Look for the sparkles in your day!
Did you ever have a nightlight in your room as a child? A nightlight is a small little light bulb, often behind a glass or plastic figure so that it illuminates that cute little puppy, flower, castle, cartoon frog or clown. When you wake up in the middle of the night and the whole room is dark, you can easily find your nightlight and focus on it to calm yourself. When everything around you feels drowned in darkness, that one tiny light can be enough to quell your fear and help you feel safe.
I used to take myself for quarterly retreats to a little one-room cabin that sat atop a hill. There was an outhouse, not far, maybe 200 yards away from the cabin. In the daytime, I never thought about it; however, at night when I needed to use the restroom, it meant I had to leave the brightly lit safety of my cozy cabin to venture into the darkness of the outhouse. (Eek! I would always hear creepy sounds and imagine that a mountain lion was about to pounce!)
I started a practice of focusing all my attention on the porch light of my little sweet cabin. (Well, that is almost all my attention. I did keep one ear cocked for that mountain lion’s footsteps on the crackly twigs!) The nightlight and porch light are examples of something I often refer to as “pinpricks of light.”
When I was a young woman, I went through a very difficult period when I was so depressed and anxious that all I could think about was how to get off this planet. The voices in my head were so cruel to me and I felt like I couldn’t live up to any expectations – internal or external. That feeling was just like a heavy iron wall closing in on me.
By grace, I was led to a meditation class and on one “in” breath I felt such a profound sense of relief that I heard myself think, “I don’t want to kill myself right now.” In that moment, I experienced that depression is not solid (like that iron wall) but could have a little pinprick of light (like the relief I felt on the “in” breath).
That one moment of my life changed everything. I started looking for “pinpricks of light” or moments of well-being as ways to save myself from the dark.
If you imagine that comforting things like holding my cat, tasting blueberry jam and seeing the way the light slanted in through the window were all actual points of light, just like a little cat nightlight or that porch light of the cabin; you can hopefully see that these tiny moments had something special about them that “lit them up” or made them sparkle just a little.
For most of us, as we go about our days, no matter how hard things are, how stressed we are, how angry or tired or sad, there are usually a few things that feel like pinpricks of light, things that sparkle.
Will you try this practice for yourself?
Your gratitude practice today is to notice three things that feel like a teeny bit of bright light. These are pinpricks of light. These are sparkles. That’s all. No big deal. These don’t have the be THE biggest bestest whateverest. Just little sparkles, like bits of glass in the dirty sidewalk that sparkle like diamonds when the sun hits them just right.
Wait, you ask. Where’s the gratitude? It’s here: it is being grateful for the nightlight, for the porch light, for the sparkly light that gives us that “I’m okay” feeling even when we are in the dark. We’re finding them, noticing them and being thankful for them!
Needs some help getting jump-started? Here are some things to be on the lookout for that usually sparkle for me:
- Something in nature
A pure white butterfly flitting by, a glimpse of a blur bird or cardinal, those elegant purple flowers on tall stalks, tree leaves that look like they’re waving to me or the burst of birds taking flight over the rooftops.
- Something you read that jumped out at you
This quote by Evelyn Waugh that was at the beginning of a book I was browsing through while standing at a neighbor’s little free library: “I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.”
It could be a phrase in a news article, on social media, in a book or in a magazine that grabbed you. (You don’t have to know why it stood out for you! Just that it did!)
- Something that made you laugh
Did your toddler niece sing that goofy song “Every Little Cell in my Body is Happy” and make you sing, too? Did your best friend make you guffaw while sipping your Italian soda and bubbles came out your nose? Did you see a funny puppy in the park?
- Something that sounded beautiful
The wind chimes on your porch, the sound of crickets at night, the melody your spouse was humming or the sound of your mom’s voice across the miles on the phone.
- Something that is a sweet memory
Today when I saw globs of gum flattened on the street and they reminded me of when my two-year pointed from his stroller long ago: “Mommy, mommy, someone painted polky-dots all over the street!”
The photo memory that popped up on my smart phone yesterday of a trip I took with my BFF to Tahoe. She was pointing to a sign which from afar we had imagined would have some magical words of wisdom for us. But really is was just a very ornate golf course signage.
- Something that tasted yummy
You betcha that a sparkle can be that first forkful of tiramisu, the sip of Aperol Spritz (whose brilliant orange color is also most definitely a sparkle!), your friend Cheryl’s spicy chili or Grammie’s famous apple pie.
Your turn to try!
Right now, think of three sparkles from your day. Write them down! If you are reading this at 6am, you have full permission to write some sparkles from yesterday. Heck, who cares when your sparkles are from – just jot ‘em down NOW!
This is a great gratitude practice that can replace the ole “three things you’re grateful for.” Sparkles are easy to think of because they tickled us or caught our eye in some way. I hope you will consider a Sparkle Journal where you keep all the pinpricks of light, day after day!