tuning our senses to joy.

Alexis Girvan and I met 8 years ago in the sweet ocean-side town of Beverly, MA. After meeting her one time (okay, maybe two) she personally invited me, on a handmade invitation no doubt, to a party she was having at her house. Her home was absolute perfection. String lights. Candles. White couch covers that had been deliciously broken in over time. And the best part of all, everywhere I looked there were kind, happy women, readily willing to accept me even though it could have been so easy to ignore the girl who no one knew.
I dreamed of Alexis guest posting on my blog from the very inception of The Hygge Project. Why? If you can’t find Alexis snuggled up in a coffee shop writing in her journal, you may find her delivering handmade almond flour scones preciously wrapped in parchment paper and twine to those she loves. Simply put, this girl knows how to hygge.
Alongside her incredible talent of hyggeling (I know, that’s not a word),  she is a well-crafted wordsmith. I have been in love with her writing since the beginning of {our} time, and though it took careful consideration and preparation for her to finally express her words out loud…she’s done it…and the world is better for it.

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| TUNING OUR SENSES TO JOY | By Alexis Girvan

Instructions on living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

 Mary Oliver

Last Saturday night had me in nostalgia overload. I had spent the day with two of my favorite little people on the planet, bombing around the North Shore of Massachusetts like we’d done so many Saturdays in the past. After a jam-packed day of hockey games and basketball tournaments, carpool pickups, plans arranged and rearranged, the day’s schedule was finally complete. We’d discovered a small window of time mid-afternoon to fit in a [freezing] visit to Singing Beach – one of the greatest beaches on the whole East Coast – for one to fling her precious, freshly-typed message in a bottle into the Atlantic, and for the other to zip up her wetsuit and take a quick chilly dunk. (Girls totally after my own heart!)

It had been SUCH a full day of adventure and was the perfect night for … take-out!

We rolled into Not Your Average Joes and placed our order. As we waited, we ventured over to the Lovesac Showroom, reminiscing about adventure days we’d had like these before. We plopped our tired, hungry selves in the biggest Lovesac we could find, hoping the sales woman wouldn’t find us half asleep in the corner of her store, and cracked up as we watched our videos from the day’s escapades. Finally, food was ready and we booked it, stopping only to warm the littlest member of our crew, still in her basketball shorts, by the fire pit outside the restaurant before hopping in the car.

Buuuuut none of us could wait! … because, really, what growling tummies can rightfully resist freshly baked focaccia? Warm, chewy, garlicy goodness, and that heavenly olive oil concoction they send along with it? COME ON! The decision was unanimous: Eating in the car is underrated. After sharing one quick gratitude each from our crazy day, we all downed our meals, relishing the gifts (albeit gluten-laden) to our hungry tummies.

As we made our way back home, stomachs full, heat on full blast, Friday at Five playing on Spotify and mellowing the mood to perfection, a little voice popped up from the back seat: “I think this is the greatest day I’ve had in a long time.

And man, my heart – just – melted.  

Never could I have imagined that one brief phone call, over ten years ago, would have handed me this rare and matchless treasure of a friendship. A phone call from outside my Sophomore year dorm room that literally lasted less than 2 minutes. I was calling to inquire about a nannying job I’d found posted, among hundreds of others, on our college job website. I had a car and was in need of some extra cash. They needed someone to watch their, then, one and half year old. So we set our initial visit for the fall of 2006…

I could NE-VER have known the seed of unparalleled greatness that was planted that day.  That it would soon turn into Saturday nights spent baking brownies in their cozy warm kitchen with the oldest, starting before she was tall enough to reach the counter. That it would bring on a myriad of bike rides and hockey games and riding shows, early morning pass offs, carpools to gymnastics and extended visits across the country to see each other after I had graduated.

Never could I have know that ten years after that phone call – and countless sleepovers and animals and house moves and job changes later – we would be better – friends –  than – EVER.  To go from nanny status – to friend status – to straight up family member –  with an open invitation to the most comfortable bed on the planet and an open door, regardless of week or year or crazy hour of the night – has literally become a gift that just keeps on giving delight to this girl’s soul.

