I honestly could not remember seeing my child this excited about something in her whole life. She exploded off the school bus gripping the American Heart Association Jump Rope for Heart information sheet in her hand and never let it out of her sight. She studied it while eating a snack. She kept it right beside her while she did her homework. She read over it multiple times while I made dinner as if she’d be tested on it.
“Every $50 we earn can help a child with a heart problem,” she explained to me during a rare glance up from the paper. “If we earn $5, we get Splatter. He’s the duck with the paint splotches. And I really want to earn Sky Dude. See him, Mama?” Avery pointed to a green duck wearing an orange helmet. “I am going to ask people to sponsor me. Then I am going to practice jumping.”
My daughter ran off to get started on her plan, nearly forgetting her colorful brochure—but not quite. When she ran back and snatched it up like a rare diamond, the oddest statement came to my head.
“I want to get excited about ducks.”
I trudged up to Avery’s room where she was supposed to be picking out a book to read for bedtime. Instead she was studying a small dish filled with colorful rocks. She had the neck of the bendable light shining directly down on her collection. She was investigating each one like a true geologist.
“It sure looks like chalk to me,” I replied.
“Nope! It’s a rock!” Avery then proceeded to tell me how she was going to take a few rocks to school tomorrow to show her teacher and classmates.
As she described noteworthy qualities about each colorful stone, a thought I’d never had in my life came to me. “I want to get excited about rocks.”
First it was ducks then it was rocks. I had no idea where this coming from.
The next morning Avery bounded down the stairs fully dressed and ready for breakfast. She was clutching the Jump Rope for Heart paper in one hand and her rock collection in the other. It was 6:35 a.m. and she was smiling the way people do when they are sailing away on a tropical cruise. I found her pre-dawn cheerfulness slightly irritating.
“Listen, Mama,” she instructed looking deliriously happy. “Sally, seashell, supper, silver.”
I looked at her cluelessly. It was much too early for word riddles.
“I can say my S’s now even with the appliance in my mouth!” Avery explained. Then she cheered a hearty “yes!” accompanied by a fist pump. She actually fist pumped and it was still dark outside.
There I stood in my mismatched pajamas and mismatched socks holding a plate of eggs made the way I always make them thinking, “I want to get excited about S’s too.”
Although it was painful to admit, I couldn’t remember the last time I felt excited … like bursting-at-the-seams excited … like wearing-pure-joy-on-my-face excited. Truthfully, I was in a slump. My heart felt like it was only half beating. My view of the world looked colorless. Should I consider medication? Meditation? Vacation? What’s wrong with me? I wondered.
All day I thought about my lack of excitement, my missing enthusiasm, my going-through-the-motions existence. I’d just started a 21-Day Choose Love Challenge. I’d vowed to choose love as my response in times of anger, frustration, distraction, and overwhelm, but suddenly I also wanted to Choose to Love Life More. I wanted to get excited about unexpected triumphs and everyday blessings the way my eight-year-old daughter did. But was such an aspiration unachievable? I wondered. Maybe this is just what happens when you get older. After all, very little is new and fresh anymore. My days are redundant; my schedule is predictable. Perhaps only children can get excited about plastic ducks, shiny rocks, and correctly pronounced words. I had no answers, but I felt slightly more hopeful because I was asking questions—even ones that hurt.
Avery got off the bus that afternoon with three little plastic ducks joyfully swinging from her neck. By the look on her face, it was Christmas in February. She merrily informed me that she had to practice jumping rope as soon as she got home.
I sat on the driveway bundled up from head to toe while my coatless child demonstrated several variations of jump roping despite the bitter wind. I couldn’t help but notice the way the plastic ducks danced on her chest with every hop. As Avery got into a rhythm, the ducks literally came to life.
Avery looked thrilled by my request and handed me the rope.
I hadn’t expected to twirl the rope multiple times without tripping. I hadn’t expected it to actually be fun. I hadn’t expected Avery to smile so brightly at the sight of her mama jumping rope.
“Wow! You’re pretty good, Mama!” she said with a blend of shock and delight on her face.
Between the sunshine, her smile, and the movement of my stiff body, I felt a little better. I felt a little pulse coming back to my lifeless veins.
A few hours later Avery asked if she could set up a “spa” to pamper me. I thought about saying it was too late. I was tired and just wanted to put her to bed. But those ducks hanging around her neck seemed to beckon me with their animated eyes.
After agreeing to her offer, my child promptly filled a shallow container with warm, soapy water. She lovingly caressed my feet while the ducks hung suspended over the water as if they were flying. Avery patted my feet dry and soothed fragrant lotion into my thirsty winter skin.
I hadn’t expected her to be so good at massaging my feet. I hadn’t expected it to feel this soothing. Between her soft little hands, the tranquility of the water, and our loving connection, I felt a little better. I felt a little life awakening in my sleeping bones.
