“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.”
Sound of Music (1965)
I don’t know about you, but the last thing or things I tend to think about when I’m in a rut or feeling blue are raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles or warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings or wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings. No, when I’m stuck and feel the darkness setting in, my mind immediately goes to more adult things. I question my worthiness. I start to wonder what’s wrong with me, what’s missing, what I need to be doing more or less of to fit in, how it is that I can feel so alone in a crowded bar or restaurant, why I always seem to be the one who has to initiate where relationships are concerned, why so many others appear to be without a care in the world, where I misplaced my voice, my ability to laugh – my joy – what it will take to feel fully alive again. But, as I passed by a local park filled with the unmistakable sounds and smiles of children at play on today’s walk, it occurred to me that, all those years ago, Julie Andrews may have been onto something, an elixir of sorts, a well-spring of nourishment to replenish weary or frightened hearts: Favorite Things!
For some, it will be “things” that remind them of childhood – when they felt free to express themselves, be themselves, emote, engage, enjoy, explore and experience the world and each other – unabashedly, unapologetically and honestly – to find joy in moments. Perhaps it’s something as simple as a front porch or playground swing, a water slide, a stuffed animal, a treasured book, jumping rope or a board game. Maybe it’s a keepsake from a special relative – a photograph, a letter, a favorite recipe, a piece of jewelry, or a knitted scarf or blanket. For others, it may be a game of catch, a piece of music, a play, a smell, or a secret fishing hole. Still others will recall favorite restaurants or meals, a ride at an amusement park, activities like writing, singing, sewing, drawing or walks in familiar surroundings. Some will have a favorite place – the beach, a lake, a stream, the shade of a special tree, a farm or meadow. But, while everyone’s Favorite Things are different, each shares an important trait: In their presence, it is impossible to restrain our heart from smiling and therein lies their magic – the ability, if only for a moment, to introduce light, joy, safe harbor, or peace in the midst of a storm.
“What a remarkable gift that is,” I thought to myself as I continued on and the children’s laughter grew more and more faint. And then I realized it was one that, with a little thought, I could (and probably should) give to myself. So, when I got home, I began scribbling with heart smiles as my guide:
Any seat in Fenway Park.
Leaving the first set of footprints on a dew-covered fairway.
A real hug.
Being the reason for someone else’s smile.
The breadsticks at the Red Diamond Inn.
A wagging tail.
Any song by David Gates and Bread.
The Giving Tree.
“The Wright House” at Ocean Isle Beach.
Apple pie (no mode).
Og Mandino’s writings.
A heart talk.
Hitting the sweet spot.
A comeback story.
Marvin Gaye’s rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.
The smell of freshly mown grass.
An intimate kiss.
Climbing a dirt pile.
Watching children at play.
The North Grounds Softball Field at UVA.
The Grotto at ND.
Dusk on the SHC golf course.
Simon and Garfunkel.
An original 7-11 Icee (Cola).
Flipping baseball cards.
The Little Engine That Could.
Watching someone realize a lifelong dream.
A perfect strike.
Writing words that matter.
I’m not suggesting, nor am I naïve enough to believe that any of these “things” offer a permanent respite from the often very real and complex challenges associated with being an adult, a parent and with Life generally. They do, however, serve as readily available reminders that: there is good and joy in the world; that, at various times, both have been part of my world; and that, chances are, when the storm passes, they will be again. Why not take a moment then to create your own list and the next time you find yourself looking for something to do or about to board the train to Bitterville, pull out your list, close your eyes, point to a place on it at random – and do that! I dare you to keep from smiling.