I was rereading a perennial favourite book (Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott) and the following quote jumped out at me:
Of course this could not last, and disappointment was inevitable, because young eyes look for a Paradise and weep when they find a workaday world which seems full of care and trouble till one learns to gladden and glorify it with high thoughts and holy living.
This resonates (despite a slight bristle at the religious word “holy”, preferring to think of its etymological roots of “whole” or “health”) because I live very much in a workaday world full of care and trouble. And yet, I do think it is possible to “gladden and glorify” it. That is a large part of what Happy Parent UK is about – defining the ‘high thoughts and holy living’ that make life happier.
In the book, our heroine finds her high thoughts and holy living in wise words, charitable works, ongoing self betterment, and the love and friendship of those dear to her. And in fact, this is very much the same recipe I find in my life —
— time with my sons, connecting with my husband, appreciating my family and feeling awe at each person’s individual strengths and beauty
— beautiful stories that remind me of the worth of life, empathising with characters real and imagined
— ongoing self-reflection and improvement, reading and reflecting, feeling myself grow into a better version of myself, whilst showing myself compassion when I misstep or yield to temptations
— time in nature, eating whole foods, enjoying simple pleasures, enjoying the effort of honest work and helping others
The “holy life” needn’t be defined by anyone but ourselves. I experience it as an aspiration, not a stick with which to beat myself.
I can tell what activities and behaviours represent the holy life for me by how they feel: a deep sense of satisfaction and contentment.
This doesn’t mean it is always easy to do.
I am still tempted by numbing behaviours that take me away from what matters. For me this looks like a few minutes on Facebook on my phone (often being judgemental- of politicians, of Brexiteers, of people in my newsfeed) or with food (aka the post bedtime gorge). It can look like busying myself with various tasks that distract me from what matters.
I hope by identifying the holy life and carrying this idea around with me, succinctly encapsulated in these words, I might remind myself when I feel the temptation to numb, so I can better gladden and glorify my workaday world.