Every time my dog knows I’m leaving the house, her eyes get big and she starts whimpering. I always say the same thing, “Lola, I’d trade places with you in a minute. I’d LOVE the opportunity to be home alone!”
Do you fantasize about it, too? No husband, no kids, no talking, no noise, no one else’s mess? I’m to the point where I dream about turning my daughter’s bedroom into a “woman cave” that just has a bed, a reading chair and a lock on the door.
Say I got my empty house. For the first hour it would be amazing – by hour four, I’d miss the mess, the requests for food, the fight over who knocked over who’s tower and my husband’s giggle after winning another Words With Friends” game.
A few months ago I read an article that has really stuck with me. David Brooks wrote about a trip to Africa. They stayed in 2 types of camps: some were very fancy, beautiful and pristine. Here, they where they were “served” and had a lot of privacy, space, comfort and exclusivity. Then, they stayed in some more low-key places where the staff “got involved” with them. The cook took them on a mock safari and played soccer with his son.
Can you guess which places they enjoyed more?
You got it, they enjoyed the more modest accommodations because they loved the interaction with the staff and more “family-style” vibe that led to meeting lots of people.
All of a sudden, I got it.
I had this epiphany that so much of my happiness is related to my neighbors, my friends, my women’s group and my yoga community – even the teachers at my son’s pre-school and the people who I see when I take my dog for a walk. These were all groups that I had come to take for granted. I just saw them as part of my day – and I never stopped to realize the tremendous impact their kind words or smiles had on my day. I started to notice a trend: a 10pm dreaded dog walk would turn into a recipe exchange with my neighbor (all of a sudden I wasn’t so tired, I was happy to have made that connection). Sitting next to someone in yoga and realizing that we had a mutual friend made my practice stronger and more fun. Something as simple as my runs to the grocery store even became more enjoyable because I started paying more attention to the cashiers. N0w, I know them by name and when I leave, I feel like I’ve just had a brief visit with a friend.
Look at the incredible popularity of Facebook and Twitter – that’s all about connections and sharing. Writing these posts has turned into an incredible joy for me because of the connections I’ve had. Every “Like” puts a bounce in my step! Comments send me to the moon! And when I get a new Twitter follower, forget it, I’m smiling all day! All of a sudden I feel like I’m connecting with a lost friend from high school or a childhood neighbor.
I’m always amazed when people go through real tragedies: I follow Anna See’s blog to listen as she bravely navigates through life after tragically losing her son; or when I see my friend who is bravely, gracefully and lovingly fighting through Stage 4 cancer; or when I witnessed my Mom’s battle against cancer. They ALL say essentially the same thing – “it’s the support of family, neighbors, friends, and random kindnesses from people in your community who carry you through this. Every email, letter, call or time the door bell rings, makes the battle bearable.”
This is nothing new or profound, we all know how important connections are. I just want to give a gentle reminder that even if we aren’t suffering, let’s take a moment to remember how much that neighbor’s smile does for us, and how much YOUR smile and kind words do for them!
Ellen Padnos lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with her husband, Ben, her children Anthony (4), and Annie (1), and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lola. You can also follow her on Twitter (@ellenpadnos).