I subscribe to James Clear’s Atomic Habits newsletter, and he often concludes with a question. This week, the question was, “What has been the best hour of my week? How can I make it easier to have more hours like that?”
My contrarian self reacted to that query with something close to indignation: My best hour was some REM sleep on Wednesday night, bro. You think I’m not already engineering as much of that as I can? Do you even grasp the concept, the hormonal chaos, of menopause? Can you spell the word? And then there was that hour when the Motrin kicked in and my headache receded–only receded, mind you–on Thursday. What the heck kind of entitled, deluded…?
And so forth. When I’d indulged in that little rant to my heart’s content (allow me my modest joys), I settled down to consider the question objectively and why it set me off.
The why part is easy. I am leery of the notion of individual responsibility as the universal explanation for all aspects of one’s life. Too many factors lie outside our control, too many factors are structured to actively oppose our wellbeing.
So yeah, the question pushed my self-empowerment-is-the-whole-answer button, which is easy to do. But this query about “best hour” also got me thinking about the sweet spots in my week and in my life.
I have a memory of Christmas Eve, 1992. My daughter was about fourteen, and her dear mare was no longer spry enough for the skills and ambitions of her rider. The mare and the previous campaigner were living mostly retired in our backyard, and we’d gone to see a potential replacement horse the week before. The new guy didn’t know a whole lot–he was only five–but he was sweet, willing, and well bred.
Heather and I went for a trail ride that Christmas Eve. I was up on the mare, Heather was on the old Arab. We didn’t often do that, but it was Christmas Eve, and we were waiting for the results of the vetting on the new guy. We toddled on horseback around the neighbors’ fields and even hopped a little stone wall. Snow flurries started up, and when we arrived home we got word that the new guy–Delray–had passed his vetting with flying colors.
A few years later, when Heather’s abilities mandated another equine partner upgrade, Delray became my Wonder Pony. This was the day Del joined our family. The weather was my definition of lovely, the company–equine and human–so dear, and the activity delightful. The sweetness of that hour goes in my personal record books. What a Christmas gift!
And revisiting that hour got me to thinking about other moments of sweetness, however microscopic–the instant when my head hits the pillow, and I can say to myself, “Well, you tried your best today, and now you can rest. Tomorrow will get here soon enough, sufficient unto the day, and all that. Time to fire up the Nook.” A peaceful, sweet moment.
When I sit down to the writing in the morning, and start up the computer, ready to play let’s pretend yet again, or to buff yesterday’s efforts, I’m aware that I get to do this work in my play clothes (no “courtroom attire!”), my fave cuppa tea at hand (bottomless refills!), and all my lovely readers figuratively cheering me on… that’s lovely.
So the value I take from the question, “What was your best hour this week?” is not a challenge to enhance the probability of snow flurries in my life, but rather, an invitation to stop and notice all the joys I have right now, and to appreciate them as they bloom.
Any nice moments this week? Sweet hours? Do they bring any lovely memories to mind? My ARCs for Miss Devoted will go out this week, so if you’re interested, please email me at [email protected] (though I’m pretty sure most of the regulars are already on the ARC list.)
PS: Ordering links for Miss Determined have gone live!
I too get the James Clear emails. They are wonderful, thoughtful prompts, aren’t they?! My most wonderful hour this week was a thoughtful and animated discussion with my family. We all got together for a milestone birthday, and I had brought some Conversation Card starter prompts, and the talk took off. It was enlightening and delightful to be so emotionally and intellectually intimate with my family. I will be using those conversation prompts again!
A pass-along story: “Hilda” left Burma as a child for India on foot. She carried the familly’s sugar. It was a long hard walk for a little girl, but every now and again, she’d poke her finger in the sugar for a taste. Sometimes the sweetness only lasts that long, but she was carrying the bag.
It was actually last night. A nice meal with my family, thoughtfully planned out and a dessert I thought would be sweet (as in *sweet* but not actually sweet).
I found a small prime rib roast (on sale, and couldn’t find one for the winter holidays so thought better late than never) and followed a recipe my Son-the-cook printed up a few years ago for a special holiday meal. It’s a *reverse sear*, where you cook it low and slow until it reaches a certain temp (125 F), let it rest, then put it in a blazing oven for a few minutes. Super easy and it was PERFECTION!
Dessert was apple squares from a cookbook by Jean Pare, a Canadian cookbook author. I have a holiday cookbook by her and her pumpkin squares have become a Halloween/Thanksgiving staple but didn’t know anything about her. I happened to see her Obit (she was 95) in the New York Times a few weeks ago and learned she became a caterer after her 1st husband left her. She was famous for her *squares*. I became intrigued and bought her first cookbook and thus, made her apple squares yesterday. Lovely, sophisticated and complex and DELICIOUS. So says my crew!
It was one of the happiest times we’ve had since Christmas……:)
Lucked into boxes of scented tea roses, 2 plants to a box bare root, at my local big box store sitting right beside the huge sacks of potting soil. Since these were cheaper than the usual potted scentless varieties straggling in untended survival at the big box stores & planting season is nigh for zone 9, I indulged in 6 plants & a couple sacks to pot them. This week is supposed to be seasonably warm & I already have a tentative bloom on one of the current transplants gracing my porch, so I’ll haul the soil bags around in my wheelbarrow as it warms up & indulge myself planting my new babies in the handled grow bags I’ve discovered work better for me than heavy pots.
Not only am I deriving pleasure from contemplating fragrant spring porch sitting, but my new darlings are already sending out tentative shoots toward the glass sliders. Rewarding me already with proof that they’re ready to go is leaving me ridiculously happy.
I got a contact lens to use in my right eye this week (while I wait for cataract surgery on that eye this Wednesday) so I could once again drive myself around again – yay! I made M&M cookies and Chex Mix to send with Valentine’s cards to a few family folks. And with blue skies, NO RAIN, and temps in low 60s this afternoon, I got outside and cleaned my husband’s car’s interior as my early Valentine’s gift to him. Good to get outside for a bit
I ordered the ebook from your website so I will skip the ARC. Only because the ebook will become available on the 7th! I can wait that long … barely.
I love your stories, they always leave me in a happy place.
We have a lot of upheaval in my place of work, two main supervisors left a day apart (our CIO with only 2 days notice). So we have an interim CIO and I am the only person left standing who works on my platform. If I weren’t the only one left standing, I’ll call in sick tomorrow.
So I’m really, really looking forward to the 7th when I get home from work and download my book.
Well … I think I ordered the ebook. If it doesn’t show up, I’ll order it from your website. I do like the notion of not relying on Amazon to honor my purchases.
I spent an hour talking and being heard and understood. That felt great. I went on a brunch and matinee date with my husband (saw Turn Every Page which I highly recommend). AND I also just got home from a wonderful restorative yoga class. So not a bad week.
I share your knee-jerk consternation to this kind of stuff, but my sort of adjacent to this current chewing on idea is from Braiding Sweetgrass – contentment is an anti-capitalist action. Cue the “there are real obstacles to contentment” (defensive) reaction, then after that I have been sinking into feeling contentment as much as I am able.