Early in my separation a few years back, I was chatting with my work friend, Susan, about how I was struggling. She shared with me some sage advice.
“My therapist told me to find three moments in my daily routine that bring me joy,” she said in her calming voice. “Now I look forward to my early mornings, before anyone else is awake, and savor that cup of coffee while reading a real newspaper. What routine moments do you enjoy?”
I contemplated my day while playing with my dangling earring. “I love choosing my accessories,” I said “I like trying on earrings and necklaces to find the perfect complement to my outfit. It’s very satisfying.”
“Next time, do it with intention,” she said.
I liked the idea of moving throughout my day from joy to joy. It made me think back to the time when my kids were in young in school. I reveled in that time after drop-off when I could get to chores and self-care without interruption. Then, at the end of the day, I routinely asked the kids, “you know what I’m looking forward to?”
“Getting into your jammies and getting all cozy in bed,” they’d respond in unison. Together in our jammies, we’d climb into my big bed and snuggle close, a pile of picture books borrowed from the library at my feet. I’d read through three or four books a night, maybe re-read one we especially liked. It was one of my favorite times of the day—one that I miss now that my kids are grown and flown.
Since my divorce, my life is so different from those days when my calendar was full with after-school activities and my husband’s work events. Now, instead of rushing the kids off to school, my mornings are similar to Susan’s with her morning coffee and newspaper, except I wake up looking forward to my favorite smoothie: chocolate flavored protein powder with a banana and sugar-free sunflower butter—a healthy, morning treat that tastes like dessert. I slow down to drink it while listening to a morning news podcast or the top-40 radio station broadcasting from my Echo. “Alexa, play Z100.”
Now that I live in Manhattan, when I’m out doing errands, I intentionally take in the hustle, the yellow cabs zipping by, and the noise of voices and sirens around me. I think to myself almost giddily, “Look at me, a city girl!” Then imagine myself tossing my beret in the air like Mary Tyler Moore.
A few months after my conversation with Susan, she remembered how much I love accessories and gave me a sparkling pin bursting with blue rhinestones for my birthday. I immediately pinned it to my lapel, visualizing ways it will complement my wardrobe.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Susan’s cancer had returned and she was going through a new round of chemo-therapy. Relishing her three moments of daily joy was what kept her living while she was dying.
After she died in December 2019, her family visited us in January at work. We gave them a special tour to commemorate her. While wearing the pin, I told them how her words of wisdom helped me back then, and when I’m not wearing the gift, it sits on a small jewelry box on my dresser. When I choose my accessories for the day, the pin serves as reminder of lovely Susan, and to slow down and relish the small moments of joy throughout the day. Thinking of her is now one of those daily moments.