Become Your Life's Narrator

Coffee and a cake pop with sprinkles
While paying for a coffee at one of my favorite cafes, I was handed a cake pop out of nowhere. "Two-year anniversary!" The owner was beaming. The cake was red velvet.

Do you get that feeling sometimes, when you're reading a really well-written book, that the people in that story just have such beautiful, rich lives? There are warm tomatoes off the vine, morning sun streaming into pleasantly messy kitchens, steaming-hot fish and chips, and companionable silences. Sometimes I read scenes with those sorts of things and think, "Man. I wish my life were like that." Know what I mean? There's just something so pleasant about the seemingly ordinary things when you read about them in a novel. A hot cup of coffee—even without being minutely described—becomes something special. Bread turns into something unforgettable. Dappled sunlight seems magical. I could go on, but I think you might know what I mean.

The silly thing is, I get the same feeling if I read a not-so-recent page from a journal. My life seems so nice in retrospect! I get those appreciative feelings from my "present moment" life pretty often, but not as often as I'd like. This is something I've been thinking about for some time, but it's been so under the radar I hadn't even really realized it until I came across this passage in Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project

I’d been spending a lot of time thinking about trying to be more grateful. Then one hot Sunday afternoon, when we were at the pool with Jamie’s parents, Eliza said to me, “You know what I was just thinking? ‘I’m in the pool, it’s summer, I’m seven years old, I’m wearing a very cute bathing suit, and my grandmother is asking me if I want anything to eat or drink.’” By which she meant: Life doesn’t get better than this. “I know exactly what you mean,” I replied.

— Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

Being grateful isn't really the key here, to me. To capture that quotidian feeling of magic, it's about shifting our perspective. Sometimes that might even mean moving from first person to third person—that is, instead of experiencing life in that sometimes-blurry way we all experience, we can step outside ourselves and imagine how we'd see this moment from the point of view of our future selves, our past selves, or even that of a stranger. (Ok, this is starting to sound nuts. Bear with me.) Back to my journal example—taking the time to think about how we would describe or narrate what's happening at a specific moment gives us the space and wider view necessary to really appreciate what's going on. Some might call it "being in the moment" or "being present," but those phrases aren't as effective as thinking of myself as the narrator of my life. The title alone suggests a certain power and wiseness that I just plain like.

For me, right now, it's late morning, and I'm still in my pajamas. I woke with the sun instead of my alarm clock (heaven), and I've just had a fruit smoothie that was packed with strawberries and peaches. The freshly brewed coffee I've been sipping is steaming, and I'm already excited for tonight, when I'll be bundled up, cruising around the bay with friends, watching the city lights pass by.

Sounds great to me—but only now that I've written it! Even special days can sometimes get lost in the rush of perpetual thought-avalanches like Will I need a jacket? Is this a mainly outside sort of thing, or will we stay inside the boat? Ugh, I hope I have enough clean clothes to layer up. I reaaaalllly don't like being cold! As I sit here, my day might seem mundane, but when I write it out, it seems much more special. Keeping a journal or commonplace book is great for this, but it's also something to begin as a mental practice. Become your life's narrator. Magic ensues!

In other exciting news, remember my creative goals for this year? I may have found a new band to love. I'm not sure yet, though, so you can't meet them. *blushes* We're just taking things slow right now. (My heart beats so fast when this one song comes on!) Maybe I'll introduce you once things get more serious.

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