Meandering Through Mahdia…Day 3…Fetching our Luggage…Trains, Taxis & Louages

Before I go any further, there are a few things I’d like to mention…

  • although I was filled with fear and trepidation before getting on that plane to Tunisia, it didn’t take long for me to feel very safe, comfortable and “at home” in Mahdia. Everywhere we went, we met wonderful, kind, friendly people. Shopkeepers, grocery clerks, hotel staff, people on the streets – in our three weeks meandering through Mahdia, we never met anyone that wasn’t friendly or helpful and I never met even so much as a glance that wasn’t friendly and hospitable. It probably helped significantly that my hubby spoke fluent French and that most Tunisians speak French. My French wasn’t as fluent, but the people were always patient and those who could, immediately switched to English for me. Mahdia is full of good and kind people.
  • but most of the people we met did not want me to take pictures of them. I quickly learned to watch people’s body language and act accordingly. In an effort to respect this, I often had to forego good photo opportunities and had to restrain myself from taking more and/or better pictures in the street markets, the Medina and the Souk (Friday Market). So if my pictures seem oddly people-free or even non-existent in some segments, that’s why.
  • although it took us a day or two to figure it out, getting around Mahdia was incredibly easy. Mostly we walked. But those little yellow cabs were everywhere and very easy to flag down…a bit scary at times, but one of the things Mahdia (Tunisia) is proud of is its reputation for no vehicle accidents. We could not understand how that could be possible after some of our taxi-experiences, but apparently it’s true.

So, now, let’s get on with the story of how we got our luggage back. Maybe it will help someone else someday. Our luggage didn’t make the connection in Paris, so we had to fill out forms, lots of forms, first at the airport, then I had to register online and fill out more forms for updates as to when and where our luggage would be available for pick-up. Normally the airline is responsible for getting lost luggage to the customer, but in Tunisia, airlines are not allowed to pick up and deliver luggage. It is up to the luggage owner to make their way back to the airport and show their passport before the luggage is released – and luggage is released only to the owner. My husband was not allowed to go by himself to pick up both his and my luggage…luggage was only released to the owner of the passport.

The idea of returning to the airport was a daunting endeavour, it being only our second full day in Tunisia. And still feeling somewhat jet-lagged by the 15-hour travel day on Thursday, trying to navigate our way back to Tunis seemed like an insurmountable task for my 77-year-old husband and myself. Luckily, our friend volunteered to be our guide and navigator, giving up one of his own vacation days to do so, and I can say in all honesty that we would surely have gotten hopefully lost without his experience and expertise in navigating the Tunisian transportation system. The good news though is that once you’ve done it once, you too can be a guide and navigator, because in the end, it turned out to be fairly easy and painless.

It took about eight hours, five taxis, a train and a louage. What’s a louage you ask? An ingenious concept in our opinion after having experienced the convenience and comfort of one. Within Mahdia itself, people use the little yellow taxis. When you want to go beyond the city,  the best and most popular mode of transportation is the louage, which is a long-distance shared vehicle similar to a minivan. We took three louages during our stay in Tunisia, and they were all very clean, one even bordered on luxurious, and all three were quite comfortable to travel in. Louages travel throughout Tunisia but the difference between a louage and a regular taxi is that the louages do not depart until there are enough passengers to fill all of the seats.  Lougages typically do not get used within the city itself, eg, Mahdia or Tunis. So you usually have to take a yellow cab to get yourself to and from the Louage station.

Since our friend had had to do this exact same trip the week before, we leaned on his experience and decided to take the train to Tunis and the Louage back.

So we started out from the hotel at around 5am on Saturday morning (I have to give a shout-out of thanks to the very kind kitchen staff who gave us a handful of fresh crispy delicious potato hash-browns to take with us), took a yellow taxi to the train station and caught the 5:30am train to Tunis. It was mostly still dark so we didn’t get to see much at first, but eventually the sun rose and we enjoyed watching the Tunisian landscape roll by us. We had read online that the trains in Tunisia could be quite rocky-rolling, but our three-hour ride that morning was very comfortable and enjoyable. Once we decided to see it as an adventure rather than an onerous task, we were glad for the experience and settled back to enjoy the ride.

