Here’s a list of wonderful things I noticed yesterday that cost nothing (or next to it):
Waking up naturally, without an alarm clock going off and forcing me awake.
Feeling the warmth of my youngest son in bed next to me, still sleeping peacefully after he climbed in during the night after a bad dream.
Running my tongue along the smooth surface of my freshly-brushed teeth.
Tasting my latest batch of cold brew coffee, made from freshly ground beans that went straight from the grinder into the filter and left to steep in the fridge for about 20 hours before serving it.
Seeing the look of delight on my youngest son’s face when I shook up the last little bit of milk in the milk jug and added some milk foam to the top of his glass of milk.
Reading my daughter’s earnest answers on her application for a student council position.
Watching my children dart across the yard to the school bus, backpacks firmly in place on their backs, waving ahead at friends that they see already waiting for the bus.
Feeling the gentle soreness in my hips and back after a lot of exercise yesterday.
Meditating for what was supposed to be ten minutes, but not hearing the “finish meditating” tone on my computer and realizing that I had just meditated for about twenty minutes, and then feeling really good for some reason.
Feeling the nice strain in my legs when I stretch them out in various ways.
Feeling the crunch of the first bite of an apple.
Diving into a one hour writing block, then looking up at the clock to find that two and a half hours have passed and I’ve managed to complete a ton of writing.
Listening to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts while walking around my neighborhood and then thinking about that episode after it stopped playing.
Seeing a smile of appreciation from a neighbor down the block when I helped her set her trash can back up and refill it after a dog apparently dug into it.
Feeling the warm feeling of sunshine on my arm when the sun came out from behind a cloud when I was on my walk.
Smelling the aroma from a crock pot full of soup as I came back home from my walk.
Taking that crock full of soup to a youth group’s evening event, so they’ll have something to eat, and swapping a few humorous stories with the event’s organizer.
Reading a paragraph that I had just written that absolutely nailed what it was that I wanted to say.
Hearing the joyful barking of our family dog when the dogs from next door came out in the yard to play with him.
Reading a thoughtful Facebook message from a reader.
Having a long conversation with my sister-in-law about her career path.
Completing an article that I’m really happy with and feeling that burden lifted from my shoulders.
Seeing my email inbox reach zero … for the moment.
Exchanging good-natured insults with a group of friends that get progressively more creative (and funnier) as the day goes on.
Being surprised when my oldest son walked in the door after school as I had completely lost track of time.
Watching my daughter talk to her pet toad like an old friend.
Reading the conclusion to a really good book I checked out from the library that left me thinking for the rest of the day and is still dancing around in my mind.
Taking a quiet picture of my three children piled together side by side on the couch, each of them reading a book.
Petting our family dog and then watching him gently roll over onto his back to have his belly rubbed.
Having a thoughtful conversation with my mother about the decline of American malls and whether anchor stores really have any purpose any more.
Playing a board game with my oldest son and seeing his eyes glow when he revels in his victory.
Working with my youngest son on his math homework and realizing that he actually knows all of it already but that he wants to do things this way because he loves math and he loves spending time with his dad in appreciation of something that he loves.
Dancing with my daughter in the kitchen to a song from my high school years, laughing when she calls it “an oldie,” and then suddenly not laughing when I realize she might be right.
Getting the kitchen really clean.
Seeing my wife come in the door after work, telling her she looks beautiful and giving her a little kiss, and seeing her still blush a little at those words, even after all those years.
Playing a game of chess with my youngest son and watching the look on his face as he puzzles through why I seem to be just letting him take my queen, and loving the fact that he’s aware enough to realize it’s a trap and insightful enough that he’s probably well down the road to figuring out why it’s a trap.
Reading a great article on the intellectual impact of smartphone use on young people.
Watching my daughter pull out a pencil and start free-sketching on a piece of paper and within ten seconds pull off a perspective trick that’s far beyond anything I could pull off and make that trick look utterly effortless.
Feeling surprised when I realize that the children actually did a really good job of cleaning up the living room, far above what I had expected from them.
Planning a dinner party with an old friend and realizing that they’re perhaps even happier to see us than I am to see them.
Taking potatoes from our garden and immediately washing and slicing and grilling them, wrapped in aluminum foil with a bit of butter and chives and salt.
Hearing my oldest son’s tale at the dinner table about losing one of his last “baby teeth.”
Having a long dinner table conversation about the unusual behavior of a child at school, trying to help my children make sense of it in a positive way, and realizing that they do feel some empathy for this child, even in his strangeness to their sensibilities.
Practicing some of the trickier moves from taekwondo with my children, who are far more practiced at them and can do them with ease.
Having a long conversation with a couple of friends that stopped by.
Learning a high-five sequence from my daughter, something that apparently she does with her friends at school.
Reading a bedtime story to my children, another chapter in a grand adventure book checked out at the library.
Plotting an after-school project with my two sons before I turn off their light in their room.
Planning out the rest of the week and realizing that things are quite doable and a lot of things are actually ahead of schedule.
Feeling warm water run across my sore back and hips and knees, and scrubbing them down with an almost hot washcloth in the shower.
Sitting with my wife at the kitchen table, debriefing the day and holding each other’s hand before we go to bed.
Running my hand along my wife’s side as we’re both beginning to drift off to sleep.
Yesterday, I decided to write down everything that happened that brought genuine happiness or joy in my life. Virtually all of it was free. Virtually all of it is listed above.
Life is abundant with joy if you just look for it. It bursts out of all of the little things almost constantly. Life offers up this rich abundance of good things without even needing to spend a dime. It is truly limitless in its beauty.
The world provides more blessings than we’ll ever need, without ever opening our wallets for anything beyond the bare minimum. The only trick is opening our hearts to it.
Have a wonderful day.