The other day I went running. And as I ran I was thinking. I call this runking.
I was wondering what makes us truly come alive?
So then I asked the next question.
What kind of humans have I seen that are fully alive?
The answer came running at me. It literally threw its arms around me. With total disregard to appropriate public behavior, personal space, normal decibel levels, and thought to anything but the one emotion that coursed through it, my little toddler yelled, “Mama! Mama! Mama!” shot out the door and down the sidewalk, racing towards me, and leapt into my arms as if we’d been parted for fifty years.
She was happy to see me. And she shared that joy with me.
That is living.
J.M. Barry says of fairies: “Fairies are not all bad. Sometimes they are all good. But fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time.”
He could have been talking about toddlers, too. What a terror to be consumed with anger you cannot control, so that all you are is a raging ball of fiery rage. Isn’t this why they sometimes call toddlers little terrors?
But the opposite of that–to feel joy so strong that it radiates from you like an energy burst, that would be a mighty fine feeling. This type of fierce joy, wild thankfulness for the moment, and consuming emotional high is something that we should hold onto from our childhood. It will help you live.
Another thing I see in my toddler that makes her so alive is her ability to learn.
The National Academy of Sciences reports that eighty percent of the brain’s total growth and development occur by the age of three.
That’s a lot of learning, y’all.
Basically every minute of her day is either spent in sleeping, eating, or learning. During play, she’s introduced to hinges, texture, velocity, rhythm, ethics, momentum, and it’s only when she’s older and those mysteries are explained do they cease to be a wonder. You know kids fascination with buttons? When I was young, I thought the dream job would to be a cashier at Wal-Mart because GOOD GOLLY LOOK AT ALL THOSE BUTTONS!!! Now I see my kids watch the cashiers with envy and fascination. I wonder if any of those cashiers took the job because it’s exactly what they wanted to do as a child: Professional Button Pusher.
Sometimes I’ll remark to my husband, “the kids are so busy. and we’ve done nothing all day.” But we both know that’s a lie. They’re not just running from toy to toy, making forts, asking questions, reading books, doing chores (or not doing chores), turning off and on lights, playing hide and seek, and playing with their plastic figurines for HOURS . . . really, they are learning about the way this world works.
I don’t think my brain can handle so much learning anymore. I can take like, one new thing a day. And I usually don’t even remember that forever.
To be truly alive, I think you have to love and pursue learning. This (of course) doesn’t just mean academic learning. You could be dumb as a nail regarding academia but sharp as a whip in regards to people. The learning is what’s important. You’re not stagnant. Your mind, heart, spirit, and strength are always moving and growing and changing. That’s living.
Another thing about my toddler is her lack of pretentiousness.
When she tells me she likes my drawing, I believe her. She says what’s in her heart, without regard to social appropriateness or cues or norms.
As we walked into the grocery store a woman came out wearing a long skirt and heels, and my girl shouted, “Oh you have such beautiful shoes you look like a princess! Did you see her, mama, she is so beautiful!” It didn’t matter to my girl what her weight, height, skin color, or anything else was–she was just amazed at the wonderful white heels and long green skirt. (Of course, that unpretentiousness can also go the other way. A man with curly, slick hair and a bowling shirt walked past our cart and my little girl said, “He’s a bad man, I don’t like him.”)
I think being open and honest with those around you, when it stems from a loving heart, is a part of what living is about. And seeing right and wrong for what they are, instead of society telling you what they are, is important. This purity and honesty is a beautiful thing to see in someone. It’s a noble thing, and I see it in toddlers.
Yeah, speaking of nobility . . . my toddler is stuffing flour down her pants. I better go and teach her society’s norms of appropriate location for flour.
What qualities do you see in people who are fully alive?
What does it take to re-awaken yourself?