Have you ever read a book that enriched your life more deeply than you ever expected – even inspiring you to change your life? Well, I have. Let me share with you one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite books, and how it empowered and led me to live a life filled with more joy.
I walked home to my apartment and soft-boiled a pair of fresh brown eggs for my lunch. I peeled the eggs and arranged them on a plate beside the seven stalks of the asparagus (which were so slim and snappy they didn’t need to be cooked at all). I put some olives on the plate, too, and the four knobs of goat cheese I’d picked up yesterday from the formaggeria down the street, and two slices of pink, oily salmon. For dessert – a lovely peach which the woman at the market had given to me for free and which was still warm from the Roman sunlight. For the longest time I couldn’t even touch this food because it was such a masterpiece of lunch, a true expression of the art of making something out of nothing. Finally, when I had fully absorbed the prettiness of my meal, I went and sat in a patch of sunbeam on my clean wooden floor and ate every bite of it, with my fingers, while reading my daily newspaper article in Italian. Happiness inhabited my every molecule.
This is one of my favourite quotes of all time, and kudos to you if you recognise it – it’s from the transformative, pasta-eating, temple-scrubbing, soul-searching journey of Elizabeth Gilbert, as told in Eat Pray Love!
When I came across this quote, from Elizabeth Gilbert’s time in Italy, I re-read it. Then I re-read it again.
Then, wanting to treasure it and keep it close to my heart, I collected it in my reading journal – a place where I keep things I learn from books, or simply quotes I like.
Why do I love this quote so much? I love it because it radiates warmth and simplicity. I love it because when you read it, you feel a true sense of hygge (the Danish term for feeling cosy and contented). And I love it because it made me realise how much joy can be found in everyday moments – even the ones that seem trivial – and documenting them.
“A lovely peach.. Warm from the Roman sunlight.”
“I went and sat in a patch of sunbeam on my clean wooden floor.”
“Happiness inhabited my every molecule.”
I love writing, and always have. Growing up, I always wrote diaries, and as a teenager, I continued this habit. In my 20’s, I started writing a food & beauty blog because writing brings me joy, and puts me in my flow state.
Somewhere along the way, I lost faith in my writing talent. Although I can’t pinpoint the exact time when this happened, if I were to guess, it would be during a time in my life when I struggled with depression and anxiety, which of course brings with it issues such as low self-esteem and confidence. I also lost the divine inspiration and curiosity for the world that had always come so naturally to me. Plus, discovering talented writers who write beautiful, beautiful words – like Elizabeth Gilbert, Lang Leav and Rupi Kaur, made me think,
“Well, if I can’t write about my life as beautifully – as if every moment, even the mundane, could be romanticised and worthy of poetry – why bother?”
This is perfectionism, the habit that robs us of our access to limitless joy. Elizabeth Gilbert actually talks about this in Big Magic, her book about creativity.
You’re afraid you have no talent.
You’re afraid somebody else already did it better.
You’re afraid everybody else already did it better.
You’re afraid your best work is behind you.
You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with.
You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back.
You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again.
You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying?
Well, after reading and re-reading this favourite quote of mine, I started writing again.
It may not sound like a big deal, but on a daily basis, I would always think, “Wow, I had a great day today. I’m enjoying my lunch, eating healthy, delicious food out in the sun, listening to a happy song.. Maybe I should write this in my diary?”
“Nah, it’s too trivial and stupid.”
I convinced myself that not everything I wrote had to be a work of art; not all my writing had to sound like award-winning poetry. That, if reading someone’s rather ordinary sounding, yet intrinsically special recount of their day can bring me so much joy, then surely recounting my own ordinary-but-special moments must do the same!
That’s why now, most days, my diary is literally simply a recount of my day/week – documenting what I did – without particularly deep or meaningful reflections or pondering about life:
Thursday 19th July, 10:34am
Today, I woke up with Diony to a warm, sunny day. After he left for work, I put my phone on Airplane Mode, watched Lavendaire’s Reset Routine and Renee Amberg’s Flow State video (Youtubers), and did a Stop, Breathe & Think meditation. I made myself a fragrant Earl Grey tea, and for breakfast, I had fresh mango chunks and a blueberry muffin.
This week, I learnt how to make videos, including how to add titles, captions, effects, music, and cut out segments etc. I got the idea of creating meditation oils, eg. with frankincense. I framed my A2 & A3 art prints, including my gorgeous amethyst print and the one of roses & peonies!
When I am tired, I convince myself to still bullet point the day:
Tuesday 24th July, 23:03
Went to the library and checked out The Fifth Agreement, Option B, and Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It
Ran 3 kilometres at the gym
Did a coconut & argan oil hair mask
Read 4 chapters of How to Get Sh*t Done by Erin Falconer
Had a smoothie made with 1 banana, 5 handfuls of spinach & kale, milk, and cacao mint protein powder
Day by day, I started simply documenting my daily life – even if I’d originally thought these things to be too insignificant to write about.
And day after day, I find myself reading back through my diary, smiling when I recall the simple, but always joyful, days of my life. That’s how I re-discovered the value of the ‘little things’, and how they truly are the big things in disguise.
As for those deep, meaningful reflections? Writing daily for a month has re-awakened and re-ignited my creativity, curiosity and inspiration – and has led me right back to them. In between my daily recounts of joy, I now find myself writing longer and longer entries and in more and more depth. I found my way back to my goal by letting go of the outcome. The simple act of getting started, and letting go of the need for your work to be ‘perfect’, can be miraculous!
So, if this worked for me, it could work for you, too. Have you stopped doing something you loved, or pursuing a creative hobby you are passionate about? Why did you stop, and what is holding you back? If there is something you want to do, or do again, just start. Give it time and be kind and patient with yourself. If it doesn’t lead anywhere, what can you lose?
But if it leads you back to your true path, your passion, your joy, and your authentic self – the self that gets lost in blissful flow state, the self that feels like it is right where it belongs.. You have only everything to gain. ❤