During our second celebration of Happy’s First Thanksgiving (we celebrate Thanksgiving with both families on Thanksgiving day in a fine example of our general insanity), Gracie, his sweet cousin who is a year older than Happy and his best bud, walked up to her mom (my sister) and said, “Where’s Happy?” At this point, Happy was still going by his actual name with my family and not one of us had a clue as to whom Gracie was referring. Gracie must have been about 2 1/2 years old at the time and so we thought maybe she’d gotten a little confused.
“You mean Lady?” My sister asked, thinking that Gracie had gotten my parents’ dog’s name wrong.
“No! Happy!” She insisted and, now, she was put out with us. We, the adults in the room, couldn’t figure out who the heck Happy was. What was our problem?
And then my sweet son came barreling into the room, full force laughing.
“There he is,” Gracie said and turned to run after him.
Oh. OH. OH!
Gracie, as it turns out, had renamed my boy in celebration of what his default emotion and stance is in life: joy. Unabated joy and sheer happiness. This is a kid that is happy, HAPPY, HAPPY! until he’s not. And then, yes, it gets ugly for a minute. But have just the right response, and the tears aren’t just gone. He’s happy, HAPPY, HAPPY! again.
I was reminded of joy being Happy’s default this weekend as we celebrated his birthday. When he woke on Friday morning, Happy said to me, “can we have my birthday now?” And while I knew he meant his friend party and his friend party was a good 32 hours away from happening, Happy didn’t care. Every single thing we did up until that actual birthday party with friends delighted Happy. He was thrilled. So thrilled in fact that there’s still a birthday present he hasn’t opened because he was so delighted with everything else we just couldn’t get to that present.
When he woke from his nap on Saturday afternoon, Happy asked what he always asks when he wakes up from his nap, “What do we do now, Mama?” Happy has an incredible memory- like boggles the mind memory- and we had told him before his nap that he was going to have his actual birthday party with a few friends after his nap. I knew he remembered this, but I decided to tease him.
“Would you like to color?” Coloring really isn’t Happy’s favorite thing to do. He’d much rather do a puzzle or listen/dance to music or read books or play outside.
“Sure!” He enthused. And then I felt a little guilty so I decided to throw him a bone with the teasing.
“Or we could do Play-doh.” Happy loves him some Play-doh. “Okay,” he answered.
“Or we could have your birthday party,” I offered. “Sure!” He exclaimed with the same enthusiasm he had offered about coloring, his not so favorite activity.
Delight. It’s Happy’s default. It’s what got him renamed Happy.
Lately, I’ve been a little tired, a little worn, a little nervous. Back to school does that to me in general, but it is compounded this year by not just teaching 1 class but 3 classes (I just did the math for how much work I assigned to my students this semester- a little late to do that math, by the way- and I have over 2000 assignments to grade. Multiply that by 8 and 10 page papers in that stack and, well, I’m going to be a grading machine this semeter which means I going to keep being tired and worn). My to do list is so incredibly long, and I don’t flourish in that state. In fact, I tend to strip down to the bare essentials of doing when I am in that state and self-care often falls away (because, to me, what my self most needs at that moment is to see less stuff on the everexpanding to do list). So my default isn’t quite what I want it to be right now. It’s a little beleagured, a little overwhelmed, a little anxious. And, truth be told, that’s not my best self. I never want those attitudes, feelings to be my default. Even though I am disciplined and self-aware enough not to professionally show my worn and tired, I don’t really want to feel it on the inside so acutely either. I want to feel it enough for it inform my actions and inspire me to move past them but not so much that it changes how I feel about things that I am normally very excited about in my life.
And so I am watching myself, observing how I share my natural default- joy, delight, passion, purpose, authenticity- while doing that which I most delight in (parenting, teaching, etc) and trying to sow/ sew that default into that quiet space when I am alone and looking at that damn, taunting list. etc. I am thinking about how just the right tweak moves Happy from “not so” to Happy in just minutes, and I’m thinking about what my tweaks are to make that happen for myself (amending my standards helps, so does having bigger picture perspective). I’m resuscitating my default, if you will, so that I can be me, my best self, as life changes with the calendar. I’m dong this because I know my disposition is my choice, and my default, my most natural and, hence, my best self, is within my reach. Here’s to the reach.
What’s your natural default? What’s your default right now? Are you content in your current default or do you need to tweak it to get to your best self?