Thursday, January 04, 2007

Natural Highs

Some times when I blog I think about how easy it would be for me to present a totally false picture of who I am and what my life is like. And because I tend to be an optimist as well as a person who has put a lot of years and effort into not appearing vulnerable to others, I am always tempted to put a positive spin on anything I write here.

A couple of years ago I kicked and screamed my way into a life circumstance that required, insisted, demanded that I not only accept my own vulnerability but that I live my life without so much effort to hide it. In counseling lingo, this is called congruence: being the same person on the outside that you are on the inside.

The result, for me—I can only speak for myself—has been a giant relief. I am a happier and more relaxed person these days. My ego is in check most of the time—I don’t need to be right, recognized or special. I am not as afraid to cry or have my feelings hurt or let it be known that I sometimes don’t have a clue what I’m doing or why. I can see that I am kinder and gentler to other people. I am a better listener. I understand more what it means to be grateful and alive.

HOWEVER: there are mornings when I wake up and don’t know if I’m happy or sad. There are times when I’m re-evaluating my choices and options over and over again. And there are times when fear freezes me shut and my insecurities scream at me that I am a lousy counselor, that I will never be a real writer or a loving partner and mother and friend, or for that matter, a worthy person. There are moments when I am clueless, afraid, consumed, confused, lost, selfish, and pathetic.

With the start of a new year, I’m prone to take a deeper look inside and hope that I can and will navigate my life honorably and purposefully. I am clearly a fortunate person: I live in a free country, I have comfortable means, I love deeply and am loved back, I have a career, I know about wonder and grace, and I don't often overlook the miracle of sunrises and sunsets, flying geese, and, now even, petrichor.

With all these thoughts in my head this week, I arrive at my mother's, who is soon to be 91, who lives in the house my father and his father built with their own hands. My weekly visits have become harder for me because my mother is failing. Her memory is less every time I see her and she has recently begun to say aloud that “something just doesn’t feel right”. She is determined to stay in this little Cape Cod house for the rest of her life, and I am trying to help pull this off for her.

So the context of all of this, as I’m gathering and dealing with the weekly bills and paperwork that accumulate on my mother’s kitchen table, I come across a hokey little inspirational flyer sent to her by the hearing aid company where she just purchased, and just as quickly misplaced, her new hearing aids.

I’m ready to throw this hokey little flyer away as I skim it. But I don’t throw it away. I have it in front of me right now because it says things, even hokey things, that I know are true—things that make a difference in how my days go and when and whether I am content.

I imagine this little flyer, entitled “Natural Highs”, was written for older people. But because it ding-a-ling-rings true for me, and because I know from my own experience that life is not always easy or understandable, even when everything seems to be ok, I am sharing it with you too. Perhaps, like me, it may help you appreciate what really matters when you most need to know that:

Natural Highs

Laughing so hard your face hurts

Seeing a rainbow

A hot shower

Falling in love

A special glance

Finding no lines at your favorite place to shop

Getting personal mail/email

Ice cream on a hot day in the shade

Taking a ride on back roads

Hearing your favorite song

Lying in bed listening to the rain outside

Hot towels out of the dryer

Finding that special item you want on sale for half price

Having a child tell you that you are awesome

A good conversation

Receiving a letter or a care package

Finding a $ 20 bill in your coat from last winter


Receiving flowers
Overhearing someone say something nice about you

Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours to sleep

Receiving home-made baked goods from someone

A back rub

Finishing a great book or movie

Getting invited somewhere special

Laughing at an inside joke

I could add another dozen or more experiences or events that make me take notice that I am happy. I’ll bet you could too. Please add any you'd like! All I can say is I think it’s a good good thing to seek out and have as many “natural highs” in life as possible. Sometimes you just have to notice and there they are. Sometimes they don’t take away my tears or questions, but they do remind me that perhaps life at its core is actually very simple……………


  1. Natural high: my dog gently licking my eyelids this morning to wake me up.

  2. Natural high: reading this and knowing it was written by a friend x

  3. liz, not everyone would agree. even i wouldn't agree on the earliest and laziest of mornings. you two are clearly in love!

    cherrypie, awww. yes. amen. i feel the same.

  4. Natural High: Reading this post.

    Natural High: Pushing a boulder off a Newfoundland hill you've called Mike's Mountain, after a friend who wouldn't NOT let you and your buddies scale it, and watching that boulder roll down the cliff.

    Natural High: Receiving a letter from your then 12-year-old brother while you were in Afghanistan, with the words "I sure miss you a lot" buried in the text, as if to hide it.

  5. ww, you've got it right so much of the time! you're my pal, ww...

  6. Natural high: Hearing KJ's laugh.

    Natural high: Reading anything by KJ.

    Natural high: KJ is my friend!!!

  7. oh, ces, our sweet friendship is on public display! i feel exactly so about you, always have, always will.

  8. Natural High: An unexpected hug or kiss from a loved one.

    Natural High: thoughtful and funny comments from blogger friends.

  9. I'm with kisses rock :)

  10. I like this list~ and I'll add:

    ~walking on the beach
    ~my dogs doing their "happy dance" when I come home from work
    ~my first cup of coffee in the morning and the New York Times

    ~I could go on and on...thanks for reminding me of all the small pleasures I often take for granted :)

    Hope your day is filled with natural highs!

  11. Natural high : reading this excellent post, recognizing thoughts and feelings and struggles, knowing that I am not alone, feeling connected.
    Natural high : breathing in the beauty of nature (and trying to capture it on photo)

  12. I thought I had it right all the time! ;-

    I'm sure you'll feel free to tell me when you think I've got it wrong...

  13. Happy New Year, Karen J! And what a lovely, lovely avatar you have!

    This post I read about 3 times and each time I'm struck with something -

    1. Congruence (I rolled that in my mouth half a dozen times, next to inner peace, I think I'll strive for that.)

    2. “Hokey flyer” – isn’t this the 2nd time you found a special msg from an unlikely place? Now I pay attention to whatever reading material I get my hands on. Yes, I’ve been “trained” by my 1st manager to read everything that passes my hands, but I never really pay attention to them, like you do.

    (Last but not the least…)
    3. Natural Highs – when I was younger I was responsible for a teenage Catholic choir group, my parish asked me to help in their “formation” (or as I call it de-formation) and this was our motto – “natural high!” It was a way to combat drugs and other stupid teenage stuff…

    Thank you for the insights and the memories that went with just reading this post.


  14. Really wonderful words in every way! What you wrote about your mom is so touching! It made me cry.
    Natural high: Getting a comment from kj. John calls them My Glory-bees. Everybody needs Glory be's right?

  15. Natural high, looking at a sunrise or sunset across the waters and listening to the cry of the loon.

    Sitting for hours dazing into a fire outdoors and looking up and seeing across the fire, a deer watching me.

    Having a old friend contact me saying thank you for helping him years ago.

    Finding new friends in every person I meet

    Posting my blog each weekday morning

    Listening to rain as it pounds on the roof as a slip into the lands of dreams