Monday, August 13, 2012

Favorite Things

Of all the things in this world, do you know what you like best? What are your favorites? Ever thought about it or perhaps even made a list? Your “favorite things” may be things to do or see, to give away or buy, things to remember or recreate or just to talk about. They may not be tangible things—but feelings, memories, or thoughts. They may be as big as watching a sunrise or as small as taking a nap.

They may be similar to what Julie Andrews’ character in The Sound of Music sang about in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s familiar song, “My Favorite Things.” That is, “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens….”

When I think about my favorite things, it is these lyrics that come to mind. They remind me of how so often it’s the little things in life—perhaps very simple things—that truly bring a sense of joy and satisfaction. It is from this place of “favorite things” that, in retirement, we may best find our answers to “What will I do all day?”

When we become aware of what delights us, we can use this awareness to make the most of the extra time we have in retirement. Time spent doing our “favorite things” is a great way to add meaning, direction, and enjoyment to the extra hours that we find when we don’t have to go in to work every day.

One of my friend’s favorite things to do is collect quotations—not just literary quotes but also things that she hears ordinary people say that give her pause to think. She writes them down in a little book in different colors of ink. She reads from her personal quotation book from time to time.

“It’s free,” she explains. “It fills my mind with fresh and interesting perspectives. It gives me the chance to keep beautiful language close at hand. It makes me feel rich inside.”

One of my favorite things to do is bake cookies—big cookies. When my children were young, I often baked cookies for their class parties. Baking cookies became one more task that I’d have to squeeze into my day, usually after the kids were in bed.

Now that I have more time and fewer commitments, I am able to thoroughly enjoy the process of baking. I take my time. It is in the experience of measuring, mixing, and forming the cookies, smelling them as they bake, and taking them out of the oven fresh and hot that I now take pleasure in—I’m not rushing through the process just to get it done. I am able to linger in the delight of the process itself. This is a change in the mindset that retirement allows us.

What are some of your favorite things? Write them down. Consider what it is about each experience that delights you.

Next, consider how you can add to your delight in this “favorite.” I call it “selling up.” For example, after baking cookies on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I packaged them—just like the song—in “brown paper packages tied up with strings”(I’m not kidding!). Then my husband and I delivered these packages to friends in the nursing home. My favorite thing, baking cookies, became the favorite part of the day for several other people. I know that many of them didn’t “feel so bad” after our visit. Favorite things have a way of doing that.

To get the most out of your favorites, immerse yourself completely in the experience. Multiply your joy by seeking out others to also enjoy the experience. And think about ways that you can sell-up your list of favorites.

Try it! Learn to think about and practice your “favorite things” often—especially if you’re not sure what to do all day.