Today is a Hearts at Home blog, and the topic is how to allow yourself to loosen up, or laugh. It seems like mothers have all they need in the world- little ones to care for- which is what we’re put on earth for, so it may seem like it should come easy for us to be able to celebrate while we’re living out our life’s fulfillment. But, alas, I know it can be difficult for many us. I, myself, have stopped before and realized I couldn’t actually remember the last time I’d really let out a real laugh. So, I want to first address what some hindrances may be to our quests to enjoy ourselves.
First of all, if you are going through any trauma or sickness, of course it’s going to be hard. Don’t beat yourself up; this time in your life may not be the most fun. You will get through it with time, faith, and prayer, and someday, hopefully, you’ll be able to fully celebrate your life again.
Also, if you are working outside the home, and you don’t like your job, I know it can be difficult. What you do for the majority of the day carries over into the rest of your life, and if your job is awful, it must be hard. I don’t want to sound unappreciative, because I’m very happy to have had a great full time job before I had my baby, but the company I worked for had a poor corporate culture, to say the least. Plus, I’m an introvert, and I’ve recently read that introverts expend energy while they’re around others, while extroverts gain energy. I had always known I liked to work alone better, I just didn’t realize exactly why. Now I realize that my subconscious, guided by God, was guiding me correctly- that I should have tried to look for a job in which I wasn’t surrounded by so many people, because that was no doubt adding to the fatigued feeling I had during and at the end of every workday. There were good times, for sure, as I had a lot of friends and learned a lot.
If your job was like mine, I understand why it’s hard to lighten up and allow yourself to celebrate. You’re exhausted when you get home. But rest assured and feel great that you’re providing for your family, and focus on that aspect of the gift of work God has given us.
Another thing that makes it difficult, I’ve found, is comparing your life now to what it was in high school or college. These times are not representative of how the rest of your life should be, and these places DO NOT prepare you for the real world. Life will never be as carefree as it may have been while you were in these more formative years. I know it was so much easier for me to be a complete goofball back in those days. You’re surrounded by friends, and it’s such a socially chaotic time; it just seemed like the laughter never ended during those years. Maybe you’re looking back at those years enviously, wishing you were back with all those friendships around you and fun times never ceasing. But instead of looking backwards, we have to choose to be present in the current season of our lives, and focus on what we can do right now to improve our lives. We can’t go back to high school or college, besides, remember that there were a lot of negatives that came along with that territory that you probably forgot about, or are just overlooking now in hindsight. It may always be a good time you can look back on, but it’s not coming around again, so let’s move along in life and be happy with where we are now. I feel that there are much greater rewards to glean from being a parent.
Another reason it’s hard is if you’re too focused on the busyness of daily life. There are no doubt tons of places we may schedule ourselves to have to get to every week, and many of us are further busying our lives meddling in social media nonstop. There is no idle time for the mind to have a moment to relax when we are mentally and physically so occupied every second of the day. I would like to share a personal anecdote about the busyness of my life.
So, I’ve been trying to get to church one weekday morning every week. It makes for a nice activity to bring my toddler to, who doesn’t get the multitude of social interaction that a daycare child does, and it makes me feel good to bring him into the Lord’s presence at the church, even if he doesn’t understand a lick of what’s going on yet. Instead, it’s more of a time for him to test mommy on how much he can get away with for now! But last Friday morning came around, and the little one woke up at a little after 7; church is a 15 minute drive, and starts at 8. We had to take care of our animals first, and it was a gloriously nice morning out, a great break from the sweltering heat we’d have to endure all day. A cool, damp morning, we were also blessed that no mosquitoes were out yet attempting to guzzle our precious, precious blood. So I was faced with a decision: I could either rush back inside, try to get the baby fed, and he and myself dressed, and then loaded up to get to church, or I could stay outside- in nature, where I’m blessed to be able to fully feel the presence of God- my favorite place, and let my son play for a while longer. I went back and forth for a while, and struggled with the decision. I asked God to guide me, because I know, from some outsiders’ views, it would seem as if God would obviously rather me be at the church, formally trying to learn about His word. I can see how many people would think that rushing to get somewhere to be in God’s presence would have been the Godliest thing for me to do. But, instead, I used God’s power of reasoning He so kindly gave me, and realized that perhaps it would all be okay if we took advantage of the beautiful morning, and relaxed for a bit, and so, I let my son play. He played outside that morning instead of going to church like I had planned. He had fun with the chickens, the dog, and the cat, he ran around the front yard while I pulled weeds out of the flower bed, we talked to our neighbors, he ate black raspberries from our bushes, and he munched on snap peas from the garden; all activities I feel would have been highly approved by God. He played for 3 hours outside, so full of life and energy and so fun for me to watch. And, at one point, while I was holding him, sitting on our picnic table, I felt God’s presence so strongly. It wasn’t even a time I was trying to pray and formally invite Him in, it was just me and my son, sitting in our back yard,watching the leaves on the black walnut branches surrounding us bounce up and down in the breeze, and I felt this sense of being completely in the moment- completely thankful for that exact moment in time. I’m always intentional about trying to be present in the moment, but I’d only felt a similar feeling while I was on vacations before in exotic locales- where we’re told by culture that we don’t have a thing to worry about. However, this feeling was different, it was as if I was completely overwhelmed by a satisfied, relaxed moment of peacefulness. I sensed it was God coming to me and saying, “It’s a-okay! Don’t worry so much!” I get so worked up with little stuff like trying to do the exact right thing all the time, and risk overlooking the goodness God already put right in front of me.
