I noticed how tense I was feeling this weekend from all the negative election ads and from how stressed many of my friends were as they shared an abundance of work and life challenges. We have all experienced these heavy days — some more than others due to circumstances. Believe me, I am mindful and grateful that I have nothing to complain about when I see how many people have a much more difficult life journey than I. But when I realized it was a fabulous, 70-degree, sunny day in Minneapolis on Nov. 5, I took it as a sign that it was time to take matters into my own hands and break the negative cycle I felt stuck in. Along the way, not only did I find myself in a state of pure bliss, an amazing high, I also found it was contagious.
My 60-pound furry friend Sydney and I set out for a walk through our Minneapolis neighborhood and along the Mississippi riverfront (an urban national park for all to enjoy). We had shared this walk many times before, but this time I made sure my phone was silenced and that we had no agenda or time frame to distract us. I even decided to limit my photos so as not to take away from the spirit of the moment.
Within minutes, the sound and smell of crisp fallen leaves and the city skyline against the spectacular blue sky brought a smile to my face. Then I started noticing the people on our route. They were complete strangers from all walks of life, ages, economics, cultures and dispositions. But they too seemed to have had a dose of what I had, and they were all happy! Many were smiling back at me; some said hello in passing, and others stopped to greet Sydney or to comment on the wonderful day. What was this amazing elixir that made us all feel high on life?
I know it wasn’t a drug, a shot of alcohol or a pocket full of money. The elixir that brought each of us true bliss was a simple everyday concoction of people finding joy in other people and people taking time to appreciate the incredible natural beauty around them — in most cases right outside their doors. These are some examples of what made me feel so high on life:
• An ex-Marine on a bike near the North Loop stopped to pet Sydney. He shared that he was celebrating five months of being sober and that he was starting a new life in Minnesota.
• A pair of university students played their violins masterfully on the Stone Arch Bridge for all to enjoy, with no expectation for tips.
• Two senior women leaned into each other on a bench near the Mill City Ruins, and with a heavy accent from their native country they shared pictures and stories of their grandchildren.
• A group of men representing a variety of ages and abilities enjoyed a common bond as they jogged, wheeled and talked along their workout route.
• A young couple held hands and got to know each other as they shared an Izzy ice cream cone at the top of the hill in the Gold Medal Park.
• Three girls in head scarfs and long skirts took selfies and walked arm in arm across the bridge as they explored their city and marveled at the rush of water over St. Anthony Falls.
• Various couples from different cultures laughed and played with their kids as they shared an urban playground and a carefree afternoon near the river.
• A grandfather held his grandson’s hand as they searched for and counted the cement turtles, frogs and worms integrated into one particularly fun section of the walking path.
• Two young women held hands and posed in white dresses for their wedding photos against a backdrop of fall colors and the blue-hued walls of the Guthrie Theater.
• A man with his only possessions contained in a rumpled bag sat on a bench near the bridge while he hummed a sweet tune and wished everyone who made eye contact with him a “blessed day!”
When I took a moment to really see the other people around me, I realized that the majority of us just want the same basic things in life: happiness, love, purpose, respect and self-worth. It was then that I realized that this elixir I had discovered is not only available free of charge to every one of us, it is contagious.
Go ahead: Indulge yourself, find your bliss, get high on life, then pass it along! And if you’re so inclined, share what you find along your journey or take just a moment to really see another person and help lift his or her spirits as they search for their life joy.
Tracie Bluse Ward, of Minneapolis, is the president and founder of Celebrations of Life Services Inc. She is at Tracie@celebrationsoflife.net.