Morning Reverie: Appreciating the Small Things

Travis Howard

The man beneath the tombstone in this photo is my dad, James Howard. He perished at eighty-nine, after dementia began to ravage his mind, body and soul. His death was sad; yet now, as I look back on his life, I realize something: My father loved each day. In good times, he smiled. And in bad times, he smiled, too. For him, choosing joy was more than half of the battle. Choosing joy vanquishes despair, distress, and hurt. Since my father’s death, I’ve started to adopt that view as well.

Enjoying the little things in life may seem clichéd, or even simple. But becoming an optimist is no easy task. The difficulties begin first thing in the morning. Awaking from a slumber on a cold winter’s day, being jolted into consciousness by the alarm--this is not, for most people, a glorious occasion to trinkt bier und wein. Yet I rejoice: Night has come and gone, and I’m alive and well, eager to see another morn.

“Live each day like it’s your last.” Books, bumper stickers, and hashtags repeat that cliché, imploring us all to savor the energy of our fleeting lives with every passing second. Yet not many love to rise and shine, despite the circumstances of life, the way I do. Every morning, my eyes slowly crack open to winter darkness, or summer daylight. And I celebrate, aware that another chance for greatness arrived—whether it’s directed toward myself, or to unsuspecting strangers in the day ahead, as I wave, speak or offer a few kind words.

The best part of the morning is the tingle of the cold floor on the soles of my feet after they leave the warmth of a cozy blanket. Nothing makes me feel more alive than the contrast between warmth and cold. My senses need a millisecond to process the opposing sides of the environmental separation between what was and what is. The bed is calling me like a lover, begging me to return to her for a ten-minute snooze. (Meanwhile, the bathroom prompts me evacuate the water, juice and milk I foolishly ingested before bed.) All the while my heart, mind and soul knows the truth. Life is precious. Days and nights are neither infinite, nor promised. We get only one trip on life’s carousel of madness or euphoria.

Waking up to life as a middle-aged man with a job of manual labor my not seem like the dream—but you would be wrong. Opening my eyes to life on this planet, in this country, is more than enough for me. That simple act allows me to see beauty in the mundane, monotonous things that often go unnoticed in this increasingly chaotic world. It allows me to recognize that happiness shouldn’t be a contest, or weighed against standards imposed by others. Rather, it’s an inward journey, a quest for what we need, want, love, and cherish. Only when we attain an equilibrium between those things does sustaining happiness become less arduous.

And so each morning, as the water I’ve cupped in my hands splatters across my face, I say a prayer for this day, and for any other time I awake from my slumber.

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