“Life is a romantic business. It is painting a picture, not doing a sum – but you have to make the romance, and it will come to the question how much fire you have in the belly.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
I recently told a gentleman that what I wanted was a romantic life. It was interesting to watch his reaction as he suddenly felt burdened with the responsibility that the word meant to him. Not being a romantic sort himself, he began to get a little antsy with the duty he felt that word imposed upon him. He might be responsible for cards and flowers, candlelit dinners, calling daily and many other items on a checklist in order to keep his partner happy. But in actuality, that wasn’t the type of romance I was alluding to at all.
I was talking about the magic of life, appreciating it in the smallest of ways such as smelling the coffee brewing and something baking in the oven when I wake up, hearing the crickets at night, feeling the softness of my grandson’s skin - truly being completely present in the moment. I was hoping that I would always feel a passion for a cause that was important to me, that I would want to learn something new each day and that I would see the gifts both in young companionship and old, looking for the qualities that make each person unique and special, even when it is difficult.
Like a lot of women facing each day with long task lists and filling other’s needs, there are times that I long for the romance in the Harlequin novels, the fantasy of Hallmark cards, dark chocolate, white roses and peonies, Victoria’s Secret and Chanel. Nora Roberts is a quick fix, but the truth is, I believe that the only answer is to take our daily moments and give them an attitude adjustment, a slight shift, a new perspective.
A few months ago, I started receiving phone calls from people telling me that their lives felt flat and uninspired. They had fleeting moments of happiness but were missing a deeper joy. They felt no exhilaration or elation about anything and, they longed to. When I asked them what they were interested in or what they wanted to do, they didn’t know. They just felt lost, and though I’m no clinician, they seemed sad and a little depressed. And I get it! We are on digital overload and it’s one rough story after another. How do you find the joy, the magic and the romance of life?
I have only witnessed true joy a few times in my life and it showed up in the most unlikely places. One was at Mendies Haven, an orphanage in Katmandu, Nepal where the children had arrived out of the most devastating of circumstances. Upon my arrival for a two week stay, my luggage had been left behind in another country and would not show up for a few days. Every child was the proud owner of two donated changes of clothing. Immediately, two of the older girls came up to me, each with one of their outfits, “Auntie Linda, we brought clothes for you!” they said with such joy, knowing they could share with me - that they had something to give me.
Another time was in Bukoba, Tanzania when I took a group of our members from Women’s Global Network to meet their global business partners, women we were assisting with microloans. When we arrived, they were singing and dancing and had prepared blankets for us to sit on and small cups of tea in cracked cups. And though we spoke no Swahili and they no English, we communicated our joy to be together as women, offering support, kindness and our communal hope for a better world.
I am absolutely certain that when we are in service to others, when our emotional reservoirs are filled, then our lives are filled with romantic moments. Deep, strong emotional desires to connect with other people and find ways to ensure their happiness and well-being are an expression of love and kindness.
After I received those calls, it seemed important to me that I create a program helping others figure out how to get out of the doldrums and to move into a life and work that brings them joy, while they contribute to the world. I am hearing words like, “I’m unstuck!” and “This has changed the trajectory of my life.” Their magical moments have become mine and I’m grateful that my emotional reservoir continues to fill daily.
It’s Valentines next week and the pressure is on, although truth be told, it’s my favorite month of the year. It sometimes can be as disappointing as exhilarating perhaps because we have attached the emphasis on the day to being awarded a prize rather than the experience of romance. But, there are plenty of ways to create magical moments. It’s Chinese New Year, the year of the Dog, attend a festival and watch a visually beautiful Dragon dance. It is Dr. Seuss month and I know many children who would love to add a little green food coloring into their morning eggs. It’s Go Red for Women month and the Heart Association has many activities where you can dress up in bright red and learn something new. Fun, but temporary solutions. So I ask you, what will you do the day after, what small shift or attitude adjustment will you make?