As I pondered on my resolution for October for my Happiness Project, I realized that it had been a long time since I’ve literally laughed out loud. I mean a tear, snot producing laugh that leaves you bent over in pain because your abs hurt. I searched my brain for any memory of the last time I had laughed good and hard, and I honestly couldn’t come up with a single one. And that sadden me. I even looked in the mirror and studied my face in it’s natural unprovoked state. I look more or less like a Mona Lisa portrait, with neither a smile nor a frown. I don’t want to be a Mona Lisa. I want to have a face that shines and shows sincere joy with upturned lips leaving no question in the viewers mind of whether I’m happy or not.
With that in mind, I knew I had to lighten up my attitude for my own good as well as my family’s. I’ve been so busy these past few years making sure that my children had their basic needs met (clean clothes, warm meals, boo boo’s bandaged, rides to social activities), the house was clean, fulfilling service needs at church, volunteering at school, vacations planned, and my husband kissed, that I had forgotten to enjoy the journey itself. I had an aah ha moment while reading a chapter in Shauna Niequist’s book Present Over Perfect. She explains a tradition she encountered while on a trip with a friend at a lake. When kayakers paddle by your dock, you stop whatever you are doing and throw candy to them, just for fun, as a way to share happiness. She recalls the memory,
Our host–the one who was responsible for everyone, who owned all the stuff [kayaks, power boats, sailboats] that was about to crash in about a thousand ways–stopped what he was doing and sprinted down the dock to get the lollipops. I had a little panic attack, because what he was doing seemed so irresponsible. He threw candy, right in the middle of it. Everything swirled around him, he kept throwing candy, over and over, handful after handful. And everything was fine. All the boats docked safely, the swimmers were fine, nothing happened.
After witnessing this event, Shauna realized, she used to be the kind of person to, “throw candy no matter what. I used to be warm and whimsical. I used to believe in the power of silliness and memory-making and laughter. And then I became the kind of person who threw candy as long as nothing else was going on–as long as it didn’t get in the way of being responsible.” Wow. This hit me hard because it is me. Fun can be had if and only if all other things are done, and that do list is never done.
Therefore, Lighten Up became by challenge for the month. I love to laugh and have a good time, but somehow have forgotten how to. My children are constant reminders of how to lighten up, as they consistently see the funny side of life. To help me with this endeavor I choose the following tasks to focus on:
- Sing in the morning to my children (it’s hard to be serious if you’re singing preschool songs)
- Accept others’ feelings as true and not just my own
- Listen and engage with the ones I love
- Enjoy the process of getting from here to there
- Say yes more to play and silliness
- Reframe the situation (as in see the good in all things)
As I retrain my mind to see the funny side of the chaos that always seems to surround me, I was reminded just yesterday how good it feels to laugh so hard that tears sneak out from the corners of your eyes. We were in the car as a family driving to the Dollar Store, and the car had an odd smell, almost as if sweaty soccer gear had been left in the trunk for a week. I am sensitive to smells and started to stick my nose in everything I could reach to find the guilty culprit, including my husband’s shirt. I looked at him, and realized how absurd I must appear and I just started laughing, uncontrollably. The kids all started asking me why I was laughing, and I couldn’t really give them a good answer, as I wasn’t even sure myself. This made me laugh even harder, bending over in my seat, wiping tears from eyes. It felt really good. And that feeling is what I want more of, and what I want to share with others.
Your fellow traveler,