I’ve always been a bit evangelical about the things I love. When I dig a band I don’t just casually recommend them to you. I burn you a best-of mixtape, drag you to the concert, and text you favorite lyrics. I loved writing My Good List as it not only gave me a chance to reflect on the little ways I bring joy into my daily life, but it’s also an opportunity to shout from the mountaintops about a thing, a habit, a work of art, and a philosophy.
1. My orthotics
I asked my husband what he thought my favorite tangible item might be, and he did not suggest the cute new chenille cardigan I’ve been wearing nonstop, or my go-to red lipstick (I’ve been making ruby lips a trademark look), or the scented soy candles I’ve been burning daily for a dose of winter hygge.
Without missing a beat, he said orthotics. Orthotics! Despite the fact that this makes me feel so old, it’s so true. A few years ago I started having serious foot pain—if I wore anything other than Dankos or Birkenstocks, I’d be hobbling by midday.
I got prescription orthotics and voila—I’m back in my Frye boots and Chuck Taylors. Even if you don’t need the pricey medical-grade orthotics, a pair of over-the-counter arch supports can be revolutionary. My orthotics don’t fit into dress shoes, but I’ve found that the built-in orthotics in Vionics ballet flats are sufficient to the task.
2. A January Whole30
In 2015, I attempted my first Whole30. I lasted a day-and-a-half before I was offered a piece of homemade strawberry pie. At the time, I thought it was proof that the Whole30 just wasn’t for me; I want to be the kind of person who joyously digs into dessert. And I am—just not in January.
In 2017 I tried again, and it would be hard to fully inventory the benefits I reap from completing the full thirty days of the reset. They last much longer than just the first month of the year. I have come to crave this annual secular fast, and consider my January Whole30 the foundation of my health.
3. A commissioned painting
I’ve written before about how important art is to me, especially original art. Last year we added a second painting to our dining room, and it is by far my most prized possession.
Shortly after my beloved poetry teacher died last year, I came across a photograph of him reading a poem at the outdoor riverfront poetry festival he founded. It reminded me of Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, the famous pointillism painting I’ve visited often at the Art Institute in Chicago. I sent the photo to a friend and parishioner who is a gifted artist, and asked her if she’d be willing to take a commission.
A couple of weeks later she presented us with this incredible work of art. I don’t just love it for what it is; I love it for what it means. It reminds me that we can trade “beauty for ashes”—that we grieve, but not without hope. I cannot recommend more highly the practice of commissioning original artwork to commemorate big events in life. It will be treasured.
4. The importance of solitude
“The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life and should therefore be the subject of our most personal attention.” -Henri Nouwen
I’ve always considered myself an extrovert who needs to be surrounded by people as much as possible. Lately, however, I’ve been receiving the reminder that regular time alone is invaluable.
In the fall, I attended a silent retreat, and was surprised by how refreshing it was to cultivate solitude for a whole day. The retreat leaders reminded us at the closing circle that there is ancient wisdom in grounding ourselves in solitude, and only then moving into community (and, in turn, ministry).
This resonated with me so much since I’ve been reading more on the importance of solitude; this Henri Nouwen article has whetted my appetite for his book, Out of Solitude. I’m trying to actually put this into practice, too; I recently reworked my schedule to allow for solitary time on Mondays.