Every Friday evening, I tell my students to go out and do something AMAZING over the weekend. Actually, I say the same thing to my co-workers much to their annoyance, because then I judge what they think is amazing by saying things like, “No, binge watching such and such on Netflix isn’t amazing,” or “No, playing video games isn’t amazing,” to which they hem and haw and argue. Then I tell them that they don’t know what amazing is.
I don’t, of course, get that judgy with the children I teach at the afterschool care program where I work. But when pushed, I tell them to do something they’ve never done before. Like paint a rock and leave it on a trail. Write a poem. Paint pictures out of shaving cream, or better yet whipped cream and then eat them. Ask your mom or dad to go on a walk with you and collect leaves or point out every red thing you see and see who can find the most. But mostly, I mean do something new or creative, or something hard or something that makes you a bit anxious. Why? Because that is what electrifies the neurons in your brain and creates an opportunity for growth.
And growing, keeping your brain growing, is everything.
By doing something amazing, something that creates peak experiences, we’re also learning how to see the amazing in the ordinary. I’m reading The Art of Imperfection by Brene Brown and something she wrote really resonated…that people who’ve experienced something traumatic such as war or genocide, say that the things they remember with the most clarity are the ordinary experiences… kissing their child goodbye before school, the smell of coffee in the morning, the way their dog sighs before falling asleep. Those moments become elevated in their minds precisely because they were so ordinary, so familiar, so comforting. It seems almost counter-intuitive that doing things that are out of the ordinary can create appreciation for the ordinary, but it’s not. Life is by turns both extraordinary and ordinary… appreciating both and more importantly NOTICING both, being mindful of both, is how we create a life that is both examined and well-lived.
Speaking of well-lived, my goal this year is to do something that scares me once a month. This month, that something is painting. I’ve always hated my own art and doing this in public curls my spine. Next month, I’m going cross country skiing… which for someone who is uncoordinated, clutzy and out of shape, is quite nerve-wracking. The month after, I think I’m going to try some kind of marital arts… though my friend, author April Henry would disagree… one person’s scary is another person’s passion.
What am I doing that’s amazing this weekend? Running a 5k, heading downtown to see a friend’s band play and going to see the King and I with my mom. Way too much amazing for my taste, but fun stuff all. Still, I look forward to next weekend when I have very little planned and the ordinary will be that much sweeter for it.