When we arrived in Tunis, we took a yellow cab to the airport…it was a fairly lengthy drive, which gave us a good overview of the city of Tunis. Our taxi driver was friendly and chatty and gave us some interesting commentary all along the way. Once at the airport, it only took us about 7 minutes to retrieve our luggage. Then back out to the taxi stand, where we had to haggle for a decent price (because of the luggage, they wanted to charge us extra for each piece) to take the cab to the Tunis Louage Station. As we careened through the narrow streets of Tunis, narrowly missing other cars and pedestrians at every crowded corner, I found myself snuggling deeper and deeper into my faith and the comfort of prayer…sure that at any moment I would finally come face-to-face to my Father…

But we did make it and I breathed a huge “Thank You!” as we unfolded ourselves out of the tiny cab. The Louage Station appeared at first to be nothing more than a little white shack where you bought your ticket to wherever it was you wanted to go…but just beyond that little white shack lay a sight I had never witnessed before. White minivans stretching as far as the eye could see, and people scurrying around in every direction trying to find the right one in that sea of vehicles. It was a cavernous sprawling warehouse sort of building stretching beyond the doors to an even larger parking lot out back…it was clean, but dimly-lit, loud, crowded, the air was heavy with exhaust fumes, and the whole scene was buzzing with activity and the constant hum of car motors starting. We made our way to the needle-in-a-haystack that was our Louage heading for Mahdia. There were eight seats available, and we were the first three, so we had to wait for five more passengers to arrive before we could leave the station.

It didn’t take long, and we all settled in for the three-hour drive back to Mahdia, following the same road we had taken two nights ago when we first arrived, only now it was daylight and we were able to enjoy the drive much more. While the scenery was lovely, the most memorable sight for me along the way were the trucks laden and almost overflowing with bright orange tangerines. They were so close we could almost reach out through the window and grab one (and by that time, we were hungry enough to try!)  Thankfully, we stopped half-way for coffee and snacks, and then continued on our way, arriving at the Louage station in Mahdia close to 2pm in the afternoon.

Once again we had to haggle for a decent price for the yellow cab to take us and our luggage back to the hotel. I had to sit in the front seat this time, since the guys volunteered to share the back seat with one of the pieces of luggage. I can still remember the taxi driver guffawing in delight at my audible gasps and shrieks of fear at the many near-misses all along the way, especially those narrow little lane-ways he insisted on taking, which weren’t wide enough for both the cab and the pedestrians we encountered.

We managed to make it in one piece, and, relieved to still be alive and intact, and with the gleeful anticipation of clean clothes, we gladly paid the extra fee for the luggage and made our way into our home-away-from-home.

And secretly, as daunting and tiring as it was to have to make that journey, I’m actually glad now to have that story to tell.

What I’m not so thrilled to tell is that I wasn’t mindful enough to take pictures of the Louage station in Tunis…it’s possible I wouldn’t have been allowed to take one anyway, given the great displeasure most Tunisians have of their pictures being taken. Furthermore, the morning train had been too fast and rocky for decent pictures, and I didn’t have a window seat in the Louage so was not able to take any pictures en-route on the way back. But I did manage to take a couple of pictures of the Louage station in Mahdia. (I’ll make up for the lack of pictures in future segments, I promise!)

 

I did find a picture of a Louage depot in Tunis, taken from another website online…though this one seems much smaller (and less chaotic) than the one we used. Click on the link here to go to the website (which is written in French) to see more pictures.

Louage station in Tunis, Tunisia

Louage station in Tunis, Tunisia

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Meandering Through Mahdia…Day 2…The Hotel

Our home for our three week stay in Mahdia was the Iberostar Royal El Mansour. (Since we were so well treated there, I decided to devote one whole episode of my blog to the hotel itself.) Since we were there in off-season (January), this 5-star luxury hotel was not only affordable, it was also very tranquil and pretty much one of the only hotels open at this time of year. Our room was spacious, with a balcony overlooking a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean Sea as well as a sprawling vista of Mahida and other small towns stretching as far as the eye could see along the coastline.

