When I was younger, I was the life and soul of any party. I was the giggler. In fact once I started I usually couldn't stop and then of course, my giggling would be infectious. My friends would all be laughing until we were crying or struggling to breathe.
The other day I happened to be in the office at home when I heard my partner quietly chuckling to herself. I swivelled my chair around to see what she was reading. Her screen was full of captured mobile phone messages. Nothing funny about that except that the predictive text had changed the meaning of the sender's message. Not only were the messages now weird or inappropriate, but the context in which they were sent; mother to son, boyfriend to girlfriend made them all the more hilarious.
Now I have a vivid imagination. I can put myself into imaginary situations and truly 'be there'. So when I began reading these I couldn't help but giggle. Half way through reading the messages I was uncontrollably shrieking with laughter. Both my teenage sons darted into the office to see what the noise was about. I then laughed even harder as I watched their reactions as we read them together. It took me quite some time to regain my natural breathing pattern.
It was a little while later that I found myself contemplating how rare it was for me to reach that level of pure, present moment euphoria. Or, put more simply - to fall about belly laughing. I wondered when I had become so serious. Was it when I had to get a job that paid enough to support my family or was it when I became more and more run down and chronically struggled with my health? Was it when I had my children and took on the belief that parenting was such a serious business that I must get right, that I couldn't possibly let go and laugh 'til I wet my pants (which of course is much easier to do after giving birth to two big boys!)
Being the deep and groovy chick that I am, I underwent a very interesting process last week. The task was to imagine what I would do if I only had 30 days left to live. This wasn't a morbid exercise; I was not suffering at my imaginary end. I would simply leave this world effortlessly and gently. The exercise progressed to imagining what I would do if I only had 7 days, then 1 day then eventually 1 hour remaining. It was a deeply profound experience. I noticed how all the stress, all the worries, all the responsibilities, all the 'small stuff' dissolved, leaving only the richness of my love for my children, my partner and loved ones. All my 'stories' fell away and I was left in a state of purity, gratitude and expansive presence - just as if I had been meditating for some time.
I acknowledged how blessed I am and recognised how complicated I had made my life - trying to make ends meet; aspiring to 'be someone'; desperately striving to make the world a better place, and to make a profound difference in the world of education. And yet all this striving is the antithesis of what I know. That being still at all levels, mind, body and heart is the key to joy; the key to living a fulfilled and content life.
I imagined what I wanted to see on my tomb stone or read in my epitaph. My desire was that it said Kathryn was so much fun! She had fun, she was funny and she created fun for others. What a wonderful contribution this would be. And so I resolved to shift my focus to where it naturally used to hang out. To return my focus to fun, joy, laughter and play. To not let the worries of the world weigh heavy on my heart. To not allow myself to get overwhelmed with parenting responsibilities. To cut myself some slack when it came to 'getting it right', and to lighten up to such an extent I could once again genuinely laugh at myself and not take myself, my career, my roles and responsibilities too seriously. After all where had it got me? Down the rabbit hole of confusion, despair and seriously futile struggle.
And so I invite you to give yourself time out, or more accurately - 'Time in'. Give yourself some time and space to reflect on what you love; what makes your heart sing and what brings your joy. Then take action and do that! Life is precious. Life is brief. Give yourself this gift. You know the benefits. Love yourself enough to make fun your focus.