I just decided to walk home from work, instead of taking the bus. It turned out to be the perfect 25 minutes to formulate this blog post.
The question is, how do we keep things fresh and new? How do we continue to appreciate/love/care for something or someone when those initial feelings start fading? I was thinking about this because as I was walking in the misty rain, with clouds hanging low over me (yes, in my books, those are all good things), I suddenly got a flash-back. I could recall doing a similar walk, around two years ago, when I’d first moved to Vancouver. And I remembered feeling a certain awe towards the city. For the adorable houses I was passing, the tall trees meeting each other over the middle of the streets, and all the different greenery I was passing by.
And who could forget the mountains. Wow! I just couldn’t stop looking at them. I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to live in a city that had snow-capped mountains in clear view almost anywhere you were.
I also remember riding on the bus once, as it went over one of the bridges from the main part of the city into downtown. As you go over these bridges, there is an absolutely awesome view of the city, the water, the mountains… It takes your breath away. Well… it took my breath away. At the time, I looked around the bus – quickly so as not to take my eye off the view for longer than necessary – and noticed that I was almost the only one purposely looking out the bus windows. Almost everyone else was just looking at each other, down, reading or whatever. I remember wondering, “How long it takes before you stop looking?”
I’ve been here for two-and-a-half years. I still look up but it’s more of a conscious effort. And though I still think the mountains are beautiful, they only really excite me under certain circumstances. Like, if the clouds are hanging over them in a specific way – I love when you can see mountain above and below the clouds but not in the middle – or if they’re showing for the first time in a few days during the winter, so you get to see the new snowfall on them.
But going back to my walk home today, I got a glimpse of the feelings I had when Vancouver was still new to me and now I looked around wondering, “How does one keep the new feeling? What can we do in order to continue feeling excited about something?”
As I walked, I came across different things – a tree that never fully shed its leaves (“Why did you stop half way down?” I wanted to ask it), a red-breasted bird hopping along someone’s front lawn, the tall, bare trees lining a street, the mountains inconspicuously peeking out from all the clouds that have overtaken the city today – and each thing helped me add a rule to the list I’m about to share with you. These are the things I believe can help us continue to appreciate the things and people we have in our lives. You’ll see that not all of these things work in all situations but I’d guess that most do in most situations. So, let’s call this list:
How to continue to love life’s blessings (sorry, I’m feeling sappy today, must be all the trees I just saw – oy, I’m corny today, too, must be… OK, I’ll stop):
1. Be conscious
This is a more general rule that, the next rules follow. In non-Jewish weddings, people often promise to love each other forever. But I wonder if there should not be an assumption that the love will naturally continue on its own inertia. We shouldn’t just leave our feelings to chance. We need to be conscious of what we’re thinking and feeling because if we stay unconscious of our feelings, then one day we may realize they ran away without us realizing. What I mean is, one day you might say (God forbid) “I woke up one day and suddenly realized I don’t love her anymore.” There was a process there, of days, months, weeks and years. We can work on the process and, to a certain extent, direct it, but we must be conscious of it in order to do that.
2. Get to know it/the person more in depth
Often, the more we learn about something or someone, the more we appreciate or love it. And also, it will stay interesting to you, which will make you pay attention to it and care about it.
3. Take a break
According to Jewish law, a husband and wife are not supposed to touch for two weeks out of the month. One woman once told me that she swears by this. She is amazed how it has kept her and her husband’s relationship alive and well. Sometimes stepping away from something and then looking back with a fresh mind, helps us to appreciate what we have.
4. Pay attention to details
So I think I already know Vancouver? Well, now I don’t have to worry about getting lost (OK, I never did – it’s such an easy city) so I can focus on the little things. Today I was noticing the interesting bark on the different trees I passed by. And the way the Greek Orthodox Church’s blue roof peeked over the house rooftop. There is probably always more to get to know. I wonder if that is always true with people. Does there come a point where you have nothing left to learn about your spouse?
5. Give to it
Giving generally feels good and makes you feel more open to liking things. As I was walking, an older man and, what looked like his son, were jogging towards me. They were trying so hard, especially the dad, and so as they went by me, I said, “Good for you!” and the older man said, “Thanks!”
It was so small but it made me feel good. I live in Friendlyville (that’s Vancouver’s other name, for those who didn’t realize). I gave some friendly energy into the city and, call me crazy, but it made me feel good about the city. Immediately afterwards, I looked at the big public school I was walking by, and I looked at the plants alongside the school, and I just thought how wonderful it all is.
6. Don’t talk to the wrong people
This is so important! Oh my gosh, how affected we are by what people say. When I first moved here, I by mistake spoke to someone who hates Vancouver. Especially since I was just “off the boat” and extremely vulnerable and scared of being in a new place, I think I never totally got over the negative things they said that day. It still upsets me when I think about it! It is so important that we choose who we associate with, connect to and befriend because that will have the biggest affect on our thoughts and feelings. An example of people affecting your feelings is when someone comes to visit. Don’t you find that you show them around and their enthusiasm for the place reignites yours?
7. Generally work on being happy and appreciative
The more we work on generally being happy people, the more we’ll just feel good about the specific things in our lives. I feel like this one is pretty obvious so I’ll leave it at that.
Those are the points I thought of on my walk home from work today. I’m sure there are other things we can do to keep our lives, well, alive, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you have anything else to add to this list?
P.S. I’m assuming here that it’s important to keep a certain excitement. Is that even true?