Nearly everyone experiences it.
We get so caught up in our work or other day-to-day responsibilities that we overlook many of the world’s simple pleasures and intoxicating wonders.
But, when we pay attention, life can be an extraordinary treasure hunt that will lead us down paths we never imagined, says Sandra A. Miller, author of “Trove: A Woman’s Search for Truth and Buried Treasure.”
“Sometimes I will see people walking through the woods and they are texting, not noticing all the beauty around them,” Miller says. “It makes you realize that it’s getting harder to spend even an hour without technology.”
She certainly has made the effort to untether herself. Miller’s memoir is about a midlife crisis as experienced through armchair treasure hunting, a hobby in which a person or group buries a treasure and sets up a series of clues and puzzles that will lead treasure hunters to it. The game entails getting out into the world and possibly even digging in the dirt.
But Miller says such organized treasure hunts also serve as a metaphor for what everyone needs to do more of — leave the digital world behind and explore the abundant riches that the real one provides.
Miller says she has found that a few ways to live life like you’re on a treasure hunt include:
Start each day with a prayer of gratitude. This doesn’t have to be a religious thing. Miller says it means savoring and showing appreciation for family and friendships; for the joy a favorite song brings; for every experience that teaches you a little more about yourself and the world; and for any small thing that might be insignificant to others, but holds meaning for you.
Engage with people, even strangers. Technology makes it easy these days to become isolated from others. “The antidote to that is putting down our phones, looking someone in the eye and saying, ‘How is your day going?’ ” Miller says. “If they don’t want to tell you, they won’t. But chances are, no one else has asked them. Who knows what treasures these conversations will reveal?”
Look for clues and signs everywhere. “I try to stay open to the found things on my path; from words, to signs, to love that announces itself to us in hundreds of ways each day,” Miller says. “That bird. That baby in the stroller. An early spring daffodil. I feel pleased with where I am in my life, and I’m not looking for something else to make me happy. But I still stay aware of all these treasures around me.”
Expect to always be on a search. One of the great things about living life like you’re on a treasure hunt is that the hunt never ends. “There is so much to search for,” Miller says, “and now more than ever we need to stay awake and alert to the beauty around us.”
“I think so many of us reach midlife and say, ‘Now what?’ ” Miller says. “In many cases, we have built strong careers and have disposable income. Often we even have time to travel or do the things we love, but we are still plagued by a sense of longing, which is different for everyone. Stay open to all the possibilities because the treasure you’re looking for is almost never where you expect to find it.”
Sandra A. Miller (www.SandraAMiller.com) teaches in the English Department of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. She previously worked in the editorial department at NAL/Penguin and later worked as a literary agent. She has written stories, articles and essays that have appeared in hundreds of regional and national publications.