Over our three weeks there, two things emerged as the stars of the hotel…the staff – everyone from front desk to housekeeping to restaurant staff – were top-notch; but I have to give a special nod of recognition and appreciation to the restaurant staff…and the food…the food at the buffet restaurant (officially called the Principal Restaurant) was consistently amazing. Plentiful and diverse in both colour and the vast variety of foods being offered, each meal was a feast for both the eyes and the palate. I have to admit that one of the highlights of my entire day was walking in and seeing each evening’s dessert display. I apologize in advance because perhaps my pictures a) won’t do the dessert table justice, and b) might make your mouth water and cause significant drooling all over your screens and keyboards. Please don’t lick the screen.

I have to make a special note of one morning when we came in for breakfast and I ended up chatting with the waiter for awhile…by the time I got to the omelette station, the chef had already made my omelette exactly the way he knew from previous mornings I liked it. It was the multitude of kind little touches like that that made our stay at this hotel so special and the staff so endearing.

One thing we regretted the entire time we were there was that we had not taken the “all-inclusive” option, but had chosen the option that only included breakfast and supper. I’m including that tidbit of regret here in case any readers are tempted to look into Mahdia as a future vacation choice…my advice – go for the all-inclusive! The all-inclusive included bottled water, tea, coffee, most wines and various other perks. Without the all-inclusive band around our wrists, we had to pay for all water at all meals (which is the only big negative I have about this hotel) as well as tea and coffee in the afternoons or after supper in the coffee bar.

We managed okay, though, because just a few blocks from the hotel there was a large Carrefore grocery store where we bought fresh croissants, sliced meat, occasionally a whole rotisserie chicken (which was incredibly tasty), local cheese, yogurt and large bottles of water. In addition, we quickly mastered the art of spying bakeries everywhere we went, and would often spend 20-30 minutes in each bakery trying to decide which treats to buy to take home to add to our lunches (I’ll be including photos of some of those bakery treats in a later segment). We enjoyed our DIY lunches out on the balcony on warmer days or at the little table in our room each day.

Living on the local economy was very affordable for us, not only because almost everything in Mahdia (except bananas) was relatively inexpensive in the first place, but since our Canadian dollar bought us almost double the Dinar, everything we bought was essentially half-price for us. Still, if we do ever decide to go back, and there’s a good chance we will, we would definitely book with the all-inclusive option this time around. We could have upgraded to the all-inclusive bracelet, but it was significantly more expensive than if we had booked it through our travel agency, so we opted to continue  enjoying our forays into the local shops for our lunches.

Aside from the amazing staff and mouth-watering food, the hotel offered an enthusiastic entertainment/activity staff and a wide array of daily activities such as archery, bocce ball and tennis, and featured a well-equipped gym, heated pools as well as three outdoor pools, a very popular in-house spa and fun activities in the evenings. In fact, there was so much to do there, we didn’t have time to try them all out. One of the neat things the hotel did during low season that we all enjoyed was to lower its weekend prices so that the local Tunisians could come with their families…it was so much fun watching the children (usually under the attentive eyes of the hotel’s entertainment staff) oohing and aahing over the buffet displays…and then watching even the tiniest toddlers dance and sing crazy songs at the children’s mini-disco in the early evenings.

While hubby did indulge in a few rounds of archery in the afternoons, our favourite activity quickly became the morning walks through various parts of Mahdia. Between the crazy traffic and the even crazier sidewalk system, it was quite an adventure learning to walk through Mahdia. We soon learned that the best route was to take the beautiful boardwalk that ran right beside the Mediterranean Sea. I’ll be featuring more stories and photos from those walks, including the sidewalks, colourful markets and yes, the cats,  in future segments of this series. Tomorrow’s segment will take us back to Tunis to get our long-lost luggage.

For now, I’ll leave you with some pictures of the views from our balcony, the hotel itself and some of the tantalizing dessert displays.

