How to Lighten Up, or what to do when you’re not the “fun” one
“She’s so fun!” has never been someone’s initial description of me. But if you need a friend to call to cry with you, then Darling I’m your girl. You see I tend toward the heavy not the silly. I always have.
In fact, I can quickly turn almost any well-intended superficial small talk to more somber matters. Not because I take myself too seriously, but because those are the topics I tend to think about and therefore want to talk about. Just a few weeks ago I found myself in a “we’ve been having crazy weather” conversation with a woman at a church I was visiting and within minutes I turned the talk toward the hot spots for prostitution in our city and the need for better affordable housing. A quick read of my fellow chit-chatter’s body language and I realized I had once again pushed it too far.
Because sometimes lighter is called for. Not every conversation has to go there, you know to the center of someone’s heart. I have to give myself permission to lighten up.
So when it comes to being the “fun mom” or the “fun friend”, guess who feels a bit inadequate? I gave you an easy one, yes me. I have to be intentional about adding in the fun or I can buckle under the weight of the world and let it squelch everyone around me. There is a time to solve life’s problems and a time to remember that we actually are in control of very little and so need to stop stressing so much (a lot of self-talk here). These are my key tricks to lightening up when I’m pouring it on a little thick:
I know my people
I know who tends toward jumping into the heavy right along with me. I know who needs a bit of a warm up. I have friends who love to talk politics, theology or personal pain and others who circle around issues of parenting, school and sports, and plain old shopping. When I know what others are interested in, or even passionate about, I can steer conversations in those directions to make sure their needs are being met too.
I have a trusted few
My husband and my friends who know me best and love me best have permission to tell me when my stress is too high, when I’m not extending enough grace, when Debbie Downer is peaking her nasty head. And my husband often pulls it off with great humor on his part. A one liner that makes me laugh and plants my feet back on solid perspective. Because I know he has my best interest at heart, I can easily follow his lead, take a deep breath and lighten up.
I work on my stressors
Stress seeps out in unexpected and often seemingly unrelated places. If I’m feeling maxed at work, I’m less patient with my kids. If I’m wondering if the two-year old’s cough is serious enough to call the pediatrician, I snap at my husband. It’s a big mess that stays cleanest if I deal with each stressor when it comes up, avoiding the spillover as much as possible. Because stress build up is good for no one.
I work out my stress
And if the situation is out of my control, like much of life is, I do things I know refresh me so I can better handle the everyday that comes my way. For me reading and writing are great outlets. Having friends over for dinner or simply having a great phone conversation. Exercising always helps and I’m trying to do that more. Even organizing my disaster of a laundry room, can give me good think time while creating a less chaotic spot in my house.
From the light-hearted to the heart-breaking, I love sharing all of my life with those around me. I may never have the reputation of class clown, but I can take some intentional moves to meet others where they are and take care of myself so the heavy doesn’t automatically spill out first. Because really, who wants to hang out with Debbie? She’s such a downer.
As a mom to four girls, ages 11, 8, 4 and 2, Alexandra Kuykendall is offered daily doses of the ludicrous and sublime. She is the author of this year’s MOPS International theme book, The Artist’s Daughter, A Memoir and is the Mom and Leader Content Editor for the organization. This means she reads a lot and writes when she can. But don’t be fooled by long and fancy titles, most of Alex’s days are spent washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. You can connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.