Am I wrong to be always so happy? This world is full of grief;
Yet there is laughter of sunshine, to see the crisp green on the leaf,
Daylight is ringing with song-birds, and brooklets are crooning at night;
And why should I make a shadow when God makes all so bright?
Earth may be wicked and weary, yet cannot I help being glad!
There is sunshine without and within me, and how should I mope or be sad?
God would not flood me with blessings, meaning me only to pine
Amid all the bounties and beauties he pours upon me and mine;
Therefore I will be grateful, and therefore will I rejoice;
My heart is singing within me; sing on, O heart and voice.
-Walter C. Smith
Is that a beautiful poem or is that a beautiful poem?! Each time I read it, I’m left with a big smile on my face. You know, the ear to ear kind that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Have you ever really listened to the beautiful, free, wonderful sound of laughter? Last night, my middle daughter Brittany was in the kitchen cooking with her on-again, off-again, on-gain, off-again boyfriend. Or is it on now? My other 2 daughters (also known as her sisters) and I literally have to ask each other each day, “On or Off?” because it changes that often. I don’t panic because I remember all too well what it was like to be that young. When these two kids (and they’re both beautiful, full-of-life, adorable kids) are “on,” they have a ball. Last night, when they were in the kitchen cooking, there was a lot of laughter. It made me think…. laughter is a beautiful thing! It means the person is, at least at that moment, completely taken over with happiness and awash with joy.
I’m never happier than when my children are awash with joy and their laughter is the best music in the world as far as I’m concerned.
Adult laughter is as precious and wonderful as a child’s laughter. Sadly, for a lot of adults, it just doesn’t come as often. Naysayers will say that it’s because adults have so many things to worry about and take care of… that they don’t have time to laugh. I’d be the first to wash a hog all over that, so let the hogwash begin. Everyone has time for laughter and everyone has time to be happy. If they don’t, they’d better MAKE time because staying on the road they’re on will make them run out of time sooner than they’d like to.
If you’d like more carefree, beautiful, reckless laughter in your life – I have something that might just help. You’ll have to go back in time, though. Way, way back.
Remember when you were a child (I told you it’d be way back!). Imagine yourself playing with the kids in your neighborhood. For me, I’m remembering long bike rides, camping in my backyard, going to the park, swimming, playing softball, and being surrounded by dogs and cats (some things never change). I remember the happiness, the excitement, and most definitely the laughter. Your trip back in time might conjure up bike riding, playing cowboys and Indians, and fishing.
No matter where your memories take you, you’ll notice:
- You lived out loud.
- You couldn’t wait to see what each day brought!
- Life was FUN.
- You didn’t worry about money.
- You didn’t care how much your clothes cost.
- You didn’t care how much your friend’s clothes cost.
- Your world was a wonderful place in which to live.
- You hated going to sleep at night because you might miss something.
- You laughed. And laughed, and laughed, and laughed…
I’m a card-carrying optimist and, admittedly, my head is almost always in the clouds. Sorry but I love the view. However, even I will acknowledge that adulthood brings about responsibilities – certainly more responsibilities than you had when soaring on your bike and feeling the wind in your face. However, there’s a KEY element from our childhood that we CAN and SHOULD remember and revive.
When we were children, we had more than enough even when we didn’t. Children who are playing with sticks are as happy as kids who are playing with their new computer games. Children accept what life has given them and they don’t resent what it hasn’t. They live in the moment without worrying about the next.
Too many expectations drag your spirits down. Expectations constantly whisper in your ear, “This isn’t enough…. That isn’t good enough…. You’d be happy if only…. I need that to really be happy…” Kids don’t have such burdens to weigh them down.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting nice things. But if things determine your happiness and if you’re one of those people who is ALWAYS wanting something more, you may want to re-evaluate. If you’re relying on things to make you feel good, there’s a problem somewhere. You need to find out why you aren’t happy with what you have – as opposed to always wanting more.
Be happy with who you are, where you are, and what you have. Let go of excess expectations. You’ll feel lighter immediately.
I remember once, when I was about 5, I got in trouble with my mother. I’d driven my toy car into the street (pray tell, where do cars go, after all?!!). I was rewarded for my efforts with a switch to the backside. Apparently, I’m told that I ran to my grandmother and told her, “Mommy beat me with a tree limb!!” No red marks, no tears… but I tried my best to pull off the “tree limb beating” story. I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember my grandmother trying not to laugh and my poor mother producing the tiny stick for her examination. My grandmother (“MeMe“) kept that little switch or “tree limb” on her dresser for a very long time.
