I have been known to scrawl down an idea or two (thousand) when they pop into my noggin. Sometimes, it’s something I’ve read, or maybe I heard somewhere. When it comes time for my house to be cleaned out, the biggest impediment will be what to do with the three zillion Post-it notes, four thousand completely used legal pads and three gross of used index cards I have scrawled upon in my daily life.
And that’s just the tally since January 1, 2014.
So, I don’t know where this line came from, but I jotted it down on my desk blotter, which is really just a huge pad of paper I use to blot my ideas. The words form just a fragment, but it’s enough for me to remember and to think about:
“Follow highest excitement”
Did someone say this to me? Did I read it? Did it pop into my head, unbidden, from divine inspiration?
I have no idea.
But I do know what it means. It means that to find your deepest happiness, your most contented joy, your highest fulfillment, you must pursue the thing that lights you up the most.
Some of you know that in this last year I became an empty-nester. Within a few weeks of each other both of my children moved to new places to do new things and I found myself, very suddenly, with a life wide open.
Helpful friends had many suggestions for me. I should travel more. I should get an office downtown so I could be around more people. I should go to grad school. I should be on the TODAY show. I should get married. I should definitely not get married but have a madly passionate dating life.
All well meaning, but as the writer Elizabeth Gilbert wrote: “Someone else’s dream.”
When I look at my “highest excitement”, the thing that lights me up more than any other is something rather mundane. You might even say kind of ordinary.
But it’s not ordinary to me. To me, it’s the most amazing thing in the world.
You see, there is just one thing I will always do first. That I will break plans to attend to. For which I will spend every dollar I have and borrow if I need more. That I will always, always, always make time for.
In fact, my life’s highest excitement is… being a mother to my children.
But, if they ask me to come be with them, I am there.
If they want to talk through things in their lives, I am there.
If they need help, I am there.
If they want to send me a hilarious gif of an Asian baby break dancing with a puppy, I am totally there.
And you might say that now is “me time” and that I’ve paid my dues and it’s time for a big separation and what am I some kind of helicopter parent?
No, in fact, I’m sort of the anti-helicopter parent. I’ve always known that my entire parenting job was to prepare my children to do what they’re doing at this very point in their lives – to make their own decisions, to live their own lives, to love their own ways.
My highest excitement comes from the delicious pleasure of “what next?” in the lives of these extraordinary people. What will they learn that sparks a new way of thinking for them? What will they experience that leads to a greater knowing? Who will come into their lives? How will they be in the world?
To me, this is a sheer and utter delight.
It occurs to me that what I’m really talking about is “mother love”. That encompassing feeling of good will, delight in the moment and happy hope for the future – so maybe my highest excitement is really about me, and my ability to follow what my heart knows is right and true.
But here’s the thing that also occurs to me: this good will, this delight, this hope – exists plenty of places. Examples abound everywhere, and you don’t have to have given birth or raised a child to experience it.
You just have to live to your fullest expression. To honor what’s most fulfilling to you.
Regardless of gender or station, race or education, when you choose to honor and follow your highest excitement, you bring your own version of powerful mother love to the table.
This is the promise. This is the hope.
This is the possibility.
And today, on Mother’s Day, this is my big idea. Now, let me write it down somewhere.