 

 

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Meandering Through Mahdia…Day 1

Let me start out by being very honest…it was never my idea to go to Tunisia. In fact, Tunisia has never been even remotely on my radar, bucket list or any list that I’ve ever made of places I’d like to visit. Moreover, right up until the taxi arrived at our front door to take us to the airport, I was in the bathroom crying because I SO did not want to go to Tunisia. We had been seeing reports on the television news of the fiery protests going on in Tunisia, and I had read the bright red-banner warnings on the Canadian Travel Advisory site clearly written in large bold lettering:  “Avoid All Travel” and “Avoid Non-Essential Travel”…mind you, they were for regions that we would not be close to…but it didn’t matter. I was downright frightened.

Of all of the places in the world we could have picked to travel to, WHY TUNISIA?!!!

Normally we travel to Cuba (possibly the safest place in the entire world for tourists) and stay there for several weeks in the winter. But this year, my husband had decided to accept a friend’s invitation to come to Mahdia in Tunisia instead. He and his wife had spent many winters in Tunisia and had often asked us to join them. But we kept going back to our beloved Cuba. But our friend’s wife had passed away earlier in 2017, and so my husband decided that we should go and keep our friend company this year.

So now here we were…Cuba was calling to me to go back…but no, here we were on a 6-hour overnight flight to Paris where we would connect to the 2-hour flight to Tunis, in Tunisia, Northern Africa. Despite all of my fervent prayers, none of the flights were cancelled and we made our connection, landed safely in Tunis, and were quickly and quite easily ushered through customs….possibly one of the quickest Custom processes we’ve ever experienced in all of our years of travelling.

Okay, so far so good. It was all going well. Until our luggage didn’t show up. And as it became clear that we were going to be stuck here in the airport for awhile to process the lost-luggage claim, I had to walk out into the airport arrivals section and search through the daunting crowds for our pre-booked, pre-paid taxi driver so he wouldn’t leave without us. It would be a three-hour drive to Mahdia, and at this point, Tunisia was still a very strange and scary world for me…I really didn’t want to get stuck.

The airport was very crowded, and loud, with mostly men yelling out the names of the people they were there to meet, and I quickly felt overwhelmed, exhausted and frightened. Unable to speak the language well, and therefore unable to figure out which of these several dozen men was our real taxi driver, because it seemed that they were all claiming to be the one, it was clearly becoming a futile – and frightening – search…one man kept urging me to go outside of the airport with him…I was terrified, and broke away from him and made my way back to the luggage carousel and promptly broke down in tears. Hey, it had been a very long journey, my 77-year-old husband’s hearing aids were not working, he was beyond exhausted and having some difficulty staying clear-headed, and all I wanted to do was run back to the Air France desk and ask them to take us home.

But instead, I had my little pity party, then found the lost-luggage desk, realized that they spoke perfect French and so then gave my Quebecois husband the job of translating our dilemma to the woman there. And thus we encountered our first of what was to be MANY encounters with very good, kind Tunisian people. The woman behind the window was very sympathetic, patient and kind…she filled out all of the paperwork for us, then used her own cellphone to call out to the transportation desk and located our taxi driver (who it turns out was the man who had been trying to get me to follow him outside) and gave him and us the directions on how to find one another. After about an hour and a half we finally got in the cab, with only our carry-on knapsacks and a lot of apprehension about the long drive ahead of us.

The drive to Mahdia WAS very, very long, through dark and winding roads, and many seemingly deserted seaside towns, none of which did anything to soothe my fears and anxiety. We had no clue where we were or where exactly we were going. After a little over three hours, we finally pulled up to our huge beautiful hotel, where we were warmly welcomed with open arms and a whole battalion of very friendly buffet restaurant staff who had known we were coming and had volunteered to keep the restaurant open just for us. The food was plentiful, hot, fresh and delicious. It was such a relief to finally be there, and a lovely way to end what had been a very long and somewhat harrowing journey to get there. With no luggage and therefore nothing to unpack, we fell into our five-star king-size bed and had one of the best sleeps of our life. And so ended our first day in Mahdia.

