Excerpt from A Woman's Guide to Self-Nourishment (Romer): Nurturing Contentment
What makes us happy? I just made a list, and on it, I placed such items as “writing on the beach,” “cooking something interesting,” and “having lunch with Karen.” There are 20 such items—I could certainly come up with more.
Plunging a little deeper into my memory, I could add “making love with my husband, Jack” (the last time was in 2010, the year before he died on January 2, 2011.), “vacation in the Keys” (2009), and “camping in upstate New York” (2002). If I think about these things and why they made me happy, I can see that all of them concerned getting in touch with a certain radiance or connection to love, and not just a personal love, although I certainly felt that for my late husband (and still do). I feel love for my friend Karen, and for the beach, cooking, the Keys, and the land in South Kortright, New York, where Jack and I used to camp. (I confess the last few times were in a trailer, not a tent!)
But the love I am speaking of goes deeper and is, in a way, a more impersonal love. These wonderful things, “scrumptious things” I sometimes call them (see Appendix for examples), seem to bring forth a feeling of connection and a joy that may only last a moment or may last longer. It is what I seek, what I’ve always been seeking, and that connection is to something within.
As I’ve gotten older and have been trying to identify this feeling I seek in more accurate terms, I’d say that I am trying to connect with the Kingdom of Heaven. “Lo, the Kingdom of Heaven is within you,” says the book of Luke (17:21). Yes, and it can be touched with our emotions—joy, wonder, gratitude. It is a feeling of abundance, of suddenly possessing all the beauty and splendor of the world and being a part of it. It is an almost visceral (sometimes I call it “gooey”) feeling of appreciation for this amazing thing called life. It is perceiving the world and everything in it as being full of meaning, a most glorious kind of meaning where we live and breathe in love and everything makes sense and we know why things are the way they are.
How do we touch this and capture it? We can’t really capture it—but we can court it, and set up situations where it may be possible to encounter it. These situations will be different for each person, and that is where self-nurturing comes in. If you can identify certain situations, times, and places, where you feel unaccountably happy, it may be possible to extend that happiness into the spiritual realm—through gratitude.
So the ultimate way to nurture ourselves, it would seem to me, is to seek situations where we may encounter the Kingdom. For me, it is often found at the beach, but also on my list nowadays is simply reading a book while I enjoy lunch on a tray. I’ll have a moment, looking up from my book (lately it’s been Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, about his years in Paris) and taking a sip of iced tea or a bite of sandwich, and suddenly—poof! I will be filled with joy and gratitude. Thus, it seems these feelings have nothing to do with money, or being in exotic places, or even being with a loved one. It is knowing what you really want to do at the moment, letting yourself do it, and then allowing yourself to appreciate that thing for all it’s worth!
GUIDELINES FOR NURTURING CONTENTMENT
1. Jot down a list of whatever makes you happy these days.
2. Now make a list of what made you happy in the past.
3. See if you can resurrect any of those ideas from past happiness.
4. Try to identify the moments when you feel an abundance of good things in your life.
5. Plan situations for yourself when such moments of abundance are possible.
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