Happy New Year, friends! As I sat down to write my first post of 2021, I realized that what I really wanted to share with y’all is what I wrote in last weekend’s newsletter. So, in keeping with my resolution to find more “break the script” moments, I’m sharing an excerpt of that newsletter here on the blog. If you like it, consider signing up to have these emails delivered to your inbox – I promise we’ll deliver only great reads, including every-other-Sunday notes like this one from me to you. 

Are some people wired for fun?

Or, is our ability to be carefree something we’re all born with, but as we get older, is slowly replaced by more grown-up concerns? Things like being productive and others’ opinions and making something of ourselves…

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to have more fun next year — and yes, I have set the bar at its absolute lowest because 2020 would be hard to beat in the “not fun” department. I get it: nothing’s going to change just because we’ve entered a new year – we’ll still be dealing with covid come January 1st. But what I’m talking about is an energy shift – a way of moving through the world that’s not so dependent on external circumstances. Picture that person in your life who seems like they’re almost always having a blast (Julia Roberts counts.) It’s magnetic, isn’t it?

Let’s use an example that most of us encounter every day: making dinner. There are two women making the exact same dinner on a Tuesday night, let’s say, lasagna. One of them is halfway paying attention to what she’s doing as she mulls over an issue at work that day while cursing herself for choosing a recipe that requires layers upon layers of noodles / cheese / sauce because she still has lunches to pack and emails to answer and this is all just a little too time consuming for a Tuesday! The other woman? She’s barefoot in the kitchen with the music turned up, fully immersed in the experience of doing one of her favorite things. Maybe she recruits a family member to help her layer, maybe she pours a glass of wine, sings along, and savors the feeling of doing one of her favorite things on a Tuesday night.

Same circumstance, totally different experience.

I admit that I can skew towards the slightly more serious – my elementary teachers used to tell my mom that I was “very focused.” When I’m in the zone with a goal in mind, it’s hard for me to break script. But in order to be more carefree and present, I know that breaking the script is exactly what I need to feel more joy in the everyday experience. When we’re at the beach (where we’re ringing in the new year right now), I naturally flow into a different headspace, one that’s more about experiencing the moment and enjoying life instead of checking things off my to-do list. And yes, the beauty of nature tends to awaken that spirit in many of us, but I also think that it has something to do with the fact that an interruption in the flow of life makes us feel more alive.

One paradox of 2020 is that it was the most eventful year of our lives and also the most monotonous. While the twenty-four hour news cycle is a tornado of constant upheaval, we’re hunkered down within the same four walls with the same people (or lack of people), and it’s created a perfect storm for anxiety. The stress radiating from our screens seeps right into our hearts and minds. It crowds out the more carefree parts of us; it’s hard to laugh when you’re in fight or flight.

But I’m wondering: even when things are serious – do I have to take everything so seriously? I believe there’s room for empathy, compassion, sadness, and awareness about what’s happening in our lives and in the world, while also welcoming joy and play and laughter into our days. So I’ve decided that in 2021, I’m going to break the script as frequently as possible. It’s a trick I learned from the book The Power of Moments that’s meant to turn off our autopilot and transform routine moments into something more fun. Here are a some “break the script” ideas I’ve been embracing lately:

  • Turn off TV and take an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood.
  • Relax in a hot bath with a great podcast on my headphones (bliss.)
  • Announce to Phoebe that it’s “girls night!!” which means doing our nails and watching a romcom together.
  • Notice something I love about someone in my life – and tell them.
  • Instead of just watching my kids play dodgeball, jump in and play with them full stop (this also happens to be an incredible workout.)
  • Make fancy cocktails on the weekend.
  • Mix up my workout – I’ve been doing yoga videos for the first time (loving Melissa Wood’s)
  • Try a new recipe.
  • Read poetry instead of nonfiction.
  • Look for opportunities for random acts of kindness – turns out, they’re everywhere.
  • When the kids are in their pajamas before bed, tell them to get in the car to go get ice cream.
  • Buy myself flowers.
  • Buy flowers for a friend.
  • Wake up early for a morning meditation on the back patio. There’s something about watching the sunrise that changes my entire day.
  • Breakfast for dinner.

All of this, in addition to being the spice of life, is what makes memories. Have you ever wondered why most of us can remember little moments from our childhood with specificity, while our adult years can feel sped up, like one big blur? I learned in The Power of Moments that a novel experience makes time slow down and carves out memories in our brains.

As kids, we were experiencing so many things for the first time. Instead of checking “water the plants” off our to-do list, we were in awe of the tiny wings of a hummingbird or watching an earthworm burrow into the soil. I’ll never forget my mom’s occasional announcements of “banana splits for dinner!” Sure, it wasn’t healthy per se, but the spontaneity of those nights fed my spirit in a way that broccoli never would have.

I wonder if we can use the uncertainties of this strange time we’re living in to get back in touch with our inner kid that lived day-by-day. We couldn’t plan everything then — and there’s a lot we can’t plan for now. So instead of trying to control everything, let’s fully engage with life – smile generously, laugh easily, look for opportunities for fun, disrupt the routine. Life’s too short. I’m taking the scenic route.

How are you going to break the script this year?

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