Variety is the Spice of Life

Untitled 1The 17th century English poet, William Cowper, was the author of our now-famous saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” Or as he more quaintly put it, “Variety's the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavour. (The Task, 1785)” Ain’t that the truth!

As a native New Englander, I enjoyed the perpetual sunny days but barely survived the seemingly unending summers of Orlando, Florida for some eight years. And I gladly returned north to our sometimes challenging cycle of four seasons but I just love it here.

Sunday Mystery Rides

As a person in my 70s – or as I’m told, “the new 60s” – I am still, in a sense, growing up. When I was a young boy, I loved to go with my father on what he termed our “Sunday afternoon mystery rides”. You see, my father would simply invite my mother and myself to go somewhere with him. In fact when he started the car, even he didn’t know where we were going. I loved the true excitement of not knowing who we’d meet or what we’d see. It was like a short Disneyworld vacation, all in a few hours.

After learning a little about my personality type in the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory – a simple but very useful way of understanding ourselves – I learned that (as an INFJ) I not only like variety, I actually need it in order to flourish as a person. It literally “spices up” my life.

Active Vacations

This is evident in the way I spend my vacations – never laying on the beach for hours on end but rather choosing to visit countless places of interest. When I had a choice of where I would move after my time in Florida, I chose New England and a very busy place to live – the Shrine in Attleboro.

I take time to read and always learn more – about myself, my faith, my ministry as a Catholic priest, and my involvement in the vast field of communications. All this variety “floats my boat.”

Searching for Happiness

Untitled 2Recently we had a troubled young man visit one of my fellow La Salettes here in Attleboro. As we sat at lunch together, he looked around the table and then asked me, “Why are you guys so happy?” At first his question startled me. Then, knowing his background and his very challenging life experiences, I said, “Well, I guess it’s just that we are where we want to be, doing what we really enjoy.” Not a profound response but the best I could muster at the time. He paused and then smiled and said, “I hope I can find that someday.” I affirmed him and expressed that I hoped he would find that too.

In this this New Year with all changes and challenges, we have more than enough experiences of variety in our work environment and with our immediate and extended families. I hope we take the time to – as that young man made me do – reflect on what makes our life enjoyable, even amid the more challenging aspects of life.

With whatever this season offers us personally, I do hope we reflect at least every once in a while on what makes us truly happy – being with or remembering those we love, taking time to be with friends or family, contacting those far away whom we miss; or just looking at the blessings God has given us now and throughout our lives.

Maybe we will be tempted spontaneously to contact someone we haven’t spoken with for too long; or give a complement instead of letting the opportunity pass; or even getting in the car with family or friends and travelling to some yet-unknown destination just for the love of it.

After all, “Variety's the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavour.” But sometimes that “spice” needs to come from us.
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