5 on Friday: what I need to thrive

The past year has given me more opportunity to consider what I need in my life to thrive. For so long, it was just about survival and getting through the day; anything more seemed like a luxury or too far out of reach.

As our family has moved into our first full summer in our new community, I’ve had time to think about, and experience, those elements I need to be the best me.

Have you ever thought about that?

If not, I totally understand that sometimes there isn’t time or energy to do more than survive. But if you can, try to think about the things that give you life and make you a better person no matter what else you’re doing.

Here are five (and a half) things I’ve discovered I need to thrive:

1. Access to nature. I grew up in a house that was nothing special structurally but it had a creek in the backyard with a towering weeping willow tree and a screened in back porch and some days I loved nothing more than to cross the creek and curl up underneath the willow tree and listen to the creek gurgle. My hometown had a river flowing through it and parks aplenty and even when I was working a full-time job, I still sought out nature to center me and give me space to breathe. Some days, it’s harder to find, but the colors and sounds and fragrance of the natural world refresh my soul. I’ve yet to find a favorite spot in our new community, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. windchime

1.5 In the same way nature refreshes me, so does beauty. I used to spurn beautiful things as unnecessary. I’m a practical, task-oriented girl who likes things to have purpose and meaning. Until recently, I didn’t know the purpose of surrounding yourself with beauty, and maybe I still can’t explain it but finding the beauty in our ordinary days feels like a quiet revolution. A protest against the ugly and the evil and the mundane. It’s one of the reasons I drive the back roads whenever I can, to discover what’s just off the path everyone else is treading. My in-laws bought me this wind chime for my birthday, and I wish I could describe the calming effect its song has on me. Is it functional? Not in the way I would normally think, but its sound is a song I have to tune my ear to hear above the noise of the everyday.

2. Planned solitude. Last week I had most of a day to myself. I drove back roads with the windows down, went to a library, chatted with a friend, spent a little time writing. The day was mostly quiet and uneventful but it was exactly what I needed in the midst of my busy-with-kids life. Sometimes it feels selfish to get away from it all and be alone, but it restored something inside of me and equipped to face the rest of the days ahead. I’m not sure yet how often I need this, but I need it more often than I’ve had it.

3. Participation in creative work. I do love to write and that is creative but occasionally I need to color a page with my kids or paint a piece of furniture or dabble in an artistic project that I normally wouldn’t. (I’m contemplating a couple while the kids are away next week.) I haven’t played my guitar in almost a year. That’s too long. I can appreciate beauty, but sometimes I need to be part of its creation.

4. Friends. I’m an introvert, and yes, I enjoy solitude, but if the last year has taught me anything it’s how much I need friends. For years, I was lacking, surviving on a few really great friendships. And then the floodgates opened and I have friends in abundance, which is often overwhelming because I like to invest in people but only have so much to give. I’ve had the opportunity over the past months to deepen a writing friendship that transcends our mutual talent, and when I think about the last year and all the people who have loved us despite knowing our history and not having any blood relation to us, I almost cry. I’ve taken friendships for granted in the past, and I will still cultivate them poorly, but oh, how I need friends.

5. Books. (And time to read them.) My love for books is  becoming almost legendary on Facebook. It’s almost as well-known as my love for coffee. But I’m sure I could survive and even thrive in this life without coffee. I could not without books. On a deserted island, I think I’d rather have books than food. We fill our house with books and when books arrive in the mail I am giddy for days. And when I read a book that wows me, I almost walk around dazed until its effect wears off. (And sometimes the effect doesn’t wear off.)

I could keep going, I think, but these are the basics. If I have these five (and a half) things in my life, I will be more of who I am meant to be.

What about you? What gives you life and keeps you going and makes you more of your truer self?

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