An excerpt from Happy Healthy You: Breaking the Rules for a Well-Balanced Life
Have I ever told you about my love for the domestic lives of colonial Americans? Around this time of year, when the pilgrim salt and pepper shakers come out and take their place on the dining room table once again, my mind drifts to what life may have been like for the people who arrived on the cold and stormy shores of New England.
The political energy around colonialism aside, I am intrigued by those people. I love to read the diaries of women during that time and learn about the mundane minutiae of how they lived: the contents of their kitchens, the neighborhood drama, and the work that was involved in maintaining a homestead in the middle of the wilderness.
And, I think about how it must have felt to step onto the shore of an unknown land, with no real knowledge of what lay ahead. We know now that the first Thanksgiving meal likely did not happen in quite the idyllic fashion that we envisioned as children, but the stories are a source of curiosity to me because of the courage demonstrated by all people venturing into the unknown. I admire courage.
In a somewhat related note (trust me, this all comes together at the end), I once heard a radio interview with Walter Isaacson, author of the book, Leonardo da Vinci, a biography of the man who is esteemed as one of the most prolific creative geniuses of all time. While I listened, I thought about the intelligence of a mind like DaVinci’s and wondered if I would ever experience thinking as nimble and creative as his. Then Isaacson made a point that gave me hope that I could: DaVinci wasn’t just brilliant, he was curious. Yes, he possessed the capacity to craft ideas from observations, but without the intense curiosity that made him constantly peel back layer after layer of everyday situations, his true brilliance could have remained just an admirable level of intelligence. I am not brilliant, but I am definitely curious. And while I admire intelligence, the courage to be curious is a trait I admire more.
Courage and curiosity are two traits that come in very handy when in the pursuit of healthy living, especially during the holidays. Sometimes it is not until we are willing to challenge the status quo, or what we think are circumstances out of our control, that we experience a breakthrough in our thinking about ourselves. During the holidays more than any other time, I hear about the traditions that have to be carried out, the food that has to be eaten, the cookies that have to be baked, and I wonder...what if? What would happen if things didn’t happen that way, and if this was the year when things were different?
I’m not saying it needs to be, necessarily. I’m just asking whether we are curious enough to explore what would happen if it was different this year, even just on paper. And maybe I am asking if we have the courage to poke at it a little more and try a little bit of something different, like DaVinci would.
Let’s start with the first part: what would happen if your holiday habits were different this year? Get out a piece of paper and brainstorm what would happen if you didn’t make as much food or didn’t eat so-and-so’s cheese dip or didn’t open the next bottle of wine. What would happen if you didn’t let the morning workouts go on hiatus until January? What could be good about that? What could be annoying? You could even sort your brainstorm into lists of pros and cons of having a holiday season that was a little different. Allow yourself to be curious about those things. You don’t have to take action on any of it, sometimes it is just interesting to know.
Then, maybe something that you wrote down seems significant, like something you might be curious enough to try. Something you might have the courage to try. Something you might even have the courage to try and be bad at. At least you tried. Leonardo DaVinci would have tried. Now you have something in common with Leonardo DaVinci; not many people can say that.
Having the courage to be bad at something new embodies the spirit of what made DaVinci such a creative genius and what made it possible for pilgrims to step onto new ground. The courage to be curious enough to try something different is arguably the trait that leads to breakthroughs.
The holidays lie ahead of us, and we know what that means: many opportunities to maintain the status quo and copy/paste the way things always are, or to challenge them through curiosity and courage. I hope that this week, you allow yourself the time to slow down, examine your holiday surroundings, and ask, “what it?”