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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 5:41 pm | A Few Clouds 63º


Karen Telleen-Lawton: Basking in the Light of Ordinary Times

Vacation photos are extra-ordinary. You can gaze upon your family’s smiling faces in Kodak-moment locations, while the lost luggage, the overpriced dinner, the underwhelming hotel, or the rude taxi driver fade into memory.

No matter how perfectly planned and executed are your special times, perfect moments are rarely as perfect as we imagined they would be. Contrarily, ordinary moments can suddenly be sublime.

The other day as I was sitting out on my patio for lunch, I felt so peaceful I wanted to clutch the air.

A pair of squirrels raced noisily through the dry leaves; deer moved soundlessly across the canyon. Woodpeckers called harshly from the oaks while sweet house finch tunes wafted above the cackles.

Even the chipper down the street didn’t phase me. Usually I am annoyed if gardening machines spoil my peaceful lunchtime, but today it just sounded purposeful.

Sitting outside seven weeks after the fire, a month after our son’s long hospitalization, and three weeks after the flood, I’m taking my first deep breaths, like a newborn.

I recognize this feeling — it’s like the day after a vicious migraine. I am totally spent but simultaneously euphoric. This didn’t beat me. I am still alive.

I can only be grateful for this out-of-the-blue intense emotion. My joie de vivre is no more deserved that the previous weeks’ events were undeserved.

But it does make me realize that perfect happiness can’t be bought or even earned. It can only be recognized, upheld, and cherished for as long as it lasts.

I can think of other sublime ordinary times. There is the satisfaction of concentrated writing or working intensely on a client plan. Time flies or floats until I wake from a near trance.

My thoughts have imprinted directly on the page seemingly without having to transpose through imperfect typing fingers or imprecise translation to words.

I hope this is what heaven will be like: a oneness with the universe that doesn’t ignore life’s difficulties but is at peace with them. The peace that surpasses all understanding that is promised in the New Testament’s Philippians.

The feeling that I can meet the challenges, and then rest on the seventh day.

This is my seventh day and I am resting with tears of sadness and joy.

The sadness is for the tragedy and illness that have happened not just on the news but in my community, to my friends and my family. The joy is that, as long as I am alive, there can be deep satisfaction alongside the deep sadness.

I’m reaching for perfect moments in the kind words of strangers, the touch of a friend, and even the optometrist who provides discounted glasses for the ones that disappeared over the course of the evacuation madness.

I found perfect moments last week in a tearful meal for a book club member who lost her home but was spared her life. The gathering reinforced my appreciation for the intrinsic humanity of people within the intrinsic power of nature.

Once in a while, when you have no expectation but great need, you may have such a Kodak moment: a rainbow in time. Between storms, grab a rainbow, Santa Barbara.

— Karen Telleen-Lawton serves seniors and pre-seniors as the principal of Decisive Path Fee-Only Financial Advisory in Santa Barbara. You can reach her with your financial planning questions at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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