Do you remember being a kid and friends call and ask if you could come over and play? (I realize maybe not all of us had friends as a kid, but I hope you can imagine the playfulness of children.)
It has been awhile since I asked someone to “come over and play.” As an adult, the question is more “do you want to come over for dinner or go out somewhere?” There is an element of play in having dinner or going out with friends, but it does not have the same feel as the simple request of “do you want to come over and play?”. Kids asking to play want just that – to play.
As an adult, I worry about making sure I have snacks and drinks if people come over, and that there is something to “do.” I don’t think I worried about those things as a kid. The main worry was whether my friend could come over and play.
How can we get back to the heart of a child and invite our friends and ourselves to go out and play? What would our lives look like if we gave ourselves permission to play regularly?
May we all seek to find our inner child and go play this week - and the next.
Brené Brown talks about an “Ingredients for joy and meaning” list in The Gifts of Imperfection. She and her husband made a list about what their lives look like when things are going well in their family. Things on her list included sleep, working out, healthy food, cooking, time off, weekends away, going to church, being present with the kids, a sense of control over our money, meaningful work that doesn’t consume us, time to piddle, time with family and close friends, and time to just hang out” (102).
I had never heard of or thought of creating an “Ingredients for Joy and Meaning” list. But I have definitely heard of and made plenty of “To-Do” lists. And unfortunately for me, most of the things on my “To-Do” list will not be incorporated on an “Ingredients for Joy and Meaning” list.
When I first read about this list, I thought “what a great idea!” I told myself I would create that list and of course I have yet to make that list. But as I write about this kind of list, I find myself confronting a few things. The first thing is my perfectionistic nature that wants to make sure everything on this uncreated list is “perfect, truly meaningful, and truly joyful.” This list has become a task to perfect, rather than a curious exploration. Secondly, when I think about the question “what does my life look like when things are going well” I get a little anxious thinking “what if I make this list and then things start to go poorly or what if I can’t think of anything?” Needless to say I should go back and read my post from last week about holding good and bad times with a sense of openness.
But here I am encouraging those that read this to take Brené Brown’s challenge to write an “Ingredients for joy and meaning” list, and I would like to follow my own words.
So here are a few things on my list of “When things in my life are going well it is filled with...”
As I quieted myself and made this list, I found myself smiling as I listed different things. Answering this question was of course not at all like my initial anxiety driven/task oriented questions that I mentioned above. Making this list was life-giving and recentered me toward my values and what matters most to me. And I hope that if you take a moment to make your own list that it does the same for you - if not today, then some day.
May we all find our individual spices that bring us joy and meaning.
Time is such an interesting concept. Certain situations make a minute fly by, while other circumstances make a minute feel like an eternity. Regardless the situation a minute is always 60 seconds, but that 60 seconds can feel so different depending on the situation. The clock keeps ticking, the days keep passing, and the sun continues to rise and fall.
This odd sensation of time also occurs during bad times and good times. Bad times seem to last forever, while the good seems to leave far too quickly. It is much easier to hold my breath and desperately plead for the bad times to pass quickly, or hold my breath and eagerly hope that the good times stay for as long as possible. It is much more challenging to hold each experience openly rather than clutching onto the good or trying to throw away the bad.
But it is the clutching that can spoil the good times and the throwing that can elongate the bad. It is challenging to adopt a posture of openness – allowing the good and bad times to come and go as they do, rather than trying to control how long the good times stay and how quickly the bad times leave.
What would it be like for you to breathe similarly into both the good and bad times, and take things as they come?
The mental picture I have for courage is someone doing something grand - like saving a life or fighting fires. Merriam-Webster defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” The “or” in this definition sticks out to me. Courage is not just about life-and-death dangers.
Brené Brown addresses courage in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” making the argument that courage at its root is about “speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad)…Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line” (12-13).
My reflexive reaction is to deny courage as a description of myself. If I only conceptualize courage as life-and-death circumstances. But, if I adopt Brené Brown’s conceptualization, I have to courageously accept and acknowledge my own courage. I have spoken honestly and openly about who I am, maybe not all the time, but I have. And if I tease apart the Merriam-Webster definition, I have persevered through difficulties. If we all take a moment, we all have spoken honestly at some point in our lives, and have all persevered through difficulties.
I think Brené Brown is right - courage happens every day. I hope we can all learn to acknowledge our own courage and the courage in others.
This topic has been in the back of my mind for a while, particularly as it is represented in a scene from "Inside Out". The character Bing Bong is sad because his rocket gets dumped and the film shows Joy and Sadness interacting with Bing Bong in different ways. (If you have not seen Inside Out, I highly recommend it!).
Joy tries to cheer up Bing Bong with silly faces, positive thinking, and distraction. But these gestures, as well intentioned as they might be, do not do much for Bing Bong. Sadness on the otherhand, sits down and empathizes with Bing Bong. Sadness and Bing Bong share a moment, some tears, and a hug and then Bing Bong is able to move on. Joy had a clear objective – make Bing Bong feel better. It is hard to say if Sadness had an objective when she approached Bing Bong. But regardless of an objective, Sadness helped Bing Bong feel better.
This scene is loaded for me. For one thing, it reminds me about the often counterproductive act of cheering someone up or cheering myself up for that matter. Often when I am sad or frustrated I will tell myself things like, “think of positive memories,” “remember the things that you are grateful for,” or “it could always be worse.” Though these thoughts are not in and of themselves bad thoughts, often times I end up more frustrated with myself that these positive thoughts do not make me feel better. Inside Out captures this dynamic so well with Joy’s actions toward Bing Bong and her frustration with Bing Bong and Sadness.
This scene also reminds me that compassion is far more helpful than silly faces and distraction. (Though there is a time and a place for silly faces and distraction). The character Sadness wants nothing from Bing Bong. She does not need him to feel better. She notices that he is upset, and sits down next to him. It is a beautiful scene. Sadness sitting with and feeling with Bing Bong.
Translating this outside of an animated film, learning to sit with and feel my own sadness and frustration has been so important. When I am able to create space within myself and show myself compassion, whatever I am feeling might intensify initially, but soon thereafter I am able to breathe a bit easier. Self-compassion is by no means easy, but this scene and concept remind me of the importance of compassion and that of self-compassion.
Finding joy within sadness? My thought is that being compassionate and making space for sadness (or whatever emotion you might avoid) will bring about deeper relationships with others and yourself, and that is a joyous thing.