Finding the joy in less

My Gmail address is simple enough that I regularly get email meant for someone else. I usually ignore it, but sometimes the content seems important enough that I let the sender know. My favorite was when I wrote, "You have the wrong address." and the person replied, "Sorry, what address do you want me to use?"

This year offered a new wrinkle. It seems there is a Reverend Brian Bailey in England and I started receiving email addressed to him. There was nothing typical or unimportant about these messages. They were emails from family members of someone recently deceased. The person (usually a son or daughter) was offering stories and tidbits for the Reverend to use in the upcoming funeral.

The stories were beautiful and sad, touching and funny, as you would expect. I remember one lovely line, "May her soul continue to dance."

It felt enormously awkward to receive such personal messages or to interject myself, a stranger in another country, into such a significant moment. I had to let them know they had sent the message to the wrong person, though, and so replied as kindly as possible.

This left some people confused. In the middle of the stress and distractions of that moment, no one wants to track down a problem with an email address. So, I gleaned bits of information here and there and after additional research, I located Rev. Brian Bailey of Scunthorpe along with his email address.

Now, when the emails arrive, my reply is more helpful. I tell them I'm sorry for their loss and include the correct email address. They are often grateful to have one less thing to think about.

These brief, accidental exchanges with people I will never meet have meant a lot to me. What a shift in perspective a single misdirected email can provide. Suddenly, whatever I'm currently obsessing over looks quite different. Also, any encounter with such heartfelt honesty is worthwhile. I am truly grateful for these mistakes.

My favorite mistake this year happened on Twitter, a story Radhika mentioned in a previous dispatch. Radhika accidentally replied to me, which happens all the time, but she was the first person who sent a follow-up reply.

That simple kindness led me to listen to her wonderful music and she started reading about Uncommon. Radhika has since become an integral part of this community and may play a part in a future gathering, all from a random mistake.

When I think about the year ahead, I hope to be more open to mistakes and surprising moments of serendipity.


Last week's dispatch asked, What would you like more or less of in the new year?

Jon wrote:

I want more less. We're giving or throwing everything away. I'm doing fewer things but better. We're finding the joy in less. More, please.

Mona wrote:

I love Sara's description of how books can be a catalyst for community. I find the same for lovers of film who can be passionate about style and story. Sara's sharing brought that back for me. How awesome.<br><br>For 2014, I would like more gatherings with family and friends, more naps and more listening to my gut. And I would like less second guessing myself, less busy days and less tired evenings.

Melissa wrote:

Next year, I'm hoping for more board games with friends. It's one of my favorite ways to spend lots of time with people, and see how their brains work. I have already started telling people this, but I'll organize it if I have to!

Erin wrote:

In the new year, I plan to do a lot more traveling. I'm hoping to spend at least a few months in South America working with kids and teaching English. I also want to focus more on the good things in life by keeping a thankfulness journal. Hand in hand with that, I hope to complain a lot less.

Stephen wrote:

Less complaining, more creating.  #JeffBezos

Yinka wrote:

I would like more ice-cream because it makes the world go round (shoutout to Tichy Eissalon, my favorite ice-cream parlour!).<br><br>I would like less angst over small things.

Ben wrote:

More: writing out my thoughts, offering to help without expecting anything back, writing lyrics and finishing songs (I've focused on instrumental music before), performing live, recording experimental music, telling people what I appreciate about them, doing what only I can do. Less: delaying important things, watching TV during meals, dreaming without action, setting general goals and deadlines, worrying about what other people do and think.

Brad wrote:

I would like more time to read and think, alone and with friends. I would also like to spend more time doing my part to grow this community into something new and special.

Uncommon reads

A few reads from people in our community. First, Cassie on traveling without expectations:

I have so small of an idea of what to expect that I’ve confused my intuition into believing that this trip will never actually happen. Actually — there is not even a small idea. I have NO idea what I’m in for. Can you imagine anything better?

Second, Clare reflects on how technology can influence our behavior:

All is not lost: we need to talk about these conventions, and that’s what we’re doing right now. Let’s work together on our mindfulness about how we use these wonderful, powerful technologies — and about how we don’t use them. We don’t always have to be connected, and we really can be fully present in the current moment.

Don't miss this link in Clare's post about Norway's Slow TV phenomenon. Imagine televising (and watching) a six-day ferry journey through the fjord.

Your turn

Do you have a favorite story of serendipity?