I just finished and reviewed Olive Kitteridge this week, a unique Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Elizabeth Strout that tells the story of one character and a small town through thirteen separate but interrelated short stories, each about various people who live in the town. I mentioned in my review that parts of the book were a bit depressing, but these quotes feature a couple of the sections that emphasize joy and optimism instead. Both of these quotes really spoke to me and reflect my own feelings.
The first is about small moments of joy in life, as Olive recalls watching her son's soccer games when he was younger:
There was beauty to that autumn air, and the sweaty young bodies that had mud on their legs, strong young men who would throw themselves forward to have the ball smack against their foreheads; the cheering when a goal was scored, the goalie sinking to his knees. There were days - she could remember this - when Henry would hold her hand as they walked home, middle-aged people, in their prime. Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it. But she had that memory now, of something healthy and pure.
Having spent many, many similar hours on soccer fields watching my own two sons play, I know just what she means. I think Olive is right - that most people don't recognize these small moments of joy as they're happening - but I also think that is one of the few positive outcomes of living with a chronic illness. I do often feel a sense of joy during small moments in my life because I know what it's like to miss those moments or to feel too sick to enjoy them. It's a gift that CFS has given me, this heightened sense of perspective.
And, speaking of gifts, here's another quote from another chapter, where Jane and Bob Houlton, an older married couple, drive through town looking at Christmas lights on all the houses:
And she was happy right now, it was true. Jane Houlton, shifting slightly inside her nice black coat, was thinking that, after all, life was a gift - that one of those things about getting older was knowing that so many moments weren't just moments, they were gifts. And how nice, really, that people should celebrate with such earnestness this time of year. No matter what people's lives might hold (some of these houses they were passing would have to hold some woeful tribulations, Janie knew), still and all, people were compelled to celebrate because they knew somehow, in their different ways, that life was a thing to celebrate.
Here, obviously, we are one of those houses Jane is thinking about, where we have certainly had our share of tribulations. And she's right, isn't she, that no matter what is going on, we take time out at this time of year to celebrate. Even in the midst of serious illness, we still hang decorations, eat special foods, perhaps gather with family or friends if we are able to. It's a nice reminder that, no matter what else is happening in our lives, life is a thing to celebrate.
And now I will return to our own holiday preparations. It is actually snowing here in Delaware, and the boys are thrilled beyond belief! Kids definitely know how to appreciate the small moments of joy in life.
Hope you're enjoying your weekend.