1. In Fast Walks and Short Talks

Sure, long conversations and enduring partnerships are deeply satisfying. But delight comes in how relationships fit into day-to-day living. I love when a relationship is so comfortable that it can go compact.

The following text conversation with a friend last week was perfect for my day:

"I miss you," she texted.

"Me too. Have time for a long walk?"

"SURE, if we can speed it up."

The next day, we met on her way home from work and walked for 15 minutes, during which time we got completely up-to-date on job drama, kid worries, election grousing and at least half of the things we feel overwhelmed about.

There's no joy in waiting around for your friend or husband or sister to have time for a long lunch. You can say a lot in short, caring conversations.

"Got a sec?"

"Literally one, but you can have it."

2. Under the Third-Grade Participation Trophy

We all have parts of childhood we would rather forget. But don't let the bad-picture days win. Go to that box of keepsakes your mom saved, push aside the teenage angst and the practice SAT test (why did she save that?) and find the caterpillar clown you painted in second grade. Remember how fun that was? Remember what made you raise your hand in music class and what the school cafeteria smelled like when they were serving cheese pizza? Remember the place you kissed someone for the first time? The place you daydreamed? Look there. Look harder. Wonder and contentment hide in who we were before adulthood snatched us.

3. On the Ironing Board

Ah, the smell of toasting cotton, steam and spray starch. And the feel of a fresh crease...and the look of just-pressed fabric flowing from a hanger. Okay, I know I've lost some of you, but if you get any happiness from a mundane task, you know where I'm coming from. Busy work we enjoy can put us in a serene, meditative state. Maybe yours is mowing the grass or doing dishes by hand—something that keeps your hands and eyes so happy that you can focus on only that thing. (Now if only my husband would find joy in pulling weeds and painting the hallway.)

4. Under G in the Dictionary

Grace...generosity...gratitude. How we give and get are powerful parts of our humanity and lead us straight to joy. (So do gravy and graham crackers.) My theory: Joy started out with the G's, but they needed more J words. Scrabble players, am I right?

5. Where Your Mom Didn't Look

When my youngest daughter was 3, she started hiding in closets. Mostly in her own closet, which became very easy to figure out (not your best hiding place, pumpkin.) Eventually she moved on to smaller spaces, like the tiny coat closet at the bottom of the stairs. She was a quiet kid, and at times we were a bit concerned. It was weird. Nevertheless, she seemed okay otherwise, so we never called in the shrinks. When she was home from college recently, as I was begging her to clean her closet, I asked her about those childhood days. She confessed that in her teen years, she hid with her laptop to steal unsanctioned screen time. (I knew it.) However, in earlier years, she said, the closet was quite simply her happy place. She liked being where no one knew where she was. Folded into a tiny space, with a flashlight and a book or her knitting, hiding was her own little freedom dance. She didn't want to run away from home, but she wanted to steal away to someplace all her own. Sometimes we don't have to look; bliss is in that place we create for ourselves.

6. Inside a Microscope (or a Telescope)

Not everybody has one, but they're not expensive and are easy to order with a click. Close one eye and look down the tunnel. Snowflakes, crayons and your baby's eyelashes will blow your mind when you see them at 300-times magnification. So will toilet paper and bug parts. And when a telescope brings a faraway speck of light millions of miles closer—so close you want to reach for it—well, that's just joy showing off.

7. In the White Space

That open block on your calendar this Thursday is not a mistake. It is happiness making a play for your attention. Maybe something got canceled, or maybe you just haven't gotten around to filling the space with one of the requests waiting in your email in-box. If you're like me, you'll rush to fill that empty block of time with something to advance your goals or get someone off your back. But what if you left the space blank? No, don't even fill it in with a workout or lunch with your sister. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about white-as-a-snow-day space. Unstructured time. Time that's waiting to surprise you. Maybe waiting to be wasted. Time so open that you might find yourself making cookies, or sledding on a cookie sheet, or writing that poem you've been thinking about. White space on your calendar is life calling, "Olly, olly, oxen free. Come out! You win! Whee!"

Sum It Up by Pat Summitt Becky Blades is the author of Do Your Laundry or You'll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give If She Thought You Were Listening.

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