No doubt, the whole affair went completely out of my pig-tailed head before it even hit the pillow that night. Kids don’t carry the past with them. They don’t fret over what they did or what was done to them.
- It happens.
- It happened.
Kids are masters with suffixes. They know the difference between something happenING and when something happenED. Why do adults get so tricked up with suffixes?!?! We’ll go back (sometimes so far back that everything plays out in black and white) and retrieve past injuries committed to us or wrongs we did to others. Isn’t that nothing more than going back for what happenED and cause it to be happenING all over again.
And we think we’re so smart!
If the memories you’re going back for cause you to smile – or laugh, as I do when I remember my grandmother’s expression – then, by all means, visit them often. However, if they make you feel bitter, resentful, guilty, angry, sad, or bad in any way – leave them where they are and never go back for them. Memories are funny things, the more we relive them, the stronger they are.
My husband has some sort of a button on his remote control that “pulls up” his favorite channels on the screen. All he has to do is choose which FAVORITE destination he wants to go to (ESPN, History Channel, Golf Channel, NatGeo, Discovery…). Memories are kind of like this. The ones we visit the most and dwell upon the most often are right there, in the forefront. We keep them strong and centered.
If they’re negative memories, can you imagine what that does to our psyche?
Let go. Move on. Like a kid.
When we were kids, we didn’t try to (or even want to) control our friends or family members. If daddy chose to wear white shoes in November, that was cool with us. If mom wore curlers to the grocery store, what was that to us? If our best friend cut her hair shorter than our beagle’s, we weren’t going to lose sleep over it – no more than we would if another friend grew his hair past his waist. We loved these people – what did it matter to us what they wore or how they did their hair?! They were our family and our friends and we’d fight anyone that looked sideways at them.
When a lot of people become adults, they think they have to control everyone and everything around them. They think that x-number of birthdays have made them experts.
On everything. And everyone.
Then they wonder where their joy has gone. It’s hardest, probably, for parents. But we HAVE to remember that our job is to raise these precious blessings to the best of our abilities. When they become adults, we HAVE to allow them to live their own lives and make their own decisions – just as our parents did for us. I know you’re an intelligent person, so I won’t go into the fact that “some things” warrant intervention, no matter how old the child is. However, it’s been my experience that most parents have the most hang ups over “little” things.
Let them go. Your relationship with your son or daughter depends upon you being able to relinquish control. When our kids get older, we don’t see them as often as we once did. Do we REALLY want the precious time we DO have with them to be tense and confrontational? Allow yourself, and those around you, to be happy. Allow yourself, and those around you, to love life and live out loud.
If you have to take a trip back to childhood to remember how it felt to be carefree and happy to be alive, then go back. If you need a special reminder, keep a picture of yourself as a child nearby. How would he or she felt if they saw you today? Would they want to spend time with you? How about the teenage version of you, would they want to hang out with you? Would they think you were fun or would they tell you, right off the bat, “Light-en up, dude.”?
Finally, a little time travel in the opposite direction. It’s not nearly as fun, but imagine YOU in your eighties. If the 80 something YOU sat down with today’s version, what would he/she tell you?
- Work harder.
- Put in longer hours.
- Buy a newer car.
- Find more things to stress about.
- Buy a newer house.
- Make your kids march to the beat of YOUR drum, not their’s.
- Make your spouse toe the line
Don’t you think the things he/she would actually say would sound something like this:
- Lighten up.
- Laugh more.
- Cherish your family and keep them close. They will always be your REAL treasure.
- Spend more time with the ones you love.
- Stop worrying about how you look. Seriously.
- The world is a beautiful place. Look around you!
- Take more pictures.
- Eat healthier foods.
- Stop trying to make your friends and family measure up to your yardstick.
- Throw the damn yardstick away!
- Stop trying to make time PAY and just make time COUNT.
- Stop worrying about how you’ll LOOK at this age or how much you’ll HAVE.
One of my favorite bracelets is about as simple as it gets. It has one of my all-time favorite sayings on it, also about as simple as it gets: Live Love Laugh. That’s really what it’s all about, you know. The 8 year old you knew it. The 80 year old you will know it. My one hope, right now, is that the present day you is closer to knowing it as well.