"If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely." -Roald Dahl
In all seriousness, my seven-year-old niece one day announced, “Aunty, I don’t think I want to be an adult?”
“No?” I was curious and pleased at the same time. I’m like the Steve Martin character in Father of the Bride; I want her to remain in pigtails forever.
“No.” She scrunched up her face and told me the reason, “They don’t smile much.”
Plato was right: “There is truth in wine and children.”
It would have been easy to write her off. She’s a kid. She has no cares in the world. Unlike us. We have responsibilities.
Looks like I walked right into my own trap. Since we are talking about responsibilities, I supposed I should be asking myself these questions:
Do I want to be the adult who children are fearful of turning into? Or do I want to be the adult who children aspire to?
The answer was simple. This is what I chose to do.
When a fly landed on a particularly tasty bowl of pho that I was still dining on, I smiled.
When the drycleaner left iron burns on my favorite blouse, I smiled.
When I discovered, too late of course, that I had walked into an important meeting with toilet paper stuck to my shoes, I smiled.
When I chose this reaction over other responses, I took responsibility for the energy I bring into my space.
(You might already be familiar with this concept from Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. If not, watch this short clip of her discussing it with Oprah.)
When I chose to take responsibility for the energy I bring into my space, a really amazing thing happened. I looked at my situation with humor or felt detached from the person or the situation causing them. I was able to shake them off and let go. They don’t follow me around for the rest of the day.
It felt very adult.
I came into this responsibility quite reluctantly. If the thing with the dry cleaner had happened to me before this awareness, I would have been annoyed and upset. I would have felt justified in complaining to anyone who was willing to listen because doing so would have made me feel better.
These responses were, and quite embarrassingly, focused on me. I never once considered how my energy was impacting others. How it disrupted their peace or their state of calm.
Having become more sensitized to this, it started me thinking about what kind of energy I want to radiate, what I want others to soak up when I’m around.
Regardless of how justified I might feel or how understanding someone might be of my mood, I refuse to bring negative energy into a shared space. It’s like being invited to someone’s house and deciding to piss in their pool.
Listen, I’m the biggest proponent when it comes to “letting it all hang out.” Glossing over things or sweeping things under a rug is never the answer.
I simply made a choice. It was one choice among many:
Option 1: Choose to feel angry, annoyed and embarrassed.
Option 2: Choose to complain to anyone within listening distance.
Option 3: Choose to remain in a foul mood and expect those who come into contact with me to understand and accept this energy.
Option 4: Choose to smile and let go.
I won’t always choose the best option. But it helps to think that if my niece were watching me, I want my smile to shine like sunbeams and my face to always be lovely.