Holiday Cheer

It’s been a day of lovely and uplifting encounters that have put a big smile on my face. Ok, so there were only 2 encounters, but they were unexpected and most welcome.

This evening I returned from Whole Foods with fruits, poultry, beautiful poinsettias and a light-hearted mood. I had the 2 kindest and happiest people at the register. I was greeted with such a bright and genuine smile and attitude that was absolutely refreshing after dealing with seemingly cranky and rushed shoppers. I always wonder why everyone seems to be always scowling and unable to smile or say excuse me or thank you. The ones who do seem to be the rare exception. So when I arrived at the register and had not one, but 2 smiling faces and kind, light-hearted banter, it definitely put me in an even better mood. An earlier encounter had already set the tone for the day, and this was just another wonderful and welcome surprise in my day. The first encounter was more of an observation rather than an exchange, so I suppose they complemented each other; either way, they both kept my spirits high today.

The first ‘episode’ of the day happened when I was in the post office, to get stamps for my christmas letters. As it is the holiday season, there were quite a few people there, with cards and packages to send to surprise family and friends.

But one man stood out. He came in a minute or so after me, and he was behind me in line. An old man, with gray hair, a slightly stooped back, but a very steady walk. He had a box with many envelopes, all of which were sealed, so I assume they must have been christmas cards. There must have been easily 50 envelopes in there, all lined up perfectly and without a single crease in any of the seals. I was as impressed by the amount as I was by how tidy it looked. But that’s not what has caused me to write about him. As he stood there in line behind me, in a busy post office, he was humming and singing. He was singing bits and pieces of christmas songs. It was so unexpected, and so lovely. He kept singing the entire time, even when he was in front of the register. He brought such a smile to my face, and it was so uplifting, because it was so simple, so carefree and so joyous.

How often do people do that? He just seemed happy. Happy to be enjoying life, perhaps; happy that it’s the holiday season; or maybe he was just happy, for no particular reason. And why not? We should be happy just like that, but it seems like people forget that. Everyone else in the post office seemed so serious, rushed, busy, as if there was no time to smile or sing. Such a shame. I think the world would be a much nicer place if people took the time to smile, to sing, to just enjoy life and all the joy we’re so lucky to have.

They all reminded me of what holiday cheer is, what christmas is, and how to enjoy every moment we have. We’re lucky to be here, lucky to have the people we love and who love us, no matter how near or far they are. There are so many reasons to be happy, so let’s not forget them. Laugh as much as you can, smile as many times as possible, sing no matter where you are. Everything is better with laughter, smiles and singing.

Happy holidays – I hope they’re full of love, laughter and singing!

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365 Days, Innumerable Lessons

The leaves crunch under my feet and fall from the branches above me. Soon there will be no more leaves on those majestic trees and their naked branches will reach up to the sky until they are weighed down by the sparkling white beauty of snow.

Another year nearing its end, having flown by yet again. It seems time is always doing that. More than 12 months ago we moved here. Nearly 4 months ago we got married (has it really been that long already??). Less than 2 months left before 2012 greets us. Or do we greet 2012?

The year began with much apprehension for what was awaiting on the horizon – still settling in a new place, a wedding to plan across an ocean, no foreseeable moment (for me) when I felt I would be driving comfortably…get the idea? Thankfully the year is coming to a close with tranquillity and serenity. I’m pretty much settled in, the wedding was perfect and I’m happily driving (mostly) comfortably.

This year has been filled with learning experiences:

Learning about marriage and sharing my husband with his full-time job, without feeling too lonely. Thankfully he doesn’t work so late and I have the joy of usually driving him to and from work, lengthening our time together every morning and every evening.

Learning to drive. More importantly: learning to drive without fear.

Learning how to manage our bills, credit cards and credit scores. The whole credit rating and credit system was (and I think will always be) so foreign and so incomprehensible to me. I understand how it works, I just don’t particularly understand why.

I’ve been learning how different life is here as an adult, compared to France. Simple things like getting a cell phone account is made ridiculously complex and bizarre because of the credit system. Oh, and why in the world do we pay or use our minutes when someone calls us? Landlines don’t work like that, and most countries in the world don’t either. One of the many mysteries, for me, of U.S. cell phone accounts.

The medical system, the tools available, the costs, the insurance, even the pharmacies and prescription methods baffle me endlessly.

Although I must admit, the 7 days a week, 24h, or open late pharmacies, supermarkets and stores do make things so much easier. Or maybe they just make us lazier? Hm. I always seem to find myself at odds with myself over that point. But I think ultimately I would probably say that it is a wonderful convenience to have the supermarkets and pharmacies open late and on Sunday. That has often proven to be of enormous help and brought great relief for last minute necessities.

The truth is, like I’ve often said in other entries, there are good and bad things of every country. This past year has allowed me to start learning what those good and not-so-good attributes are here.

What I’ve learned most of all this past year is that I’m happy here. I do miss my family, certain places and things from France, but I’ll see them again, I’ll have those things once again. There’s no point thinking constantly of what we had, what we might have, what we could have, or where we could be. So I think of what I do have, I think of the people who love me, near and far, I think of where I am now, and I embrace all of that.

I am infinitely lucky and I am happy.