Lighten Up, it’s Easy to Do

This weekend I was told to lighten up. Not in a derogatory way. In a loving, kind way. LIGHTEN UP: To be lighter. To be light.

To be the light in the room: not under the spotlight, but as a brightness that spreads.

When I was a kid, I remember singing the song, This Little Light of Mine. I’d stand there, one chubby index finger raised: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

I remember looking down at my finger, so tiny in comparison to the rest of me. Why was I only supposed to raise one tiny finger when I was so much bigger? It shouldn’t have been this little light of mine, it should have been me standing, arms spread wide, head lifted to the sky singing at the top of my lungs, “This bright light that is me, I will let it shine!”

Me. My entire being. All of who I am, that’s what needs to shine. Not just one tiny finger.

We need light to survive. We need light to see where we are and where we’re going. But we also don’t realize, we can be the light no matter where we are.

Imagine how you feel when walking into a dark room. There’s a heaviness, like the air is thick, opaque. It’s hard to see. Often, things seem worse in the dark. Scarier. How often has a shadow caught our eye, ominous and threatening, only to turn on the light and see it’s a shirt, or a coat, or a curtain? Or you are coming up a dark set of stairs or going down a dark hallway and you get a chill down your spine and you have to take those last few stairs two at a time, or run down the hall and hop into bed?

Those feelings don’t often happen in the light, because our fears are often dispelled when we turn on the light. Just like the tension, stress, fear or negativity of a situation can easily dissipate when we turn on the light.

Think of the times you’ve lost it on your kids, your husband, your dogs, the person who cut you off in that intersection. How were you feeling? Light and happy and joyful? Or tired, exhausted, grumpy, depressed, upset, miserable?

You walk into work, drop your bag down, sit in your chair and complain that it’s Monday and you’re staring ahead at a long, miserable week. What does that do to the people around you? What does that do to you?

What if you walked into work, threw open the door and said to your coworkers, “Hey! It’s so great to see you! Happy Monday!”

What does that do to them? To you?

There was a deeper meaning to the words, LIGHTEN UP, when they were sent to me. But they were also just that…light. We are all doing our very best. We are all trying to get better (okay, well, not all, but, not everyone has that privilege either). Maybe it’s time to cut ourselves some slack and stop taking ourselves so seriously. Instead of lecturing our kids on the need to reduce screen time, why don’t we just go outside and play with them? Instead of worrying that our pants are too tight or we won’t look good enough at the Christmas party, why don’t we just stop trying to put on a show and be ourselves? Instead of picking up the wonderfully prepared food and counting the calories or wondering if it’s organic, or vegan, or gluten free, or paleo or, or, or…why don’t we just take a bite, close our eyes and savor it?

Tonight, I asked my husband to bring me my reading glasses. He did…eventually, and not before doing this with them.

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He could have brought me my glasses without stopping to put them on the dog. But he didn’t. Because he thought it would be funny. And then he took a picture assuming I would find it funny as well. One photo; a pair of glasses on a dog, and I felt lighter, happier. It didn’t take much. One simple action. I didn’t have to go to a retreat or on holiday or have a drink or buy something, I only had to smile and laugh at the ridiculousness of not only my dog, but my husband as well.

That’s all it takes to lighten up. One little thing to bring brightness to our day, to let go of what’s weighing us down. A photo. A joke. Some silly thing that will make us laugh, or smile, and banish the darkness for even a moment. It’s not complicated, it’s simply, not taking ourselves so seriously. Finding the opportunity for a little humor in the situation.

At the end of their lives, people speak of a light. They’re usually smiling when they talk about that light, one that brought them joy, not pain or sorrow. Why should we wait until the very end to experience that light when we can be that light right now? Why aren’t we smiling like they are? Because honestly, that’s really the first step. A smile. A laugh. The more of those we can add into our day, the lighter we will be.

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