Chapter 4: Stand up and applaud…

Kids appreciate the little things in life so much better (and more often) than adults do.  Classic example, I was at church on Christmas Eve and during a very poetic and specific moment of the mass, a time in the Catholic tradition where the entire church would normally be “pin drop” silent, a 2-3 year old little boy opted to STAND on the kneeler (as the priest closed one of his prayers) and he screamed ALRIGHT (followed by intense clapping), which made the Mother crap herself, a few bitter old Catholics look back in horror and I couldn’t help smiling (and hysterically laugh on the inside-because it wasn’t one of my kids this time).

Why did I laugh and not get pissed…because this kid got “it”.  It was a beautiful spot in the ceremony, so why not applaud, right?  When beautiful moments strike you, I think we would all be in a better space if we were willing to acknowledge that beauty.  I don’t care if it is during a mass, watching a sunset, seeing snow fall for the first time of the season or watching your children sleep.  These examples are present, regularly, in our daily lives and when is the last time you stood up and gave a standing-O for any one of them?  I know that I take them for granted and I’m sure you do too.  The pace of my job has picked up in the last year, Deena still works insane hours and we juggle the three kids, so I have every freaking excuse under the sun as to why I might not applaud my kids sleeping faces (reality: I’m not running the risk of waking those crazy maniacs up after a long day, but I’ll applaud on the inside more often, I promise).  Like most parents, I’m exhausted and need some peace and quiet, but I see so many beautiful things daily and I have chosen to not recognize them.  I see the sunrise, daily, on my way to work (I opt to bitch about the sun being in my eyes as I drive east opposed to applauding) and as I ate my second helping of Christmas dinner (once on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas day) I know that I did not take enough time to appreciate that I have the opportunity to eat every day and instead, I spent more time wondering if we got our Christmas cards out in time, the right presents purchased for everyone and made sure the house looked appropriate for guests (who might drop by at any time during the break).  Most of these things had nothing to do with me, but had the underlying tone of hoping others would think positively about me.  Again, not one single ovation to any of the beauty around me and I’m disappointed in myself.

I talk about it in each article (in case we have a new reader or two).  I’m using my daily writing from the last year (each day from April to December) to spark an “on line” book that is targeted at helping people remember to slow down and focus a bit on the more critical elements of life.  I hope to spark some interest in “stopping the chase” and I although I was inspired by my cheering church friend, I was equally inspired by my coach in late spring of this year.  OnMay 20, 2011, I wrote:

“My job is starting to settle down a bit and I’m making a more conscious effort to relate the work I do to a means to help others instead of the traditional grind of a “job”.  For the first time in my career and for the first time in life I’ve become more apt to appreciate what I have versus staring out into the future and being pissed about what I didn’t earn yet.  Home life has the same set of feelings tied to It and I’m realizing how important it is for happiness to be a choice, not something that I can gain by doing certain things, hanging out with certain people, reading certain books or buying certain objects.”

Now I’d be full of shit if I tried to tell you that I have located some magic cocktail that enables me to think this way ALL of the time.  I still wrestle with the “same old same old” when it comes to parenting, employment, friendships, marriage and any other aspect of life that might challenge me, but I can say that the coaching I’ve secured and the self awareness I’ve grown more comfortable with has helped me recognize when I’m getting back into my old ways. I apologize more often (when I muck something up) and I focus on catching my selfish behaviour prior to botching something up within the lives of the people I come in contact with daily.

I look at how I raise my kids and how we are our own worst critics.  God help us if our children might be the crazy ones at a dinner table.  The saddest part about this feeling is the rare time that I’m really frustrated with my kids, my frustration typically stems from fear that another parent may look down on me as a “weak parent” with rotten children.  I think people look through the same lens about their careers too.  We wonder if our children or spouses would be better off if we pushed more at work, earned even more, but ran the risk of sacrificing the only thing that really should matter on this planet; the “time” we have during this life and who we choosing to spend it with.  Instead, we work and work and for who?  Generally, I find people bust their asses to make more money as a way to cover up a void somewhere in life.  Maybe parents or friends or colleagues said you couldn’t do something, so you go HARD to prove them wrong and you make yourself miserable in the process.  Pretty silly, isn’t it?

In short, I’m nowhere near perfect and I am going to work even harder in 2012 (God willing) to focus on remembering that I get to choose whether I want to be happy or whether I want to walk the planet pissed off because I enable other people’s opinions to drive my behaviour.  I don’t want to be frustrated at things (my bank account, my business card, my house, my children’s grades or the car that I drive).

If I could have one wish granted…it would be to take that church-kid’s approach to life and react to the beauty that surrounds us so frequently.  In short, I’d like to get up and applaud more often in 2012.  I probably won’t see that little guy again any time soon, so I hope he keeps applauding at life’s wonders and that his parents are wise enough to realize that they shouldn’t be embarrassed of him, they should be proud of him.  Hell, if more of us acted the way he did, the better our lives would be in the long run.