I am trying to truly experience more joy and fun in my life. Not just doing things that seem like fun, or watching other people enjoy things and letting that bring me pleasure, but actually enjoying experiences and having fun myself. Does this sound simple? Like something you do all the time? Tell me your secret! One thing that makes being present difficult for me is that I apparently have a big case of ADD. I didn’t know this until a few years ago when a kind therapist asked me whether anyone had told me before. He was surprised I had managed to do well in school, but not surprised that keeping tabs on my keys was an incredible challenge. If I don’t make a real effort, I will walk around the apartment leaving an actual trail behind me. Cabinet doors will be left open in my wake, clothing, dishes, books, and papers will be scattered everywhere. When I have to spend so much energy keeping myself in check and not creating total disorder, I honestly just forget to have fun. When I’m relaxed and having fun the mess can get overwhelming. The only solution I have found is simply staying out of the house for most of the day, so I don’t have a chance to make such a mess.
Here comes something a little difficult: I love being a mom and spending time with my kids, but I don’t enjoy playing with them. That sounds terrible! What I mean is that I am much more comfortable taking care of my kids than actually being silly and really playing with them. I used to rationalize it and say that it was fine for Ben to play by himself, I shouldn’t need to entertain him, he can play with other kids, etc. But as he gets older he sometimes begs me to play with him. “Ima, play with me, pleeease!” How can I deny such an earnest plea? Have you seen this kid’s face? (Okay it’s basically my face on a four year old boy.) How can I say no to that? So I’ve been making an effort to sit on the floor with Ben and Ella and just play, be silly, take each moment as it comes. It turns out this is very uncomfortable for me! As soon as I sit down I start to think, “Where did I leave my coffee? Those dishes are filling up the sink…Was that my phone? I think someone is trying to reach me.” Yup, someone is trying to reach me. It’s my kids, and the little me inside who really does enjoy playing and being silly. So I’m trying to take it step by step. Mo told Ben I would play a board game with him the other day. Little does he know board games are well within my comfort zone! Haha! Fun for all. Today I tried to stretch myself a little and got really silly while playing super heroes. I was the Evil Lizard Challah Maker, Ella was the Undersea Ogler with her trusty Evil Octopus with laser eyes, and Ben was Spiderman. I get a little lost when it comes to making up elaborate pretend games, but I felt like I had struck gold when I literally made Ben laugh until he cried just by sticking my tongue out and pretending it was stuck. He begged me to stop making him laugh. WIN! I felt like I totally won at life in that moment. He even snorted.
After we settled down I decided to talk with him about happiness, partly because of what I’m working on in myself, and partly because he came home yesterday saying that his friend at school was getting a “Search and Go Dino and a monster” for Chanukah. We are not planning on giving many presents this year and I know that he will be disappointed when all of his classmates talk about what they got. Many of his classmates have nannies and drivers and cooks, so I cannot even imagine what Chanukah in those houses looks like. In Israel, Chanukah is not a present holiday. It is a delicious fried food, candle lighting, spending time with family holiday. That sounds great, right? Sign me up. However, a four year old does not understand why his friends get extravagant gifts and all he gets is a doughnut. I say, who doesn’t want a doughnut!? But you get the picture. So this was our conversation this morning:
me: I really wish I could give you happiness all the time, but I can’t. It’s not up to me. Do you know who it is up to?
me: And you. You get to decide whether to be happy or not. Sometimes it is hard to decide to be happy, especially when we don’t always get what we want.
Then he said something cute and insightful that I don’t remember because all this happened before 6am. I think I should get extra credit today for keeping anything in my memory at that hour. I don’t think that this one conversation will have much of an impact, but I just want to put it out there that happiness comes from within. As I meet the challenges of each day I hope to articulate to Ben the things that bring me happiness and show him that real fun, real happiness does not come from a Search and Go Dino or a doughnut, but from inside ourselves, when we are present to connect with each other.
How do you have fun? What brings you into the present moment?