Friday, May 13, 2011

Life’s messy, risky adventures can bring great satisfaction

Drippy snow cones, unwieldy light sabers and crowds of people aren’t exactly a prescription for a parent’s happiness. But it’s a gleeful combination if you’re a kid at the circus.

Our 3- and 5-year-old boys waved those light sabers with wild abandon, and our 6-year-old joyfully wore remnants of a sticky snow cone from her neck all the way down to her toes. Even our youngest babe watched dancing dogs and horses with rapt attention, jabbering about the raucous display in front of her.

I wasn’t exactly looking forward to sitting through the two-hour show with four small children. In fact, I would have rather been at home, where there was at least the possibility of relative quiet. But had we stayed home, I would have missed the gleam in my children’s eyes as they took in the high wire act or each relished having a snow cone all to themselves.

There’s no question that the circus is messy. But being afraid of life’s messes and clinging to the safety of the ordinary can deprive us of some of life’s best moments. The point of stagnation, when we aren’t willing to embrace new and unfamiliar experiences, can be a major roadblock to happiness.

I find positive change often happens when I’m a little uncomfortable and when I’m willing to take a risk. Sure, there have been many times when I literally don’t have a clue what I’m doing, like when I decided to take a solo (and somewhat impromptu) backpacking trip to Europe. I’d never been outside the country, but when the opportunity to travel abroad presented itself, I took a leap.

’ll never forget sitting in London’s Heathrow Airport, staring at the ticket desk and wondering if I should just purchase a return ticket and go home. Despite my fear (and not having a single plan made), I stayed for the entire month and trekked across three countries. I made new friends, saw some of the most amazing sites of my life, and learned a tremendous amount about myself and my abilities.

I’ve experienced the same kind of satisfaction from doing something as simple as planting my first garden. I’d never grown a single thing before that first venture, but that year, I ended up with a bountiful harvest and a new passion for cultivating the earth that has stuck with me ever since.

I even count learning how to make my own hamburger buns as a rewarding experience. Homemade buns aren’t a revolutionary idea, but this small kitchen success has buoyed my confidence and encouraged me to make more food from scratch. My family eats better food, and we save money in the process.

Even if you can’t plunge head-long into a new adventure right now, you can tackle a small hill - even a hill as small as making homemade buns. That adventure may not turn out quite as you had planned. But this doesn’t mean that the unexpected (and often messy) moments aren’t worthwhile. In fact, they often end up being the very best moments of your life. What small hill can you tackle today?

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