 

 

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The scene we woke up to from our hotel balcony the next day…

Coming up…more Meandering Through Mahdia with pictures of the Medina, Markets, Mediterranean and cats, because there were lots of cats in Mahida. Stay tuned!

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My New Book of Poetry

One of the reasons I haven’t been blogging lately is because I’ve been very busy gathering together over 40 years worth of my poetry from old journals and scraps of paper all over the house. I finally decided to put them altogether in a collection that could be publishable.

The result of all this gathering work is “124 Poems for God, Love and Light Conquer the Night”. I love this book. It might not be the best poetry out there, but it’s mine, coming straight from the heart, and often from a heart that was mired in seemingly insurmountable quicksand of despair and darkness of the depression with which I struggled for most of my life.

I’m proud of having survived…proud, glad, relieved and inclined to celebrate waking up to each new day as a tremendous accomplishment. There were many, many times when I thought it would be impossible a) to get through even one more moment, b) to get through even one more day, and c) to get to a here-and-now that I would be delighted and happy to wake up to….at one time in my life, that was unimaginable to me.

But here I am. In a really good here-and-now. And “124 Poems for God” is the story, through poetry (many of which were originally written as songs I played on my guitar), of constantly reaching out of that quicksand and despair, reaching for light, love, hope and whatever I could find that would help me get through the next step, the next bend in the road, the next safe ground.

So here it is, available now on most Amazon sites…and soon it should be available on all Amazon sites. Here’s the link to Amazon.com: 124 Poems for God

124 Poems July 20 love and light V5

 

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Easter Sunday Morning Music

I just want to share some of my favourite hymns/songs that I love to listen to on Easter Sunday morning…

Rise Again, by Dallas Holm

Christ The Lord is Risen Today, by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Was It a Morning Like This, by Sandi Patty

Easter Song by The 2nd Chapter of Acts

Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, by Royal Choral Society

These aren’t Easter-specific, but still beautiful additions to my Easter music playlist.

A gentle blast from my past that always lifts my heart and spirit: Sometimes Alleluia, by Chuck Girard

This isn’t exactly an Easter song, but still one of my favourites: Your Love Broke Through, by Keith Green

These are two of my favourite Easter hymns that I remember singing when I was a young child: He Lives (I Serve A Risen Saviour), words by Alfred H. Ackley, 1933; Sung by Blue Rock Mennonite Youth

Rejoice the Lord is King, words by John Darwall, sung by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

A favourite any day of the year, but especially Easter: Amazing Grace, sung by Michael W. Smith

And just because it’s so joyful..this one always gets me dancing around the living room: A New Hallelujah, by Michael W. Smith & African Children’s Choir

And finally this beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving: 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)

Okay, one more, a bonus song…this one is from way back in the 80’s and had such a profound impact on me then, and got me through many, many dark nights of my soul. Again, not an Easter song per se, but the words are just too beautiful to not include here: Nobody Knows Me Like You, by Benny Hester

 

empty tombeaster

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Palm Sunday – Holy Week

Dear Jesus,

Today is Palm Sunday. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this today. I know that we’ve been together since I was a child and that You know my heart and its ways, even better than I do. But I have to say something I’ve never admitted before, Lord…that I really hate today’s story…and how the story is going to keep unfolding over the next week. I know I’m not supposed to hate anything, and I’m sorry to use that word, but it really is how I feel.

I really hate how You were betrayed and abandoned by Your best friends. I hate how people spat on You, and mocked and ridiculed You in public. I hate how they bullied You. I hate how the very people You spoke such tender Love to, the many, many people You healed along the way, were the ones who turned away and gave up on You and Your message of Love. I hate how they totally misunderstood – how they totally missed that YOU were Your Father’s Love letter to His people. I hate how they couldn’t tolerate their own inability to grasp Your Love and so chose to save Barabas instead of You. I hate when they nailed You to that cross….the agony You must have felt, as they brutally drove those nails through your beautiful healing hands, crushes my heart into a zillion pieces. I can scarcely even listen when they get to that part of the story. I hate how they all stood there and watched you bleed and die, so helpless and alone. I hate that You felt so abandoned, even by Your own Father, in those last agonizing moments. I hate it all. I hate the hatred.

