smaller than you like. I’m sure Stephen King wishes the other 20% of earth’s population would buy his books like the first 80% have. What matters is that you HAVE numbers. If you’ve sold one copy of your book to a total stranger who bought it because they were intrigued enough to part with real actual money, you’re a million light years ahead of the person who’s still fretting about whether or not they should write a book.” It was my happy sock reminder.

As a writer, there are times when I feel a little impatient for my happy-ever-after-someday to catch up to me. Any writer worth their salt hopes…….prays even……that one day, they get to  do the one thing they love to do for a living and actually make a good living doing it. No one wants to live out of a cardboard box while they are writing the next great novel. So it can be hard waiting…….. But there is joy to be found in the little things, like my Peanut has shown me.

Joy number 1 – I wrote a novel! Whoo hoo!
Joy number 2 – People are voluntarily reading that novel and paying good, hard-earned money to do so! (If that’s not a happy sock moment, I don’t know what is.)
Joy number 3 – The novel was good enough, they are asking about the second one! (It just keeps getting better and better!)
Joy number 4 – I can now afford to buy myself a few more happy socks and scrunchies for my dog to play with.
Joy number 5 – I have just begun my adventures in writing. It can only get better from here.

Life is filled with baby steps, whether you are venturing out into the world for the first time as a novelist, making preparation for a big presentation at work, or running for congress for the ninetieth time. The road itself from start to finish can feel like a daunting path, but there are plenty of joys to be savored along the way – little joys that help lighten the moments when our burdens feel heavier than we would like.

When my heart begins to feel the strain of the journey, I think of Peanut and remember to look for the little joys along the way. Some days it may be harder than others, but I have discovered, the more I seek my little joys, the more able I am to find them when I need them the most. And when I am find myself in greatest need, I look to Peanut….my greatest joy of all.

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