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What’s Your AQ — Appreciation Quotient?

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When I first moved to Manhattan from Berkeley, I was enthralled with the energy of people on the streets, the architectural mix of old and new buildings, cultures, languages, the parks, museums, outdoor concerts, the concentration of people and cars flowing with and around each other. Then there was the light, island light, that illuminated dingy structures into glistening art, making window-pane patterns on neighboring facades.

It was all so different and new, and there was so much to discover in this dense urban jungle. But it hit me early on that I could easily lose the glow, just like anywhere else, through living life. To keep it going, I decided I’d have to pretend I was a tourist–well, my kind of low-key one.

What is it about being a tourist that makes us feel free? We’re unburdened by daily routines, obligations, deadlines, knowing what will happen. Ideally, we take the time to enjoy whatever it is we’re doing, unburdened. Even with plans our surroundings are different, so we notice them. We’re more open, we explore and delight in colors, textures, landscapes, people, nuances. We rediscover the world through our wonderment.

After this year’s brutal winter, all the plants and trees were still dormant grey and brown in March, then April. It seemed as if they’d just given up and decided it wasn’t going to be safe to come out this year. But then across the street, peeking up through a pipe and plywood scaffolding, I spied the pale yellow lacy blossoms on a single tree. It was so exciting to see a new color that I took a pic and posted it. Wasn’t it beautiful!

When I revisited the whole picture, I was surprised that the scene actually looked pretty dingy and the flowers weren’t all that yellow. I’d been so appreciative of that small bit of difference, that its significance was magnified. As the next blossoms emerged, that first bit of color seemed embarrassingly small to have meant so much. What was I thinking? It was nothing to me now! Each successive wave of colors, blossoms, and scents, all so special and amazing, would wither and recede, finally making way for the lush green umbrella of trees. But then even those, ever-present, would soon go unnoticed.

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At summer’s end when those first maples become weary of the heat and their leaves get tinged with gold, sensing their rest is near while we’re still sweltering, I notice. Each year, we ooh and ah over the reds, yellows, and oranges that were just our beloved, but now usual, greens.

I see my Appreciation Quotient in so many areas of my life. I’ll be trucking along, in the flow, getting it done, and then, boom, wipe out. I’ll take a fall, get a cut, a burn, a flu, a migraine, throw out my back. I’m unable to do a thing or am strictly limited in what I can do, forced into downtime. But then, thankfully, there’s the re-inhabiting of my rhythms.

Sometimes I bounce back quickly, but others I have to start on the ground floor and rebuild myself, inch by inch. That’s how my body, my being, seems to do it. During that time, I’m so appreciative for each little step, movement, victory, bite of food, sip of water, bit of energy, lack of pain. At zero, with little capacity to see the bigger picture, I appreciate each moment and what I am able to do.

What determines our AQ? We experience that fresh, bright yellow-green of spring, a new love, the precious people in our lives, the sun’s warmth drawing us into the street to mingle like ants after the storm, and we’re filled with wonder. But then we get jaded with the familiar and lulled into complacency.

How do we stay open in the moment and notice what is alive inside and around us? I’m not prescribing, I’m exploring—and perhaps that is the way—and sharing it. Have I told you lately? I appreciate you very much!

Love and blessings,

Jan Mundo

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