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Gary W. Moore: Have you noticed?

August 3, 2018

Experiencing a brush with a fatal illness can have a life-altering impact. I am lucky. My melanoma was caught early and removed, but there was a three-month period where the outcome wasn’t certain. During those 90 days, I traveled from shock to denial to fear to a determination to fight and not give in. Through the ugliness of cancer, something beautiful emerged.

I write often about always looking for the best in every situation. When you are staring death in the eyes, it’s not easy. A few times, I found myself feeling hypocritical as I searched for something positive in melanoma.

I came to the realization there is nothing positive about a disease that has a mindless determination to kill you. Testing positive for cancer is negative. Even though there is nothing positive about the disease, something unexpected happened to me in the process.

I’ve become a ‘noticer’

It is easy in life to be aware of the big things. They can appear in your path in unavoidable ways and will slap your face to get your attention. But most of us travel through our lives missing the beauty in the smallest of things and situations.

My brush with cancer has refocused my mind and opened my eyes. I often feel like I am seeing the wonder of the world for the first time. Of course, I am not, but I am seeking and taking notice of all that I previously would have otherwise ignored or missed all together.

During the weekend, Arlene and I visited our dear friends, Rob and Tracey, at their home in Waterloo, Iowa. We’ve made the 300-mile drive to Waterloo dozens of times throughout our 40-plus year marriage. This excursion was different. I noticed things I never have really taken in before.

I’ve always thought the Midwest has an uninteresting flatness to the landscape. As we drove in the bright sunshine of Friday, I noticed the subtle unevenness across the farm fields. I watched in delight as the golden tassels atop the green stalks of corn, danced in the warm summer breeze and accentuated the rolling landscape. I realized I was watching the beauty of nature in action. I should have snapped a picture, but I understood there are some moments that are uncapturable.

In the past, I might have said, “The state of Illinois needs to do a better job of maintaining and mowing the grass along Interstate 80,” but on this day, I marveled at the multicolored variety of wildflowers that planted themselves and found a way to thrive along the road.

We visited Fox Ridge Winery in Traer, Iowa and walked the vineyard.

I found such joy in the beauty of the grapes. Different colors, shapes, aromas and tastes. I watched the owner working on replacing a support for one of his vines. I found the simple process interesting but the casual conversation with a stranger was endearing. I realized this man found joy in his labor.

It occurred to me on the drive home that most among us are hoping, searching and waiting for happiness. In our yearning to find happiness in the big things in life, we miss the sheer joy of God’s creation along the way. I now find joy in the small and simple. I am happy.

I’ve also learned there is a difference in happiness and joy. Happiness is caused by circumstances. You are happy you got a raise or got an A on your exam. Happiness is external. Joy is from the heart. I’ve stopped seeking happiness but am focused on finding joy.

Where are you finding joy?

This week, I challenge you to look around and take it all in. You don’t have to travel to the oceans or to a mountaintop in a far away place. Open your eyes. Look at your surroundings. Breathe in the air. Sample a new food. Try a new experience. Talk to a stranger. Help a neighbor. We usually find what it is we are looking for. Find your joy this week in small simplicities. Find your fascination in the common, overlooked places around you. When you notice the unnoticed, you will be positively surprised. As you begin to see the beauty of our world, I believe you will find it difficult to have a negative mindset.

Will you join me in the joy of becoming a noticer?

Be deliberate about this for 30 days. It will not make your problems go away, but it will help you put them in perspective. It will not immediately change your circumstances, but it will make the stress and worries of life melt away in those beautiful moments of noticing. I believe it will help you be more positive about yourself, your surroundings and create a more optimistic view of your world. Optimism drives success. You might find more than you expect.

This week, I found joy in a Midwestern cornfield. I found peace within the grapevines in the rolling landscape of an Iowa vineyard. I found comfort in a long-term friendship. I found love holding Arlene’s hand within mine.

I want the same for you.

Will you join me?

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