I was thinking the other day about recent columns I've written, and it struck me that I've used quite a bit of ink to focus on relatively negative topics.
It's surprisingly easy to get into that rut, as I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the anxiety, exhaustion and busyness that are part of everyday life.
For example, a couple of recent columns dealt with men's apparent hesitancy to talk about the importance of work-life balance. Another examined the role of etiquette in the workplace and how bad manners can affect a person's career. Stress and guilt were other topics I chose to explore.
In other words, I've been quite a downer. I hope all the happy, positive people out there will accept my apologies.
Since this is the Christmas season, it's time for me to make like Scrooge and mend my ways. So, in today's column, I would like to express appreciation for some of the everyday joys of my life.
I believe it's important to count these little blessings that surround us, and I hope you'll do the same. To help get you started, here are some of the things that have made the "life" side of my work-life balance equation special during the last few weeks:
— Singing in the church choir with my three daughters. We participated in our congregation's Christmas program on Sunday, and it was an amazing experience for me. I love hearing my daughters' voices joining in song next to mine and those of our friends and neighbors. A special treat this week was listening to my oldest daughter sing a solo of the beautiful "O Holy Night." It simultaneously brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.
Little blessing No. 1, then, is the opportunity to sing with my children and feel the power of good music in my life.
— Watching my wife set a nearly perfect example of selfless service. I sometimes think her clock has more hours on it every day than mine does. In the two months between Halloween and New Year's Eve, not only does she make some of her favorite holidays special, but she also manages to take care of the four people (including her) who have birthdays in our family in November and December. But that doesn't mean she focuses only on us. In just the last week, she helped with a teacher lunch as part of her PTA service and made dinner for one of our neighborhood families when their mom had surgery — on the same day. I wish I was that good at showing how much I care for people.
Little blessing No. 2 is the opportunity to watch her example and, hopefully, grow better at following it.
— Seeing how happy my children are when they're spending time with each other. Yes, they occasionally argue. And on some days, it's more than occasional. But most of the time, my three daughters and my son truly love being together. Even as I was typing this, I was momentarily distracted by loud giggles and guffaws from the basement as the three younger children played together. And my soon-to-be 17-year-old isn't too cool to mix it up with her younger siblings. In fact, she goes out of her way to give each of them her time, whether one-on-one or as part of the group.
Little blessing No. 3 is children who know how to have fun with each other, building bonds that I hope will last a lifetime.
— Watching people go out of their way to be kind to friends and strangers alike. Many of us try to spread goodwill during this holiday season, but I see these random acts of kindness all year long. I see the business person who is clearly in a hurry but who offers his spot in the grocery store checkout line to the mom or dad who is dealing with a crying child. I give a smile to the co-worker who holds the door for me and others, even when we're far enough away that she could let it close without being overtly mean. I hear about a person who pays the bill for the people in the car behind him in a fast-food drive-thru as a way to celebrate his own birthday. When I witness these things, it always warms my heart and makes me want to be a better person.
Little blessing No. 4 is evidence that there are many good people out there who are committed to doing things that make the world a better place.
— Slowing down for a minute so I can catch up with a friend or family member. Every year, we drive out to Tooele County for a Christmas party with my wife's extended family. We had that opportunity again last Saturday. This is a big group, and I never have time to talk to as many of her aunts, uncles and cousins as I would like. But it seems like, every year, I have the chance to chat extensively with one or two people, and I always come away from those conversations feeling uplifted and happy. I love hearing about the joys and successes of their lives, and I can relate to their struggles and challenges.
I know it's busy for everyone around the holidays. But little blessing No. 5 is the opportunity to ignore that hustle and bustle for a few minutes and reconnect with another person.
These aren't the only blessings I could mention, but they do prove how good this Scrooge's life really is. And I'm guessing that many of you can relate.
During this holiday season, when we all tend to be a bit frazzled, I hope you'll take a break for a minute and count the little blessings in your own life. If you do so, you may discover more than just better work-life balance. You might also learn to recognize quiet moments of pure joy that will bless your life for years to come.