This coming weekend is the big summer 4th of July holiday here in America. I am currently living in a smallish town in Utah where preparation for the big celebration is in full swing with a gobsmacking amount of flags draped, flying and emblazoned most everywhere the eye can see. Having lived in large urban centers for the previous 40 or so years, where this celebration is considerably more demure, I rather enjoy the energy and enthusiasm for the classic American mid-summer break.
The older I get, the more I like to embrace celebrations of any kind — big national holidays, the neighbor kids’ birthdays, some minor victory at work, really anything. My threshold for a suitable celebratory event falls yearly. I am totally fine with this and, in fact, feel like celebrating my newfound embrace of celebration. When I was an angsty younger person, life was very much about keeping the head down, not standing out from the crowd, and trying not to be noticed as that may have brought some very unwelcome attention. Any sort of celebration felt awkward and was received at a minimum as something to be reduced, the result of which was an ongoing sense of disappointment and shame that I tried to be something more than was considered acceptable.
It has taken me several decades to shake off those feelings, and now I am the guy who loves to dance, the one who is cheering, the one who just says yes to any sort of party. Bring on the fireworks! I also know people my age who become quieter with age. This is not to throw shade on them, for we all become more of who we are as time passes and this may be their more authentic self. For me, however, the enthusiasm and energy that I brought to my world early on, and which was met with a “calm your enthusiasm and try to be like others” response from the family, seems now to be in a multi-decade rebound of endlessly joyfully celebrating the most minor of events. Wow, the maple tree out front just started to bloom; isn’t that amazing? There was a deer out front this morning, and I watched it chew on the shrubs; how cool.
We have a choice as to what we focus on; the power of attention is fully within our control. Yes, there are some pretty horribly barbaric things happening out there in the world, but this is not about ignoring them. It is possible to hold both concepts simultaneously: bad things happening, and good, amazing ones too. We were given sophisticated brains which allow us to do this if we choose to use them. We can decide to live in total ignorance of the world, as well as we could choose to obsess on the endless tragedies of life. Or we could also choose to effect change on the things that we can have a real impact on, and at the same time not just embrace, but wildly, joyously celebrate the crazy wonderful things that happen around us, including things like an entire town plastering itself with Americana.
Onward and upward,