In a world where brokenness is constant, the act of remembering – or re-membering – does so much to give us perspective. To connect to what’s been, to cherish what is and to believe for what is coming. It seems easier most days to rush past the moments life gives us, caught in the never-ending motion of the daily grind, than to stop and actually pay attention to the treasures in front of us. But making the time to find them- as this hygge project is all about, and call them out – whether in word or in heart – simply expressing gratitude where it is due – is what tunes our senses to joy.

In the remembering to give thanks, our broken places are re-membered — made whole.

– Ann Voskamp

I decided to take a few minutes that night, on my drive home from our crazy Saturday together, to pull into the expansive, star-lit fields of the hunt club close by – and simply let myself cherish the moments I’d been given. To give gratitude for the treasures I’d tasted of all through our day. To let myself drink deep of astonishment, for this gift of friendship I never could have asked for and never could have seen coming.  I turned off the engine, shut off my speakers, clicked my phone into airplane mode –  and climbed out of my car to sit still, listen, and remember.

Listen to your life.

See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.

Touch, taste and smell your way into the holy and hidden heart of it.

For in the final analysis, all moments are key moments,

and life itself is grace.  

– Frederich Buechner

The truth is, in order to taste the depth of the gifts life gives, we have to tune our senses to joy. To practice catching it and naming our gratitudes amongst the doing, driving hustle of the day to day.  To break the membrane between the sacred and the ordinary by calling out meaning when our hearts feel it popping up, yet our schedules squelch its recognition. To give ourselves over to seeing beyond that which is able to be seen, and as Oliver says, let ourselves be astonished enough to tell about it.

So often, we operate in autopilot, forgetting to stop in a moment, breath deep and express thanks for the thing happening right in front of us. Or to chose to articulate – however messy and awkward – a genuine expression of appreciation for how someone  – sharing with them how they’ve shown up, stepped up, or continue to simply be there for us, day in and a day out.

Wayne Mueller, in his book on Sabbath, talks about the gift that comes in focusing on what we have. ‘When we are attentive and awake, a single breath can fill us to overflowing. The touch of a loved one, a particular angle of sunlight, can bring delight to our hearts. The simple pleasure of someone’s hand resting our own, a taste of honey, or a strain of melody can give birth to quiet satisfaction, a sense of enough.’

And it is, for sure, a practice. An exercise really. Just like a muscle, with time and effort, we watch it slowly grow stronger. This capacity to be aware enough, present enough, to recognize the miraculous in the commonplace is something our eyes and minds have to train themselves to do.

Yet – when it is done – MAN! The depth of JOY that comes. The struggles that seem to glare at us head on begin to gain perspective. Our eyes are opened to gifts and treasures we’ve truly never seen before. Seeds of greatness in lives around us are watered and relationships are granted new depths. Truly … in recognizing small deposits of the divine in daily life, the soil of the miraculous is watered.

Developing steady, small rhythms of life that honor our desire to recognize joy is a beautiful way to begin stretching and strengthening that muscle of gratitude. To set aside daily minutes where we focus on what we have, versus what we need.   A minute of our day – be it in the evening at dinner, at bed-time, or even at breakfast before the day starts, to articulate something we appreciate about life.

It’s there, in counting the threads that sew into the making of our lives, real and rich and colorful and miraculous, that we hear where our hearts beat hardest and tune our senses, again, to joy.


Alexis is a thirty-something letter-lover, functional fitness enthusiast and raw conversation starter. Next to great writing and strong mid-afternoon Americanos, her life is daily energized by the things beneath the surface. She relishes moments of moving past surface-level niceties to the raw and the real truths that shape our days. However beautiful, intricate and messy it all might be, nothing makes her heart happier than going there.
She’s a firm believer that knowing what you stand for and where your heart beats hardest is a fabulous way to show up in the world. Writing for her is a way of naming and celebrating people, moments and the gratitude-worthy details of the day to day – and her greatest joy comes in helping others make space to do the same.

Currently, she is delving deep in those moments back in her hometown of Albany, NY, where she runs her business Soul Coaching – leading others in identifying their personal mission, vision and purpose and developing life-giving rhythms of work and rest. Check her out @ http://lifeinanote.com/soul-coaching-rhythm-creation-rest/.

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