I don’t want this to sound like an excuse to not go to church- this was one incident and I still believe in going to church, and will continue to go. I just think that sometimes we can run the risk of overlooking God’s presence by trying to do something in His name. I will still take my son to church, as there is a lot to learn about God via mass as well. I also strongly believe there are things on your schedule that cannot be skipped- work, for sure, and other commitments like sports practices and games that should be attended according to the schedule to teach our kids about commitments.
I wanted to share that with you because in our lives, sometimes we think this sense of peace, which leads to the ability to loosen up, can only come during a time scheduled just for relaxing, like a vacation or a spa visit. Except, the same thing can be accomplished during every day of our lives; you don’t need to be in close proximity to crashing waves to be able to loosen up. Sure, vacations are nice, but if we stop hating our daily lives, and instead look for the small everyday things that we can enjoy, we won’t just have the big glorious, expensive trips to look forward to.
We also don’t have to be worrywarts, we can recognize God’s presence in our lives, that whatever’s going to happen will, that some of our daily agendas may not really be necessary to uphold. And, then, we can have faith in God to take care of us. I don’t mean this in a way that recommends we should be completely carefree- I still budget and maintain an emergency fund and try to keep our finances as tight as possible. It would be stupid to live beyond our means and run up credit cards to buy things we don’t need in the name of having “faith” that God will take care of it all. Instead, realizing you don’t need extra things and that you can be happy with what you already have, and what you can actually afford, is what God wants us to do. That’s when the peace comes in- when you have your act together and things taken care of- and the peace can be found in every moment, every day. After there’s peace, and unnecessary stress is out of your life, it’s so much easier to loosen up and relax! It may take some work to get there, but there is so much more to celebrate once you get there!
Now that I have the hindrances out of the way, (Whew!) let me add some suggestions on how to actually make it happen. I read once, somewhere, (sorry for that very vague “reference”) that we should never suppress a laugh, and I thought it was good advice and try to live by it . Even if you’re just watching a goofy or corny sitcom, if something is funny, laugh! If you’re thinking back about a funny thing that happened years ago or yesterday, laugh! It’s great for you, and it releases endorphins. If you’re really in need of a laugh, look up funny videos on youtube, funny pictures, or jokes online or in a book.
I don’t know if this will help you, but viewing things literally sometimes makes me laugh, so I will see if it does the same for you. For example, while reading through some Bible passages to try to get some inspiration for this post, I came across Proverbs 19:24, “The lazy person buries a hand in the dish, and will not even bring it back to the mouth.” Now, you could go straight to analyzing this and realize the author was probably trying to say that you don’t reap any rewards from being lazy… or instead, you could literally picture someone putting their hand in a bag of potato chips, and then being just toooo darn lazy to lift their hand out of the bag to even put their beloved frito in their mouth to eat the salty, crunchy goodness. Now how lazy would you have to be to not be able to lift your hand up off your plate to eat your food! And I thought I was lazy! I can at least diligently guzzle down many a dish of ice cream in a small amount of time, so that makes me feel a little better.
I want to add to the aforementioned advice to never suppress the urge to dance, either. If you have a hard time with this, look up songs on youtube that were popular during your senior year of high school, in college, or whenever your heyday with music was, and let out the inner dance diva inside you. You don’t have to go out and have a formal night out with friends at a club to reap the benefits of dance, it can be free! It’s also physically great for you, is fun, and releases endorphins. You can’t help but smile when you’re dancing, or laughing at yourself when you are doing goofy 80s or 90s dance moves.
CS Lewis says, rather, the demon in his book The Screwtape Letters says, that we are animals and whatever our bodies do affects our souls, which makes better sense to me now of why the Catholic Church wants you to actually make a physical sign of a cross across your body. But, this also makes sense of why laughing and dancing are so good for us- they’re sending signal to our souls- not just endorphins to our brains- that we’re having fun, celebrating! And if you let it be, it could be contagious in your life, leading to more smiles, laughter, and dancing, so be careful! I don’t want to suggest that going out to movies or out to eat, etc, are the things we should do to celebrate our lives. These lead to temporary happiness, for sure, but only temporary. Actually loving your whole life is what we should strive for, the mundane along with the big celebratory times.
I also want to add that we can always turn to the Bible for help, because the Bible is the where we should look for answers to every issue. (If you aren’t a believer, I can see how this wouldn’t seem relevant to you, but I can assure you, God’s tips can work for you, too. Just take His name out of everything and every reason behind why you’d do it, but still do the right thing all the time. It still leads to a happier life, even if you don’t do it as a believer!) The biggest theme in the Bible I’ve found so true and worthy of seeking for in my life is that happiness stems from wisdom. Wisdom found in the Lord, that is. If we seek wisdom in Him, and allow Him to guide us to it, we’ll have happiness. We’ll be a house built on rock instead of sand, as He refers to. Our wedding responsorial psalm was something like Matthew 5:6, “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires,” and it’s so true. If you do everything right, or just strive to, you will be happy, and hence more easily able to celebrate. There will be nothing keeping you nervous or guilty feeling. People will be nicer and more generous to you when you’re nicer and more generous yourself, leading to more happiness. There will still be hard times, for sure, but your foundation will be stronger and you’ll be better able to get through them. This will all lead to you being more able to celebrate your life. Be goofy and see the humor in every small thing; God gave you a sense of humor so you can use it to be happy and celebrate.