Feasting: Joy, Happiness & Pop Star Wisdom

Much to my shock and utter surprise, I was asked to be the guest speaker for a local MOPS (Moms Of Preschoolers) group. According to MOPS.org

MOPS is a grassroots movement that believes moms are world influencers.

We also believe that incubating hearts and giving just-because-hugs can change the course of history. That’s why we connect moms all over the world to a community of women, in their own neighborhoods, who meet together to laugh, cry and embrace the journey of motherhood. MOPS groups are rallying women to be more honest, to feel more equipped and to find our identity by journeying along side one another.

We are moms, and we believe that better moms make a better world.

Pretty fantastic, right? And in case you don’t know, better moms DO make a better world. If you are a mother of preschoolers, or really of any age children, I strongly encourage you to check out the MOPS organization in your area.

I was humbled to speak in front of a room full of world influencers. I’ll admit I was nervous. It’s a helluva lot easier to “speak” here on my blog, than it is to stand in front of a room full of women who’ve given up part of their morning to hear what I have to say. I’m not sure it was world influencing, but it was honest. If nothing else, I hope it was positive and perhaps a new perspective on the subject.

Here is what (the general sentiment…I tend to ramble when I’m nervous) I had to say about feasting

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When I set out to put together this little talk, I was sure I knew where I was going with it. I’d been given my topic: feasting. I did a little research as to how feasting might relate to this group—a collection of mothers of preschoolers. I had it all figured out. I would talk about feasting on joy and happiness. I outlined my points, and I was ready to go.

Then, like it happens so often, I was thrown a nugget of delicious, juicy, wisdom when I least expected it.

Recently my ten-year-old daughter cashed in her Christmas gift from last year—four tickets to see Taylor Swift in concert. She chose to bring her sister, a friend, and yours truly. I like to think she would’ve chosen me given any alternatives. Whether or not this is wishful (or even delusional) thinking is something we aren’t going to explore today.

Anyway, we were about mid-way through the concert when Ms. Swift took the stage behind an all-glass piano, wearing a cascading ivory dress. She was flawless in her sparkles and red lipstick. I mean, truly stunning. She played several measures and then she said…

“When I first started in the music industry, I was fourteen. All my mentors, they always told me the same thing. Every one of them said to me, ‘Don’t let any of this pass you by.’ It seemed like simple enough advice. Right?” She shrugged, and continued delicately playing keys. “Well, I’ve been doing this for over ten years now, and only recently did I really understand what they were telling me. You see, to me, the thing I think we don’t realize is…happiness is fleeting. It isn’t something constant. It comes in glimmers and it is up to us to take the time to recognize it when it shows up. So one day in the future, when I’m having a low-self esteem day, or whatever, I’ll remember this moment. The moment of pure happiness when I spent my Saturday night with fifteen thousand fans who knew every word to every song and who all decided to spend their night with me. If I take this moment, in the moment, and I recognize it—tell you all how it is I feel, then I’m not letting it pass me by. Thank you for being here.”

The music picked up and she went into full-on pop-star mode. Ripped off her skirt, stood in a body hugging all-glitter cat suit and rocked out to one of her various record-breaking hits.

I sat in my seat stunned.

First of all, Taylor Swift has low-self esteem days?

Say what?!? Umkay…that is kind of…fresh, and relatable, and downright fantastic for her to admit to an event center full of primarily young, impressionable fans…and low-self-esteem-day-having-mommas.

And she is wise.

There is so much wisdom in her words, friends. Happiness is fleeting. It comes in unexpected. While we’re distracted, it flies by and shares its beauty—all bright colors and delicate perfection. And it disappears just as quickly as it comes. It is only by stopping and recognizing it that we can be sure we don’t miss it all together.

I looked over at the three girls in the seats next to me. They were on their feet, shouting out every lyric, feasting on that moment of delirious happiness.tswift three

It was most certainly not passing any of us by. Feasting on the joy of that moment was precious, magical, and…easy.

Easy because, it’s not difficult to feast on designated “special” moments. Those three little girls could barely contain their anticipation leading up to the concert. They were putting off electric currents of happiness. If nervous, jittery, pre-teen joy could feed hungry bellies, all of Denver would’ve been fed.

