I just stood there, my eyes filled with tears colored disappointment.
I expected something different and didn’t take well to the surprise. My mother confused, bent low and spoke soft as she tried to understand how such a dead ringer of a gift could somehow bring grief to my bothered little soul. But the other kids laughed and cheered in front of our fellow kindergarteners as they teetered with larger boxes and tore through endless amounts of wrapping paper. I remember my turn; my eyes scanning the room hiding the ferocity of excitement within finally landed on the box being brought toward me.
The smallest of all boxes was laid before me. Little primal like chants rose to fill the room buzzing with holiday mania, “OPEN IT! OPEN IT! OPEN IT!” When I did get through the wrapping paper and into the box, I discovered a toy unique and ill fit for the milieu of gifts setting in front of my classmates. A toy truck, a gun, handcuffs, action hero figures, all seemed so similar and friendly to each other while the prosthetic like E.T. finger with light up tip stood out like a sore thumb - pun, now, delightfully intended.
To this day, E.T. remains one of my all time favorite movies. As I think back, the alien wrinkled prosthetic finger gift my mother brought to my kindergarten Christmas party was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I missed the glory of going up to my friends, reciting the line, “E.T. phone home” and pressing the outstretched finger to demonstrate the complimentary light up function.
I was far too serious that day and in many days subsequent.
Life is days passing. In the coming and going, the rising and falling, the good and bad, each day resembles the many before, but holds its own uniqueness. Some days require seriousness and focused attention to see it all the way through. A deadline met demands your consistent effort. Without it, you don’t make the deadline. The ability to focus in on project or responsibility typically brings you most of the way to successful completion. Talent and experience alone can’t get you there dependably.
For every unapprehended dream, you’ll find an artist, athlete and aspiring professional who let go.
In regard to focus, the same holds true for parenting. Consistency is king and a currency owning far greater value than most things you can give your child. I maintain a low-grade focus fixed on who I see my daughters to one day be with a simple strategy: short daily prayers. When I drop them off at school, as I return to pick them up at the end of the day, at bedtime and in the unplanned spaces throughout the day my memory prompts me to, I pray brief prayers for now and all grace needed to get us to then. This seriousness I have learned to be absolutely vital to my parental effort, if not maintained, I see them only small and bound to now.
Herein lies seriousness’s trickiness in my life, a thin habit in need of breaking.
While all holds true to the necessity of seriousness in our aim for and achievement of success and completion in life, seriousness can also weigh our days unbalanced. When we heavily focus, we risk losing sight of all else and robotically hone in only on one area. Prolonged seriousness equals a preoccupied mind with little room for new ideas, inspiration and your best effort. Like the little kindergartener years back, I easily settle into preoccupied thought leaving me unavailable to the moment and unable to see the bigger opportunity.
This habit rears its intrusive head in my creative life as well as my personal life. I’m unavailable to new ideas and productive writing when I remain preoccupied in serious thought about the quality of my writing and how it will be read and received. Likewise, I pull myself to the sidelines of my personal life, parenting included, when I disappear into seriousness on a preoccupied level – life happening right in front of me.
And so here’s the kung fu aggression to the habit of ill-balanced, preoccupied seriousness in my life: laugh and let go.
We can be so engaged in what seriousness reinforces as worshipful importance, that all becomes about us rather than us being alive in the surrounding panoramic. Instead of a pensive disposition, I’m learning to disengage long enough to belly laugh better and leave fires burning to be more available to all that matters.