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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

A Life of 'Small Joys'

I’ve been writing a lot lately and part of my process is making myself justify why I’ve described a character or scene in a particular manner. I ask myself, “What do you really mean by that?” And, “What will a reader make of that sentence?” At the moment I’ve managed to get caught up with a description of the character Phillip Swan. Those of you who have read What Remains will hopefully have some fondness for his pragmatic approach and commitment to the protagonist Lily O’Hara. Lily describes him as a man who lives for the small joys of life. And I wondered what I really meant by that.

Did I just mean the little things that make him happy? Surfing, fishing, family, food, Lily? Or was there something deeper in that little phrase that resonated with me?


After a session of introspection, I have concluded that I felt a connection with something deeper. We are all satisfied with the ‘lovely’ things of life, not luxuries, not extravagances but everyday good living. Warm beds, clear winter days, spending time with people we love, dogs to pat, robust dinners and good wines but the small joys to which I refer in the second book are deeper things. They are not transient but transformative. These types of joys come from changes in our hearts and minds and they flow from extraordinary things such as love, kindness, wellness, hope, optimism, safety, renewal and peace. And none of these things are celebratory in nature. We don’t throw parties or put out the balloons and candles for these types of joys. They are frequently unspoken but felt deep within ourselves.


The character I described in this way is the antitheses of Lily. While she seeks the power of contentment, and she truly becomes happy with her life choices, the peace that frames Phillip’s world continues to elude her. And perhaps others! It makes me wonder if these folks who truly have the life of small joys are not hard-wired differently or simply had more zen-like formative experiences. They are the ones who bend in the gales instead of resisting the force by combating it. They accept the failings and hurtful behaviour of others as the problem of the perpetrator. They are present in the moment and to the people they are with. They solve problems by action not by worry and concede defeat with grace and without feeling like they are a failure. Most importantly, they are grateful.


I kept wondering if perhaps this paragon of serenity could only exist in my imagination and that perhaps my character, Phillip, was too good to be true. Perhaps he is the best of us, a persona we all aspire to be. I know I certainly do.


My thinking concluded with the aspiration to incorporate more small joy moments in my own life and attempt a more serene approach to life. Therefore:  I will have fewer tantrums when the printer doesn’t connect to my laptop and will simply acknowledge that the ‘digital gods’ are just not favouring me at this moment. I will not fret over the life choices of others and simply accept that I have to let go of what I see as the common sense way to go. I won’t be so self-critical, or critical of others. And I shall take the opportunity for joy and peace in my own life however it arrives.


 And perhaps I could also stop disrupting my writing with fewer lateral journeys into distraction!

The work continues….

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