Most of all, I hate how little we’ve changed over all these years. How we still mock and bully those who speak Love and peace instead of hatred and war. I hate how we still reject and walk away from even our best friends when they speak something that we don’t like to hear or make choices that we don’t understand. I hate that even after all You’ve said and done, I still doubt that You really love me. And I hate that even knowing all of this, after hearing and reading and experiencing Your tender faithful Love for my entire life, I can still even utter the word “hate”, knowing full well that You live, speak and breathe Love and call me to do the same.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain and sorrow that You had to endure all those many years ago. I’m sorry for not getting the message either, for not being able to fully trust You and Your Love, even though You did all of this, and suffered all this agony for me. And the irony is not lost on me that You gave up YOUR life, precisely so that I could live and speak and breathe, even if that includes living and speaking and breathing “hate”.

Yes, I hate the story of Palm Sunday, and the week that we’re entering into…it’s a week I wish I could somehow ignore and pretend never happened, a week I wish I could skip entirely through and get straight to that moment, that glorious moment early Sunday morning when You rise and I can almost hear all of Heaven singing Hallelujah, and I can feel my heart pulsing with joy and gladness in the knowing that all is well again, You are alive, and we are too.

Grace. Amazing Grace. How sweet, how sweet that Grace that finds me in my hatred and in my sorrow and in my lost places and speaks Love, Healing, Sunrise, Mercy, Path, Light and Hallelujah into the deepest corners of my being. Grace. Palm Sunday Grace. Holy Thursday Grace. Good Friday Grace. Saturday – our “in-between-places” – Grace, Rising Grace. It’s there, Grace is there, woven in and through every word and every sorrow and every bloody striking of the whip and nails, in the darkness of the tomb, in the weeping out our “why’s”, in our excruciating agony-of-absence, in our waiting in the void, in the rising and the glory of Sunday morning.

How can I hate the story when it oozes Grace and Mercy and Light and Love in every single word?! Love, You, turned the darkness to Light, the sorrow to Joy, the lostness to  Hope, the cross to Redemption, our “why” to Grace…You, Your story, turns my hatred to Love.

Palm Sunday…Hosanna to the King. Hosanna to the Love of my life. Tell me again the story of Your Love…

palm cross

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2017. All rights reserved.
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Bits and Pieces

Every so often, I become conscious of a new “theme” in my life, growing out of recurring nuances that come out of my meanderings through prayer and meditation, social media memes and conversations, nature and various issues/concerns that need processing and enlightenment. These new themes tend to stick around for awhile until I’ve figured out the golden nuggets of learning that grow out of the mulling and pondering.

This latest new theme began several months ago as part of my morning Grace-prayer. I usually make myself a veggie omelette for breakfast and these omelettes often end up being quite a work of art by the time they’re finished. They make my mouth drool just looking at them, and it’s always exciting to sit down and dig into them because each one is its own unique masterpiece. So my Grace-prayer is one of deep gratitude, beginning with profound thanks specifically for all of the wonderful “bits and pieces” that have gone into making these omelettes…usually a combination of sauteed onions, red peppers, mushrooms, baby spinach, ham, tomatoes, cheese and various different herbs and spices. I’m grateful for the bounty of “bits and pieces” that were available in the fridge and pantry…and I’m also profoundly grateful for having had the energy to make the omelette, the pleasure I get from cutting and cooking the various “bits and pieces”, and the growing renewal of this creative side of myself.  After sleep-walking through many years of grief, depression, chronic fatigue and simply not knowing what to do – or what I could do – with my life anymore, this new energy, these bursts of creativity and even the simple pleasure in making these morning omelettes, are not only producing a scrumptious healthy breakfast, but are opening the door to other healthier habits, and awakening in me the desire to find new ways to be creative in other aspects of my life as well.

