I walked haphazardly through the park.

I realized my free time is usually just as scheduled as my work time. I say, free time should be free. So this morning I had precisely nothing in my calendar, so I got started ridiculously slow. The dog was bouncing on my stomach trying to produce a response. Eventually, we got around to opening the back door and taking her outside. I let myself sit and stare out into space for a bit, because it felt good. The Busy Productive American in me was like, “seriously girl, are you going to do anything productive at all today?” and Joy Experiment Lindsay responded, “Absolutely not, and it’s fantastic.”

After the last couple months of generally spending all weekend in bed, trying to sleep life away, I thought that in order to get out of it I would have to instill a rigorous routine to get out of the slump. But as I pay more attention to how I feel at the thought of being scheduled out all the time, I realized that was part of the reason I was depressed - I was completely burnt out on life! In all honesty, I don’t think it was bad that I spent a couple months sleeping, I probably needed to recharge my batteries. I still managed to go to work and keep all the important life aspects covered. However, the trouble was that after checking out of life, it seemed that getting back into life was virtually impossible. How are you supposed to call up your friends and schedule a fun dinner when you literally have nothing to bring to the table? Yes, everyone needs a buddy to help pull them out of a slump, but at what point do you become a ball and chain for someone when the mood is persistent? At some point you have to own your own emotions. So after a couple months, I made the definitive decision that it was time to live again. It was time to start trying again. But, this did not mean scheduling my life like an American maniac, it meant being a bit more French.

You see, I’ve lived in France several times during University. I became obsessed with French culture throughout my French major and time in Grenoble and Tours and traveling all around the country. What I did notice about the Frenchies is that they definitely know how to live. They seem to take more pleasure in the simple things in life. They infuse everything with a sense of romance. Everything is somehow an existential experience for them (see French film - always evocative, weird, and usually very emotional). There is a chilled out slowness about much of the French lifestyle. When you sit down for dinner in France, the waiters are not trying to feed you and push you out of your chair in order to turn over your table to the next customer, those servers are providing you an experience and they know that. If you linger for hours and drink lots of wine, then they have done their job  marvelously.

So, I tried out being more French. I slowly enjoyed my morning tea and a fresh peach from the farmer’s market. Then I decided to flop back onto the bed and watch a webcast (different than sleeping all day), and got filled up with all kinds of inspiration. I wrote a couple emails and then took a little nap, which was glorious. Then the dog was doing the bouncy-on-the-stomach thing, so instead of letting her outside, I took her on a walk at the park near my house. Now mind you, this is a large park. Somehow, I feel that I should walk the dog around the whole loop. I suspect this nagging feeling is fueled by the track around the park that is always packed with runners. I for one grew up as an iceskater, so the concept of running to me is absurd. The ratio of fun:effort is all wrong, you have to work way too hard to go fast and it’s not even fun at all. It’s the same movement every step, how boring is that?! So, needless to say, I did not run on a designated ovular track. Rather, I took a very unpredictable tour through the park.

And I was indeed rewarded for my undisciplined walk. I had once happened upon a rather enchanting little pond, and I desired to see it again. But, when I went to where I thought it was, it didn’t seem to be there, rather there was a particularly fabulous childrens playground, with a vast array of swings that I will certainly utilize (I suspect that being childlike will keep your soul young). After circling around the playground, I discovered a community pool! I’d heard about this pool, but obviously since I never left my house all summer I hadn’t experienced the large body of water. It seemed it had been stripped naked in preparation for winter, but you could tell there had been many a wild child running the grounds during the summer - it had this lingering glow of fun. I figured I had to head back towards the center of the park to find the pond, and indeed it was tucked away into a grove of trees not far from the pool. And to my delight I happened upon a rather charming crowd of boys playing basketball across the way from the pond. Some of them had abandoned their shirts to reveal perfect six pack abdomens. Oh, well if I must watch this riveting game, I will. It was at that moment that I thought, if I had been speed walking the dog around the perimeter of the park, I would have seen none of this. I would have experienced none of the perfect randomness of the late afternoon at the park full of happy, interesting people.

 

And so it is with the Joy Experiment that I’m learning something very important about myself. As a Gemini, I value routine and stability just as much as I value spontaneity and new experiences. There is a fine balance, and when the scales are tilted too far to one side or the other it throws me out of my joy. Re-discovering the joyfulness of less rules and more saying “yes” to life has really uplifted my heart and is progressively silencing my inner nagging American. I’m not advocating getting nothing done, I’m realizing that life can still be orderly without being oppressive. There are little things you can say no to (like walking the entire track at the park in order to exercise the dog) in favor of a small yes which gave the activity new meaning and richness. I suspect the trick is to savor the mundane like the French. Walking the dog doesn’t have to be punishment, it can be an adventure for your inner child.

While I walked home from the park I was listening to Jamie Cullem’s version of “Singing in the Rain” and there is a line in the song that resonated with me: "what a glorious feeling, I'm happy again." I think today for the first time I really appreciated that notion. After months of living in a world devoid of color, today was such a relief to feel increasingly happy, present and joyful. Onwards!

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