Think back to when you were a child. What do you remember most? To me, it is the boat rides, ice cream, camp fires, Christmas mornings, my aunt who always laughed, playing Tonka trucks in the dirt, and Friday movie night. I can remember my pets vividly. I can remember my nightmares and times I slept walked into my neighbor’s yard.
When I think back to my childhood, I can’t help but ask myself: what happened? Yes, I know, you GROW UP! But the real questions are: what happened to being in the moment, the happiness, the simplicity?
I’ve been pondering on this lately, and I will share a perfect example. My boys wanted to get ice cream one day after school, so I took them to get the homemade kind…you know…the kind that is actually made with REAL milk AND there are a variety of flavors! Now, given the fact that I am in my late 30’s, an adult, a vegetarian, and have given up added sugar for many years now…..and not to mention, I have RESPONSIBILITY! I have to pay bills! I have to make sure I’m always healthy! I have to be SERIOUS! With these factors, it was imperative that I NOT get ice cream with my children. Right? WHY would I even think about getting ice cream? It’s not an adult thing to do. As all of this absurdity was passing through my brain, I decided WHY NOT? I decided to get a cup of chocolate-peanut butter ice cream.
Before I continue, let me remind you….I hadn’t had this ice cream or really ANY ice cream for nearly 10….THAT’S 10!!! Years! So, needless to say, I ENJOYED EACH MOMENT of it. Totally.
I didn’t get bloated. I didn’t feel bad. I didn’t have stomach problems. I didn’t feel my body go into inflammation mode. These are all of the random pre-conceived thoughts I had regarding any kind of food that was “bad” for me. To me, having ice cream was up there with robbing a bank.
But the real question is this: when do we stop enjoying those simple things that were part of us from childhood? When did we decide that living in the moment didn’t matter. During those thirty minutes of eating ice cream with my children, I listened to them talk about random, silly things. I enjoyed the sun on my back. I tasted each bit of peanut butter that entered my mouth (and had disappointment for when it was ONLY chocolate, and no peanut butter chunk!). But I was THERE. Present. My youngest sat a little closer to me and put his head on my shoulder. Briefly, because it would’ve tarnished his impending man-hood!
Don’t get me wrong. Living in the moment is NOT all about food. I am not trying to equate happiness to a bowl of chocolate peanut-butter ice cream. Happiness and joy are intimately connected; however, happiness is a choice and joy comes from within. I’d like to say that the ice cream acted as a catalyst for my happiness. It created that atmosphere that allowed me to stop, be present, and enjoy a childhood moment. This, in turn, reached me deep down and pulled on my strings of joy.
We all still have those strings. Somewhere deep within us. When did we become adults? When did we lose joy? Why do we stop seeing small things as pleasurable? But we have priorities now! Of course we do! Bills. Health. Children. And so much more! But adulthood can be sweetened by a walk in the woods. It can be lightened when we stop and watch butterflies. When we allow ourselves to enjoy that ice cream cone or chocolate bar from time to time, we are telling ourselves that it is OKAY to be a grown up child from time to time. Smell the air. Touch the earthworms. Play treasure hunters with your children.
I think the biggest issue with my own anxiety is the fact that I spend too much time in the future. Usually a made up future. Why? I can come up with many reasons why, but when I do, I often see that they are pretty useless reasons. While it is okay to be responsible, it is certainly much better to be living life NOW. I remember a quote that I need to paraphrase here: Life is what happens when we are busy making plans. When we only live for those “big” plans or moments, our joy of the present is lost. Forever.
Go have that chocolate peanut butter ice cream.