So the phrase “bits and pieces” began in those morning Grace-prayers…and gradually has blossomed into a whole new way of enjoying my day-to-day life. I can feel myself becoming more aware of, and expressing more gratitude for the other “bits and pieces” that I’m now actively looking for and finding in the various nooks and crannies of each day. I’m no longer looking for the big chunks of “perfection”; they’re often just simple, small, barely visible-if-you’re-not-looking-for-them, perhaps even seemingly disconnected “bits and pieces” reaching out of the cooking, cleaning, housework, outings, exercising and other daily activities. Then as the day continues its unfolding, all of these various “bits and pieces” weave themselves together in my consciousness to create quite a masterpiece image of – JOY!

And that got me to thinking. About how once upon a time, I used to believe that happiness was a once-and-for-all-time thing, that once my life was in order and everything in its right place, I would finally be happy. There was always this belief that once I found the perfect place to live, once I got married, once I had children, once I had the perfect job, once I had all the beautiful house, clothes and shoes and trinkets I always yearned for, once this, once that…once it was all in place and everything was aligned perfectly, voila. Happiness. The problem was that this plan kept falling apart, once, twice, many times over. I was told in my mid-twenties that I could never have children. I was in my mid-thirties and still not married. I suffered from chronic low-grade depression (dysthemia) so I would never even be eligible to adopt children, and chronic fatigue made it difficult for me to hold any job or even do volunteer work for very long. Nothing ever seemed to go the way I thought it would, and so happiness became more and more elusive, if not downright impossible.

But a few years ago, I took it upon myself to redefine what happiness is. I began to choose to believe that we didn’t have to – that we COULD NOT – wait until the perfect day, or the perfect job, or the perfect weather, or the perfect person, or the perfect whatever finally came along. I figured that happiness HAD to be somehow find-able right here and right now. It  had to be! How could it be something so elusive and impossible if it’s meant to be so vital and necessary to our health and well-being?!

So I’ve been on a path, which has meandered me through many books and conversations and into deep questioning prayer and ultimately led me to nurturing my gratitude attitude. This led me in turn to zeroing in on finding the beauty and blessings in the here-and-now, digging underneath all of the crap and chaos the world throws at us, like the tiny tenacious crocus that insists on blooming despite and through the lingering snow. That meandering has led me on a wondrous journey into a deeper inner peace and contentment that I’ve never experienced before. A contentment based on finding joy and pleasure in the myriad of the “bits and pieces” that make up each day. The “bits and pieces” of scrumptious veggies that make their way from the garden into my omelettes, the “bits and pieces” of new buds on the lilac tree, the “bits and pieces” of flowers making their way through the dirt in the front garden, the “bits and pieces” of sunrises and sunsets and ever-changing clouds against a brilliant blue sky, the “bits and pieces” of connections and conversations with family and friends from all over the world, the “bits and pieces” of so many different birds singing all around me, the “bits and pieces” of life and living everywhere I look.

Yes, there are also “bits and pieces” of chaos and mayhem, never-ending rivers of violence and hatred spewing from the news, there are large chunks of raw grief and ragged pieces of people and pain, of poverty and hunger, of fear and despair. Sometimes, perhaps often, those “bits and pieces” weigh us down and cripple us into a sense of futility, and blind us to what else is out there, the other “bits and pieces” of beauty and kindness, of comforting compassion and uplifting nurturing, of Grace and Light that are well within our reach and field of vision, if we allow our eyes and hearts to be open to seeing and allowing them to take root in us and grow us forward, even through the crap and chaos.

My definition of happiness is much more attainable and sustainable now, because now it’s built on seeing, enjoying, nurturing, gathering, sharing and choosing to focus more of my time and energy on these good “bits and pieces” that are in my here-and-now. In fact, even though I now know and, with some sadness, accept that life and people and the world will never be perfect, my life IS jam-packed with wondrous “bits and pieces”, more than I can even take in most days. And it all leaves me breathlessly intoxicated with profound joy and gratitude for being so much healthier, contented, peaceful and, yes, happier, than ever before in my life.

 

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2017. All rights reserved.
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