Saturday, July 24, 2010

Through A Child's Eyes

This past Father's Day my family had a cookout at my Grandpa's house.  I love these special occasions because they seem to be the only time our extended family is all together.  Year after year there are more and more children at these events as my sisters and cousins get married and start families of their own.  As I watched the little ones play -- and yes, as I joined in (the "big kids" are ALWAYS welcome to join them) -- I was struck by their unrestrained joy and the sheer pleasure they found from the simplest things.

My Grandpa bought a golf cart a few years back and as soon as it comes out the kids pile in (and on, wherever they can fit) eagerly, laughing with glee as the one adult on board kicks it in gear and takes off around the yard.

When my uncle's wife brought over a tot-sized slide the kids immediately began clambering up the ladder, eagerly anticipating the two seconds of joy they would experience en route to the ground.

My uncle's wife also brought over one of those round wading pools that miraculously seem to hold as many children as want to swim in it.  There's always room for one more, even when it appears to have reached maximum capacity.  My mom joked that if we set the bottom of the slide in the pool we'd have an instant water slide.  "Do you think it'd work?" I asked.

"I don't know," she replied.  "Try it."  So I did -- and it worked!

There were squeals of pleasure as little bodies piled out of the pool and raced to the slide.  As I watched them I thought to myself, "I can't remember the last time I got that excited about something."  I felt a twinge of jealousy as I wondered, "When did I stop getting excited like that?"  I couldn't remember, but I knew it had happened long, long ago.

I thought about this some more on the way home.  I wondered if children must inevitably lose their unbridled passion as they grow or if there is some way that they can keep it.  I strongly suspect that it is us -- the adults -- who are responsible for smothering it.  In the name of socialization and proper etiquette we quell those ecstatic squeals -- "Shh.  Use your inside voice!"  But maybe, just maybe, it doesn't have to be that way.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Always Learning Something New

No matter how much a person knows about himself it seems there's always something new to learn.  It became clear to me today just how very much I do not like being the center of attention.  I announced to my family today that my boyfriend and I are planning to get married.  Suddenly my older sister and my mom are congratulating me and excitedly making plans.  I immediately felt uncomfortable and tried to withdraw into a crossword puzzle.  I guess I know that I'm not going to be able to escape being the center of attention when it comes to my wedding -- I suppose it's something I'm going to have to work on getting more comfortable with.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Do We Really Want Stability?

How many times have we -- in the midst of our busy and sometimes chaotic lives -- wished for a more peaceful life?  How many of us long for stability, or at least say we do?  Stability is constancy, immobility, steadiness, fixed, and settled.  Peace is neutrality, calmness, lull, placidity, quiet, stillness.  We say we want these things -- we often long for them.  However, we are rarely satisfied when we have them.

Think about it.  When we do finally get a quiet Saturday with nothing planned many of us complain of boredom.  "There's nothing to do!" or "I'm bored!"  We finally obtain the peace and stability we have so desired and we find ourselves bored because we are so accustomed to being constantly entertained.  Some synonyms for boredom include sameness, familiarity, slowness, and routine.  But aren't these the very things we say we want?  Supposedly we yearn for a slower paced life and the comfort of routine and familiarity.

If we are really honest with ourselves then we must admit that most of us would not be satisfied living a stable, peaceful life.  Most of us would find this kind of existence boring.  Some antonyms of boredom include excitement, pleasure, elation, action, and entertainment.  These are the American way!  If we're not being entertained, feeling excited, or experiencing pleasure then we must be missing out.  We don't really want the stability of engaging in the same routine, day after day.

There are, of course, exceptions, myself being one of them.  I love boring days.  I can spend them reading, napping, or chatting with friends and family without any pressure or time constraints.

These are just some things to think about.  When you find yourself longing for peace and stability you might want to think twice.  Do you really want these things?  Or would that just be boring? 

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I recently read a book entitled "Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life" by Winifred Gallagher.  The major premise of the book is that how you experience life depends upon what you pay attention to.  Whether you focus on the negative aspects or the positive aspects of a situation influences how you perceive that situation.  Your mood at any given moment is significantly influenced by the type of thoughts on which you choose to focus your attention.  Whether a bad mood is fleeting or sticks around all day depends upon whether you choose to focus your attention on those feelings or to direct your attention elsewhere.

In addition, the type of life you lead depends upon the types of activities to which you choose to devote your attention.  The types of activities we find fulfilling are those that hold our attention, where we can lose ourselves in the activity and look up to find that hours have passed in what seemed like only minutes.

These are not necessarily new ideas but reading the book inspired me.  Lately I've noticed that I lack vitality.  I don't ever get excited about anything and the passion that once fueled me to action burned out long ago.  I'm not unhappy by any means but I definitely feel like something's missing.  As I read this book it dawned on me that I don't engage in any activities that interest me enough to give them my sustained and undivided attention.  I need to find things that challenge me in that way.  I used to have those things in my life.  For example, I used to journal and to write poetry.  I also went through a phase where I drew and painted.  My walls are proudly adorned with my mediocre artwork.  I once kept a visual journal and each day I looked forward to coming home to create something new to add to it.  For awhile I made music videos using The Sims 2 -- until my computer crashed and I lost all of my hard work.  In my younger days I used to go out to night clubs every weekend to dance.  How I anticipated those outings!  Each weekend held exciting possibilities.

I don't do any of these things anymore, for various reasons or for no reason at all.  The fact is that I need something in my life that captures my attention.  As of right now I don't know what that thing will be but I will keep looking for it.


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