Juste ce qu’il faut

How much is just enough? Not so long ago, it seemed I was always wanting more: friends, money, success, travel…a new this, an updated that. Now, suddenly, something is different. I still feel this way at times but lately I find myself thinking that happiness is having just what you need. Or needing what you have.

As the dark days before the winter solstice grow colder and ever shorter, it is important to think about the things have brightened our lives over the year. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy keeping an advent calendar. For each of its 24 days this month I have written down a word that sums up something – or someone – that has made my life happier.

I am lucky to have a great deal to be grateful for; it has been a full year, a good year. Not without moments of sadness and regret. Those bittersweet times are there to remind us just how lucky we are when all the rest is good.

Here are a few of the things that I am especially grateful for this Christmas:

This great big, wonderful world. We went to four islands this year, each of them special and unique in different ways. New Year’s was in Curaçao, a curious and beautiful place indeed. And it was amazing to be able to enjoy this exotic destination in the company of my Canadian family, including my Dad and brother, their better-halves and our kids. Our island adventures this year also included a writing retreat for me in Pantelleria, Italy; a first-ever trip out west to Vancouver and a romantic anniversary week on Madeira.

The people who got us there and back. Even in years when we don’t travel as much, there are still a lot of comings and goings with our jobs and family in different countries and continents. I never go anywhere without mentally preparing for disaster on some level (fingers permanently crossed). And yet, despite a tense couple of landings and a few delayed suitcases, we have all made it home in one piece. I am grateful to all of the hard-working pilots and drivers of planes, trains, buses and taxis who got us there and back. And all those who support them. They don’t hear it enough.

The memories we share. I am both old enough to have a lot of memories and young enough to look forward to making new ones. Also fortunate to have family and friends who remember too. This year, my husband unearthed a box of old cassette tapes from when our kids were small and sent them to be digitized; we are looking forward to watching this marathon memory movie over the holidays. To be in this position, to be able to share those memories, strikes me as very rich indeed. And I would like to share a thought for all those who suffer from dementia and other forms of brain disease.

My blogging buddies. This community we have here on WordPress is something I never imagined would bring so much joy to my life. I originally started this blog as a way to connect with people of similar interests with the idea of getting a book published. It hasn’t happened yet, but each week of writing, reading and commenting on my fellow bloggers’ posts brings me immense satisfaction and a sense of connection. It is a privilege to know you guys!

Family and friends. You know who you are. Thank you for putting up with me. I love you all.

And there are so many more. But how about I kick over to you: what are you grateful for?

La joie de vivre

le-fabuleux-destin-d-amelie-poulainA funny thing has happened in France since the Paris attacks.

The French are rediscovering their joie de vivre. Not just because joy is what makes life worth living but as a defining principle. Finding joy in the little things is what makes us who we are. Sitting at a table of an outdoor café, that most quintessentially French thing to do, has become an act of defiance.

It’s a reawakening of sorts. An awareness of what is important, the values we share and the fragile nature of life itself. It is made all the more poignant by the fear that is in people’s hearts. France is in the throes of collective post-traumatic stress syndrome.

At the same time, there is a sense of resilience. That somehow, in adversity, we will be stronger. Perhaps it won’t last. But I get the feeling that a page has been turned and that, as much as people are afraid and that their ‘insouciance’ has been lost or at least compromised, there is on another level a renewed appreciation of the things we share.

We are seeing it in the brave letters from people who have lost loved ones or been touched in some way by the terror. It is a refusal to give in, to change, to let go of one iota of what makes us who we are. We owe it to all those whose lives were tragically cut short on that fateful Friday night in November.

It has occurred to me that lately I have neglected to put enough joie into my vivre. This is going to change. I know the things that bring me joy. Singing. Jumping. Snow. Creating. Moments of peace and solitude. From now on, those things will take a higher place on my list. While I’m at it, I might just tear that list into pieces and toss it on the fire.

Amélie stole our hearts with her naïve sense of joy and wonder in the world. May we all feel it, today and every day that is given to us.

What brings you joy?