Today I enjoyed one of those rare mid-August days when the sting of summer heat and humidity have almost disappeared, and there is a hint of autumn in the air.
Despite the signs of summer drawing to a close, the hydrangeas and perennial grasses and geraniums in my garden continue to thrive in full bloom. Colour still abounds. Earlier this morning, I had promised myself that I would be productive today and catch up on some much-needed indoor chores.
My good intentions changed when I glanced outdoors and noticed the quiet in my backyard, a rare occurrence these days. Recent changes in my neighbourhood have brought unwelcome noise and traffic to the area, so I rarely enjoy quiet patio times anymore.
But today, I quickly pulled out the patio furniture, opened the sun umbrellas, and took my morning coffee outdoors. No books or magazines or newspapers accompanied me today. I simply wanted to breathe in the fresh air and luxuriate in the quiet and colour of my lovely gardens.
I looked at the billowy clouds and felt the warm breeze on my face. I felt a sense of inexplicable peace and joy.
And yet, while I felt gratitude for this moment, I was also saddened because moments of tranquility have become so infrequent now. I thought to myself that I must enjoy this time now and make it last as long as possible.
There is much in my life that I could be sad and frustrated about these days. I’m sure many women in our Sixty and Me community can relate. But instead, I have learned to snatch moments of happiness where I can find them, something the French call “les petits bonheurs.”
The best translation I could find for this phrase is “the little day-to-day joys, simple pleasures, and small experiences of happiness.” Doesn’t that just sum it up beautifully?
I once dated an Arab man who shared with me the very tragic story of how he lost both parents and a sister in a car accident when he was a young teenager. He recounted how he used to sit on the porch after school each day to wait for the family to come home from work.
Then one day, he waited and waited and waited till darkness fell. Later, a relative came to take him home and informed him of the very tragic news. This man used to say to me, “You never know what happens tomorrow.”
In the past, I have sometimes felt jealous of some of my married friends. With two incomes, they can afford a much more lavish lifestyle than mine. I divorced in my 30s and while I am grateful for what I have today, I have always lived on an extremely restricted budget.
At some point, I realized that the comparisons to others were not serving me well and decided that I could choose to be happy. It took me a while to get this concept to sink in. Who would have thought that happiness is a choice?
One of the ways that I now incorporate happiness into my life is by focusing on les petit bonheurs and by snatching those moments, even when I ‘should’ be doing something else.
As 60-something women, we know the ‘shoulds’ very well – work before play, always be prudent, never be lazy or idle. And yet, taking time off when I should be working makes those little playful and relaxing moments even more luxurious!
A nap in the middle of the afternoon, a glass of wine while reading that latest best seller, a walk in the park when I should be doing laundry or checking my work schedule for the next week.
Before I stepped outdoors this morning, I noticed a dragonfly on my patio door screen. My first impulse was to whisk it away, but then I remembered that dragonflies are a symbol of good luck, so I chose instead to take a photo of it.
I was astounded by the beauty of its translucent wings and was grateful for the good luck it was going to bring into my life!
I did a little research on this insect and found that the dragonfly’s agile flight and its ability to move in all six directions give it a sense of power and poise – something that comes only with age and maturity. Imagine that!
I investigated a little deeper and learned that dragonflies are also harbingers of change. I wondered what changes would come into my life in the near future.
Today I was once again aware that sunshine and perfect summer days don’t last forever. I was glad that I had made time to enjoy the moment.
I believe we need to intentionally store little moments of happiness in both our minds and in our gratitude journals, to sustain us during the bland or difficult days that may lie ahead. What will you do today to enjoy les petits bonheurs?
How do you capture little moments of happiness and pleasure? What things do you do that bring joy to your day-to-day life? Do you believe in ‘les petits bonheurs’? Please share with our community!
Tags Finding Happiness
As we reach the end of a very long and hot summer in southern Spain, my petits bonheurs have been: the cool air and water, the laughter and music and movement of a twice-weekly Aquagym class; a nibble of chocolate and a novel for my siesta after lunch; flinging open shutters and windows after 9.00 pm to let in the air…and thinking of autumn and winter!
Small joys, Yes! Today I took a short break with my eyes closed just to feel the breeze, the warmth, hear the grasshoppers.
This made me realize I had several “les petits bonheurs” moments yesterday, my first full day out of the house after COVID isolation. I discovered a lovely Mexican restaurant where, after a short time, I was the only customer. Good food, beautiful atmosphere, pleasant waitress. Then I sat in the park on a wooden swing for two, reading a book on my tablet and watching people walk by with their dogs way down the hill. Later I walked in the small woodland garden and sat on one of the stone benches with Shakespeare quotes, silently watching the squirrels being very busy preparing for winter. Thanks to this article I will now be aware of these precious les petits bonheurs.
I keep a gratitude journal which reminds me to open my eyes to beauty every where. Les petits bonheurs for me can be journaling while noticing the morning sunlight filtering into the kitchen, taking a hike and seeing bunnies and squirrels, playing the piano, reading a book outdoors or creating a tasty meal. Noticing the beauty in life helps balance all the pain that we read about in the news. Thank you for this!