In a recent visit to my sister’s house in Atlanta, once again my 3 year old nephew taught me something new. It was a Saturday morning and as I was lying in my bed barely awake when I was awoken to my nephew’s voice reenacting Spider Man, shooting webs all throughout the house. Before I knew it, we were up getting dressed, heading to the park to let the dog run around in the woods. He has a vivid imagination and a playful spirit, so going to the park and seeing June run is an exciting adventure for him. We walked on logs that had fallen down, played balancing games, hide and seek, and picked up special sticks along the way. We then went to the Natural History Museum where we discovered a special surprise. PBS was hosting Sesame Street at the museum and Cookie Monster himself was there to visit with all the children. My nephew was interested for a moment, but his favorite exhibit of all is the “stars”. It is a dark room filled with purple lights along the ceiling mapping out the constellations. We ran around the room in circles looking up at the stars. We wandered briefly to a connecting room that was much less entertaining than the magical room of stars. Adjacent, was three glass cases filled with historic seashells that were stationary in their display. He pressed the button on the case and we listened for about 30 seconds to a stoic male voice narrating the history of the shells. Before I knew it, we were off and running back to play under the stars. We later ventured upstairs to the playroom. it was filled with life size tree houses, interactive stations, and tons of kids. My nephew is often more interested in the older kids than the toys themselves and sure enough found a friend that he played with for 30 minutes or more. We were here the longest of all. When it was finally time to go home, we waited in a long line with other strollers (ours holding my neice 2 months) waiting to get on the elevator. My nephew pressed the button for us to go down and off we went back to the car.
Later that day, we ate lunch, took naps, and prepped for his birthday coming up that week. When we sat down at dinner that night, I asked him- “Owen, what was your favorite part of today?” He sat in his adult chair at the dinner table and said “I pressed two buttons.” We were confused at first- you what? “I pressed two buttons. The shells…..” He started on.
Immediately, I knew what he was referring to. He did press two buttons. He pressed the button that narrated the history of the seashell and the button of the elevator that lead us home. I was stunned. In awe, really. There were SO many amazing things that I saw him enjoy that day- things that made him laugh, made him run, play, beam with joy…..but his favorite part of the day were 2 buttons that from my view took less than 1 minute of the entire adventure and could easily have not existed. They were two independent events that in the moment of their occurrence he expressed no particular interest or enthusiasm.
As I sat there taking in what he had just told me, I was reminded that this is something we experience every day. We all know the saying “Never assume.” But how often, do we still enter experiences, have conversations with people, make choices in our day based on subtle assumptions that seem safe? = I am tired, so I won’t go to yoga because I know that it won’t be beneficial. I know that if I call that person back, it will take too long, so I’ll just wait. etc. etc. But are these things really true? Is it true that yoga would not be as beneficial if we are tired? Can we modify? Maybe it is, maybe it is not. Is it true that every conversation with X person is going to take X amount of time? Maybe it is, maybe it is not.
What happens when we assume, even in these subtle ways is that we start to box ourselves into patterns that may be limiting our freedom to experience joy. We start engaging in the world from a place of mentally choosing rather than experiencing with eyes wide open. I encourage you to choose one day this week, where you notice the subtle ways that you are still assuming AND JUST MAYBE play with what it would be like to go into your day with eyes wide open. Be 3 again, where each moment is it’s own and what seems big may feel small and what seems small may feel big.