I’m coping again with the mid-winter gloomies, when the dark skies, as well as the news, can get to me.
Whatever is growing in me, ready to blossom later in the year, needs an infusion of inner light—more than I can get from the light box I sometimes use to help with S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder).
To brighten things up, I’m creating a “what brings me alive” list.
I’ll store my list of items that are sure to brighten my spirits in what I call my “hope chest,” —a reverse Pandora’s box where joy flies out each time I open it.
Building a “hope chest”
Some people might build a hope chest for the future, but I build it for today. I want a place where I can go that reminds me of who I am, what I love, and what makes my heart sing. I’m not wishing for the future but anchoring myself in the joy of my imagination I live with now.
Plus it’s super fun to go on a hunt for my private passions.
I start by asking five simple questions.
- What do I love?
- What lights me up?
- What makes me come alive?
- What feels scrumptious, luscious, yummy, uplifting, beautiful, gorgeous, or joyful?
- What do I want to savor as part of this richly human experience?
Then, I look for items that are specific, sensual, quirky, and completely mine—and either write them down or enjoy thinking about them.
For example, here’s an odd favorite: I love old bark, fallen off of a tree when it’s rotting and covered with wormholes. The color, the scent, and the patterning left by grubs and worms look like art to me and I adore it. It doesn’t matter whether anyone else shares my bark fetish—it lights me up just thinking about it.
The list we make is for us alone. We shut the door on judgment, with no need to explain, defend, or even share what we love.
Our hope chest is the container that helps us remember passions—a judgment-free zone. The quirkier and more particular to us the better!
Creating a list
When I create my “what lights me up list” I look for items that are specific and appeal to the senses. These are more likely to warm my heart and trigger my imagination.
“Luscious ripe raspberries picked fresh off the vine in early summer” feels richer to my imagination than “berries.”
“White foam dancing on cold salt water at the edge of an uncrowded white sands beach” evokes more for me than “being at the beach,” although, truthfully, that sounds pretty great right now.
Here are a few questions:
- What colors make you feel alive? Your choices can change. (A few years ago my favorite color was teal, but now I’m drawn to deep purple flecked with gold.)
- What tastes make you drool? (Sauteed mushrooms. Ripe figs.)
- What kinds of touch or kind of feel do you love? (My horse’s wet muzzle against my cheek. Charcoal on my fingers.)
- What smells? (Damp earth. Diesel fumes, which remind me of my time In Quito, Ecuador.)
- What sights make you swoon? (I’m a fool for the first daffodils, madrona trees in the afternoon sun, and the seeded whirligigs (called samaras) that emerge on my Japanese maples.
- What kinds of movements? (No contest—swaying my hips to a great salsa sound.)
- Sounds? (Love crystal bowls and my dog Winston whimpering with excitement.)
- What songs, music or compositions transport you? (Chopin’s simple Waltz in A; Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto-2nd Movement; Julian Taylor’s song “Seeds”—below.)
- What art inspires you—yours or others? (So many…)
- What people put a smile on your face when you think about them? (Because people often come with stories, complexities, and expectations, I look for simple images—more like a still photo than a video. Whose face delights you? Whose hugs will leave you covered with smiles? (My grandson’s!)
- What other pleasures light you up?
I could go on because the more I look, the more extensive my list becomes.
If I want to make a visual reminder of what I’ve discovered, I might create a collage.
My items quickly fill my hope chest with images and me with gratitude.
I don’t have to ignore the existence of earthquakes, terrible injustices, and lies. When I’m in touch with what brings me alive, I have more resilience to walk in the world and not be sunk by it.
Not everything on my “What I love” list in my chest has to feel happy. I can also feel awake, alive, and grateful when I experience sad/sweet beauty or cry tears of deep compassionate sadness.
This week I discovered a song that nourished my resilience and hope. It’s called “Seeds,” by Toronto native, Julian Taylor, a songwriter of West Indian and Mohawk descent. The video starts in a tree grove and evokes a spirit of hope and resilience, reinforced by images of nature. “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”
I played it a lot.
We’re all seeds
The dank earth is alive in midwinter. In it, our seeds lie buried waiting for a moment to emerge.
I turn to my hope chest for some extra light when I want to nurture the seeds that I’m carrying.
I feed them with delight so that they can begin to grow, even during times when the world feels dark.