How many of us began March with quarantine and cherished the time spent at home with family, only months later to complain about too much togetherness, ponder the end of this pandemic or whine about the challenges with E Learning? When did we lose the Fresh Paint Smell and become time-oriented and task-focused? Why do life changing events bring resolutions that fade weeks or months later? How is it that our human nature is prone to judge and evaluate as if things are greater than, less than, or equal too? When does it start?
I remember walking my dogs months ago. Before I rounded the corner, I could hear two young boys at play. Their imaginary world was mystical and filled with castles and dragons. Their voices were filled with a sense of urgency as they encouraged each other to move with haste. As I came around the curb, I saw two boys on bikes and in their imaginary play, chased by a dragon. Their arms were raised high as if holding swords. Their quest to slay the dragon and release the kingdom from a sinister villain.
Completely enveloped in their magical world, they would glance back and pedal frantically to escape the fire breathing dragon. But as our paths intertwined, the older of the two boys saw me and his imaginary world faded. He lowered his arm, looked down, and slowed his pace. His younger brother pedaled past; constant in his imaginary realm, escaping the flames of the fire breathing dragon. The younger of the two oblivious to my presence.
The older brother and I locked eyes for a second, and I smiled at him. But I saw shame and embarrassment for this imaginary play. His eyes shifted downward and he pedaled to catch up with his brother. I was an interloper in their game, and I was sad that I had dissolved this child’s imaginary world. And in that moment, I thought to myself, what age is this boy with self-inflicted judgement? How did my glance stop his play?
This has been the year of the dragon for our household. Our daughter is obsessed with sculpting dragons, reading books about dragons, and watching TV shows about these mythical creatures. Emma is 8 years old. As we watch her more than likely final year of “believing,” we cherish every magical moment; every baked cookie, every Christmas show, walks in the neighborhood to view Christmas lights. I write these moments on my heart because I dread the day when she like the boy on his bike, stops playing. Or worse, finds my association shameful.
Our conversations have shifted this year, showing her growth and confidence. She’s taught us a lot about playfulness through endless games of “would you rather.” Even during a pandemic, her mind has this amazing capability of viewing options and opportunities. What if we could make time to be playful and focus on the opportunities? What if we could play “would you rather” in our day to day?
Would you rather be a fire dragon or an ice dragon? Would you rather be serious or playful? Would you rather be stressed or present? Would you rather assume tomorrow or be grateful for the day? Would you rather ask for help or feel overwhelmed? Would you rather give help or receive it? Would you rather delete a friendship on social media or listen to differences of opinions and be open to learning new insights?
In the moments I hear my daughter’s laughter, I’m reminded of all the goodness in the world. I’m reminded of the normalcy we try to provide for our families. I’m reminded of the resilience that lies in each of us. I’m reminded that when I am not consumed with my own thoughts, when I’m focusing on others; that I’m at my best and mindfulness is prevalent.
For this season and the throughout the year ahead, let’s look at life through a new lens. Let’s find the ability to be playful and to imagine the possibilities. Let’s live in a space of gratitude and offer appreciation for every interaction. Let’s acknowledge that in a pandemic world we’ve established our own perceived “safe zones’” yet have the ability to look outside our established social bubbles, and then look again without judgment. Make 2021 the year to be open and accepting of what differs from our comfort zone.
Make 2021 the year to listen, to lean in, to think before we speak. To appreciate the air in our lungs, to really hear laughter, feel the sun on your face, have courage to speak out if lonely, offer help, but mostly be the reason someone smiles. Let’s play would you rather.
Wishing you all the joys of the season.