A Childlike Universe?
Jenny + I were chatting the other night about how the universe isn't out to get us. That the universe wants each and every one of us to live a meaningful life and for us to pursue and see our wildest dreams come to fruition. The universe doesn't want us to suffer, but it also doesn't want us to have everything handed over to us. It's in the struggles that we grow and learn and become resilient. It's the struggles that make us who we are.
I was telling Jenny about the desires I used to have for my life. I wanted to be known for making the world a better place. I wanted to do big, Big, BIG things in this world and make a huge impact. I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do to make this huge impact, just that I wanted to make one. I knew photography wasn't the way for me to make a big impact, and so Jenny + I started the Happy Family Movement in hopes that might be it. HFM was a site dedicated to cultivating a close-knit happy and loving family (R.I.P. - the site is still up, but it's no longer being updated). I really thought we could change the way people looked at parenting, and so we went big with it. Jenny + I created Ned the Phone Monster, another big huge step in trying to make a big impact. It didn't go as planned either.
That's life, though. I can have all the desires and wants. I can have all these ideas about what will bring me happiness and fulfillment and meaning, but the universe might have other plans for me. And no matter how hard I work, or how much I try and will something to work, I've learned over and over again I can't just force something to be, just because I want it to be really really bad.
That's when Jenny dropped in with a nugget of wisdom. She said, "Maybe the universe is like a kid, you know? How we always try and plan these grand adventures for our kids...we feel like we always have to go big for them to be happy...buy the expensive toys...take the grand vacations..buy them the newest stuff. But it's always the little things that make the most impact. Maybe the universe is the same way?"
Could that be the key I've been missing for a long time? It's true, for my kids anyway. It's the bike rides to Dairy Queen for ice cream. It's the times when I get down on the ground and we wrestle and tickle them, or our nightly snuggle chats. It's the notes I write for them in their lunch, or the times when I choose presence over my phone. The kitchen dance parties. I could go on and on about the little things that light our family up. Yes, we still travel a lot with them, but they have just as much fun jumping off a waterfall at our friend Brian's pool in his backyard as they do splashing in the waves of the ocean. It's the little things that make them the most happy. And when they're happy and loving life, I notice I almost always feel the same way. Their joy and laughter and happiness is truly contagious. Kids are rad like that.
Could the universe be the same way? Maybe I've been forcing it all. Trying so dang hard to live this big life and let these huge desires drive the way I live. Does it really matter in the long run if I'm known or not? No. What would all that bring for me anyway? Who knows. Because if I take a step back and look at how my life has played out over the last few years, it's kind of forced me to go small. To take a few steps back and focus on my loved ones and taking care of them. First it was Max, who had been sick for so long before his Cystic Fibrosis diagnosis. Then Ava's diagnosis. And now it's Jenny, who's battling some really hard things as she works through her PTSD stemming from childhood trauma. The people closest to me matter the most, and the universe jumps in to remind me of that any time I start to go big again.
And if I look even deeper, I see that when I do the little things the universe responds with love and support. So I'm rethinking my desires. I'll always play big and give my all. I'll always take risks and never settle, but my desired outcomes are changing. I have no desire to be known anymore. I have no desire to change the world in some big way. Those desires weren't working for me and have left me feeling like a failure (Note: I know that's a lie). I just want to live a good life, filled with meaning, and help others see the impact they have on the world. The little things we do for each other. The shared laughter. The shared smiles. The support. The encouragement. I want all the people in my life to know I love them and so many other people do, too. That's it.
So I'll continue to write letters of encouragement for people in my life and for strangers. I'll continue to be there, fully present for those in my life. I'll continue to make art that makes others smile and reminds them of all the things that truly matter in life. I'll continue to embrace vulnerability, be courageous and compassionate in my actions, and add as much love to the world as I possibly can. Those all seem like such little things...but it's those little things that have the most impact on me.
Maybe that's the point of this life anyway? To do what we can with what we have in the time we have. To just show up and do our best. And maybe all that will turn out to be the biggest things of all? Might that be what the universe wants for all of us?