The next afternoon was Avery’s swim team practice day. She’d just finished up dryland training, which is the conditioning portion of practice that involves running and calisthenics.
“Want me to show you where our team runs when we go outside?” Avery asked eagerly.
I really wanted to get home. I needed to start dinner. But the ducks—the ducks got me again. They seemed to whisper, “Say yes.”
“Okay,” I spit out reluctantly.
“Follow my path,” Avery called out looking back at me with an encouraging smile. Something told me those were words to remember.
Avery and I ran for seven solid minutes. We ran up concrete stairs, around bends, and down hilly inclines. She was grinning the whole time—this little girl who really doesn’t like to run was grinning and running. And the ducks were dancing against her heart.
“No walking, Mama,” she coached when I began to slow my pace. “Gotta get your heart rate up!”
My heart rate was up. Oh, how my heart was beating. Between the encouragement of my mini trainer and the sight of my warm breath hitting the cold air, I caught a glimpse of color in my colorless world. A little spark of life tingled in my extremities.
Follow my path. Those words stuck with me. A few days later, their importance was revealed.
It was Day Seven of the Choose Love Challenge. I’d taken my daughters and their friend to a rustic park with gentle trails nestled among tall trees. It was unseasonably warm that day and after a short hike the kids asked if they could spend time building huts in the forest. They pointed down to small valley off the beaten path with a tranquil stream and an abundance of fallen tree limbs.
“Please say yes! Please say yes!” they begged.
I looked around and noticed no one else was straying from the designated trail. But I had to admit, the children were right. It was the perfect spot to build their village.
“Yes,” I said with a smile. “Let’s go.”
We scaled down the ravine together. I listened to the three companions discussing where they would set up a restaurant, town hall, and their individual huts. After an hour of planning and gathering, I could see we would be there awhile. I began my favorite activity in the whole world: walking. And because the children were in the middle of the open ravine, I was able to keep my little builders in sight.
I lost count of the number of people who stopped to watch the children and delight in their imaginative storyline. I lost count of the number of children who begged their parents to let them go off the path too. I lost count of the number of times I looked down and marveled at the joy the children were finding in dead wood and lively company.
That’s when it hit me.
As a child, nearly everything is a new path. Children feel excitement about every opportunity, every trail, and every experience because they see it through Beginner’s Eyes.
But as an adult, it becomes more difficult to encounter anything novel or unfamiliar. Daily redundancy and expected outcomes bring a lifelessness that can feel all-consuming and hopeless.
But just because you are an adult does not mean you must live a life void of excitement, passion, and joy. Just because you are no longer a beginner does not mean you can’t have Beginner’s Eyes like a child. You can. Simply go off the beaten path:
Take a different route
Accept a challenge
Learn something new
Say yes to invitations that go outside your comfort zone
Surround yourself with Livers of Life
Stop expecting and be open to the unexpected
Every time you feel that ache to feel more enthusiasm than you currently do, say something you thought you'd never say:
I want to get excited about fuzzy socks.
I want to get excited about snowflakes.
I want to get excited about bath bubbles, cereal that doesn’t get soggy, and balloons with curly, red ribbons.
I want to get excited about crunchy green apples in the dead of winter.
I want to get excited about this glorious day in front of me just waiting to be lived.
Say it and then see where it takes you.
With Beginner’s Eyes, what is lost can be found.
With Beginner’s Eyes, a lifeless heart can be resuscitated.
With Beginner’s Eyes, an uncharted path becomes available. All you have to do say YES with an open hand and heart.
* A special thanks to Avery's amazing P.E. teacher (you know the one) who inspired Avery and the entire student body to jump! They raised $35,000 for The American Heart Association! Now that's something to get excited about!
Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, it seems like forever since we last talked. I have missed you! Please tell me how you spent the last 21 days choosing love. Tell me your triumphs. Tell me your struggles. It’s so good to be back!
One thing that never fails to excite me is meeting you, my beloved readers. I am speaking in Indiana in March and would love to see you at one of these events:
Thursday, March 12
Batesville Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series
RomWeber Marketplace Banquet Hall
7 South Eastern Avenue, Batesville
Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
My presentation begins at 6:15 p.m.
Book signing at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $20 per person includes appetizers & soft drinks
Click here for all the details.
Saturday, March 14
Grand Opening of St. Vincent’s Carmel Women’s Center
13500 N. Meridian St
I will be speaking from 11:30 to 12:30 p.m. with a book signing directly following .
This is a FREE EVENT with a morning of giveaways, health screenings, pop-up boutiques, & more
Click here for all the details.
*If you have any friends in Indiana that you think might be interested in attending, I'd be grateful if you share my Events page. Thank you!