On a late summer day in 1987, I sat woefully on the couch in our little two-bedroom, basement apartment. The blinds were close, my shirt was off, and I was struggling to figure out the mysterious art of nursing a baby.
As I sat in the dark, experiencing pain like a hot iron pressed to my chest, I cried like a baby. Scratch that. The baby wasn't crying. I cried like an adult.
In my hopeless state, I was overwhelmed at the realization that this moment was my fate for the next 18 years.
The fact that not even the most extreme granola moms nurse for 18 years — if they do, please don't tell me — didn't enter my mind. The fact that babies aren't always babies didn't figure into my prognosis. All I could see was the current pain and, from that, project that the future would be exactly the same until my baby was an adult and went to college.
Within a few short months, Jessica was creeping around on the floor. Although it was exciting, I grieved that my tiny baby wasn't my tiny baby anymore. When she started to crawl, I was sad that my little “swimmer” would never swim again.
It occurred to me, finally, that rather than enjoy each remarkable step in my daughter's life, I spent my time in melancholy, reminiscing about last week.
My malady may have been strange, as I find far more people with the opposite perspective problem. These people cannot wait for their kids to start crawling or walking or getting out of diapers. They are anxious for them to start to dress themselves, start school, finish school, start college, graduate from college.
Instead of looking back wistfully far too often, as I did, they spent their entire life pushing and rushing to the next thing. They'll be happy when X happens, but as soon as it does, they push happiness of until Y is completed. And so it goes.
While not remotely always successfully, for the past couple of decades I've tried to remember that finding joy in the moment — the moment we are living now — is the only way to have a joyful life. Joy isn't in the past or future. It's now!
And how do we find that happiness? Just look around! As Sean Achor points out in his epic work The Happiness Advantage, we can increase our level of happiness enormously by taking only a few minutes a day to consciously look for things we are grateful for and to remember positive experiences.
What did you do or see today that made you smile? When did you laugh or have fun?
Unfortunately a sense of humor and play may be more of an endangered species than a sense of purpose.
Isn't it true? We are so caught up in our To Do lists, rushing from activity to activity, multi-tasking as we go, that we seem to have collectively forgotten that time sitting, talking, laughing, sharing with those we love are the things that really feed the soul.
Humor is essential for longevity, job satisfaction, personal fulfillment, peace of mind, and life balance.
Bernie Siegel, a former pediatric surgeon, wrote about his experience with cancer patients. He found that unconditional love is the most powerful stimulant of the immune system. Love? Not chemotherapy? He researched how humor impacts healing and recovery and showed how patients who had daily “laughter therapy” — watching funny movies, listening to jokes, sharing time with loved ones remembering fun experiences — had significantly higher rates of survival.
Beyond illness and recovery, remember:
Fun is the fabric of happy memories.
More than extravagant, expensive vacations or long-planned outings, the things we remember are the times we laughed until we cried, the events that didn't work out as planned but had a funny outcome, the situations that were joyful.
Each day create a moment or two of fun that will become a “remember when…” moment in your future.
Join me in the 100 Day Challenge!