 

What about all the other moments? How do we recognize opportunities to feast on joy when the kids are incessantly fighting, when no one has any clean underwear? How do we recognize a chance to feast when the nagging voice of worry—about health, or finances, relationships, or worry about the general state of the world—is louder than any other sound in life?

This is where it gets tough. This is where feasting upon happiness becomes something much easier said than done. Honestly, I’m not sure I have the answer to this conundrum.

you dont know

I don’t have a simple answer, or quick formula for making life easier. Life is hard. That’s just the truth.

What I do understand is this…

We truly appreciate a feast when we’ve been made to experience a fast. 

I really don’t like pickles. I mean, I detest biting into a well-made sandwich only to be revoltingly disappointed by the tang of a dill pickle laying in wait. I’ve been known to turn my nose up at a perfectly good lunch because it’s been tainted by dill pickles.

About a year and a half ago, I was in a hospital in Mexico with my sixteen-month-old son. We were booted off our cruise ship so he could be hospitalized for dehydration and an unknown source of fever. My mom and I sat in his tiny hospital room for the better part of two days doing our best to speak coherent Spanish and praying my little guy would be healthy enough to fly home without further complications. It was hospital policy to provide meals for only the patient. As there was no cafeteria, and no restaurants near by, my mom and I were made to wait for food until we left the hospital…two and a half days after my son was admitted. IMG_2753

What I would’ve given for a dill pickle by the end of day two.

When I watched my tiny boy sleeping on our hotel bed the night before we flew home, I feasted on the most delicious chicken quesadilla I’d ever tasted…and I feasted on luscious happiness. As any mother knows, there is a unique quality of joy a mom experiences seeing a once sick child healthy again.

Happiness may be fleeting, but it is a frequent guest where invited. 

Earlier, I used language that likened happiness to a hummingbird. I love that metaphor. If you’ve ever tried to bring in hummingbirds, you know it takes some work. You can buy a feeder, mix up a solution of sugar and water, and put the feeder in the yard. With a little luck, the birds will make their way to you. It’s far better to grow “humming bird plants”. These nectar-producing plants provide the birds with the nutrients they need, thus they’re more easily compelled to visit a yard with such inviting flowers. With the extra effort, and lets all be honest—growing anything takes effort, you summon not only those gorgeous little birds, but you’ll benefit from the enjoyment the flowers too.

Happiness is like that. It tends to visit where it’s been invited in. The more effort put into creating a space for it, the more it comes around. And it has the capability to exponentially beautify the space it occupies.

While everyone enjoys a feast, not everyone feasts alike. 

While we are all working to invite in glimpses of happiness and respecting our times of fasting will only richen our feasts, I think it’s equally as important we also recognize each person’s feast is a private menu for one.

In preparation for this talk, I asked several of my female friends to email me a description of their own private feast for one. Here are a few of the responses I received:

My solo feast would contain all the fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices of the world, every colour, texture and aroma you can imagine! I would use, blend and mix to create the tastiest international dishes we have come to know… And then some!

Bagels, cream cheese, lox and very fresh, ripe tomatoes; fried or roasted potatoes; some kind of very tasty breakfast meat; and iced coffee with lots and lots of milk and sugar.

I would need sushi at a feast for myself. No one in the house enjoys it but me.

My feast would require a perfectly rare filet, wine, and chocolate in at least three forms.

I think the responses speak for themselves. Too often we are pulled into the quicksand of comparing our lives to those around us, when really there is nothing to compare. There is no check-list or measuring stick for happiness. It’s just as likely that as diverse as these feasts appear to be, so too will be the diversity of our unique moments of joy and happiness.

Moreover, as different and varied as joy may be for each of us, we each experience those fleeting moments with equal bliss. We are each worthy of our moments, and every one is equally important and valid.

I’ve been doing this life thing for thirty-four years now. I might not know much, but I know Taylor Swift is right in this case. Life will pass you by whether you’re paying attention or not, and happiness is fleeting. And while I don’t usually take my life advice from pop stars, I think in this situation I will do just that.