Sunday, April 15, 2012

X-Post: Want happiness? Think like a toddler

A Goodness and Goodwill x-post

Words stolen from this One Flew Over the Playpen post of the same name. I didn't take all of it, and I didn't even want to take as much as I did, but I also didn't want to lose the essence of AnnieDubs' post. Still, anyone interested should read the whole thing at her post. (In fact, I'd recommend reading her blog, in general: One Flew Over the Playpen | One-time political insider turned stay-at-home momma.)

Toddlers make every single choice based on a single criterion: Does this have the potential to make me happy at this exact moment. I say at this exact moment, because the moments following something like lying down in a rain puddle, diving off the sofa, seeing if your finger will fit down the bathtub drain, and smacking the dog across the nose are accompanied by a decidedly unfun aftermath. But that’s not the point. The point is to not think, to just do. To give every possible opportunity for happiness, even if it’s fleeting, the chance it deserves.

Most of the time, I am the buzz kill to O’s high on life. BE CAREFUL. DON’T TOUCH THAT. SLOW DOWN. But sometimes, I follow him around and do what he does. We run wildly through the park with no direction. We put all the pillows in the house in one pile on the floor and throw ourselves onto them. We tear up magazines because the sound is so cool.

I also let O fall. A lot. I worry that if I ever had to take him to the hospital, they’d call Social Services because he is a mosaic of scrapes and bruises on any given day. But generally, if I am confident he can’t break his neck and probably won’t break a bone, I believe the aftermath is worth the adventure.

If you are having a bad day, you should stop for a moment and act like a toddler. And don’t give me that I have responsibilities BS. Go outside and just run without thinking. Stick your hand in some mud just to feel it ooze under your fingernails. Take something – just anything you see – and dump it on the floor to hear the noise. Make the craziest sound you can think of until you feel better.

I know my job is literally to follow around a toddler. I know, I know. My life is sweet ass. But like I said, I’m still a buzz kill to O 99% of the time. It doesn’t matter what my job is now, I still think like an adult. How much time do I have? What needs to get done? What’s the next step?

You gotta force yourself to think differently sometimes. O is right. Sometimes happiness is watching a plane float by. Sometimes it’s rubbing yogurt through your hair. Sometimes it’s spinning in circles until you can’t spin any more.

It doesn’t matter how much planning I do or how thoroughly I weigh the consequences, happiness really doesn’t ever change, whether you’re a toddler or adult…it is always fleeting. But I forget that. I keep forgetting it’s not a long-term accomplishment. I’ve been thinking lately about how I’m not doing enough with myself. I’m not “furthering my career” or “making the most of my time.” But when I look back at the people and things that have made me most happy in my life, they are a series of tiny, fleeting moments that can’t be quantified. Somehow they all just add up into one big general state of just feeling happy.

So when I’ve been feeling like that, I take a tip from O. I grab a little bit of happiness where ever I can find it, even if it’s fleeting. Even if there’s a mess to clean up afterward. It’s worth it every time.
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