MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

To Be Happier: Look Out The Window

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The View From Our Balcony

One of my resolutions is to Cultivate gratitude, but I find it very challenging; I’m always searching for new ways to remind myself how precious an ordinary day is. As I’ve been working on my next book, Happier at Home, I’ve tried to find ways to remind myself of my gratitude for my home.

In the tumult of everyday life, it’s very hard to stay attuned to the familiar beauty that I see constantly. One reason I like to go on vacation is that when I return, I see again, with fresher eyes, the landscape of my neighborhood.

We don’t have any “views” from our apartment. We have great light, which is a real luxury in New York City (and if I had to pick between good light and a good view, I’d pick good light), but even though we face an apartment building, and another apartment building, and the top of a shaft, there are still beautiful things to see when we look out.

From our kitchen, we can see an building face that’s covered with ivy. It’s a great pleasure to watch the breeze make the mass of leaves tremble and sway together, like a wave running vertical. At night, it’s cozy and intriguing, in a Rear Window-ish kind of way, to see the snippets of people’s lives being enacted across the street, one floor on top of another.

For instance, we enjoy seeing Exercise Guy. His window is closer to us, and we have a good view of whether he’s doing his morning exercises on his elliptical machine, or not. My girls get a big kick out of checking and announcing, “Exercise Guy is exercising today!” Or “Exercise Guy hasn’t exercised one day this week!”

My office is in a teeny room on the roof of our building; it was converted from a storage room that had taken the place of a water tower. My window there looks out on air-conditioning equipment and the tops of ducts where they poke out of the tarred roof. Not much to see.

But even there, I’ve been trying to discipline myself to look at these window and not just let my eyes slide over the familiar scene without taking in the quality of light, the way the trees on the terrace across the street look against the sky, the patches of cloud that float above the roofs.

As Samuel Johnson said, “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible.” Or as Yogi Berra said, making a different point, “You can observe a lot by watching.”

So look out your window. Really notice what you see. Watch how the view changes over the course of the day, and as the seasons change. Try to pay attention to the way things look. Three quotations is too many for one post, but I can’t help myself from quoting Gertrude Stein: “Anything one does every day is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful.”

How about you? What can you see from your window? Do you appreciate that view?

~ Gretchen Rubin

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Written by MattAndJojang

November 1, 2011 at 11:06 am

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