My favorite number is three, and this year I turned 33. Leading up to my birthday I thought that since I was turning my favorite number I should plan an elaborate weekend of my favorite things. A restaurant tour of my favorite eateries in SA, maybe. A girls’ outing to the Magnolia Silos in Waco, perhaps. But nothing sat right with me. When it came down to it, I realized that my favorite things were not extravagant. No, what I wanted was embarrassingly simple. I wanted to take my kids to the park, go for a long run on a local trail, hang out at Barnes & Noble with a friend, and go to the movies with my husband.
We’ve all heard the sentiment that there is beauty in the simple things. My birthday wishes seemed to follow suit. But let’s be real: most of the time life is messy. Some days I’m drowning right along with the mushy pretzels floating in applesauce on the kitchen floor. Even so, all my self-help books and podcasts tell me I can find peace in the chaos. They challenge me to continue to chase my own dreams in the cracks of motherhood. Lemme tell ya, the spaces between diaper changes and meal prepping and Llama, Llama episodes are hella-tiny. Many nights I gaze at my “beautiful mess” with a degree of defeat. Because I know that by the time I finally start the dishwasher and fold the last t-shirt, the only dreams I’ll be chasing are the ones in my head once I’m fast asleep.
One night I was heading out for a solo run around the neighborhood—a rare treat. I was about to do the usual route but at the last minute decided to run it backwards. Parts that were usually easy downhills suddenly became difficult, and vice versa. I noticed gardens and windows and architecture that had escaped me previously. It was amazing how different everything looked simply by changing my perspective.
The more I thought about it, the more I discovered that a shift in perspective helps with other things too. It helped me realize that in many ways, the mess is my dream. It’s not a big, glamorous dream—which I have nothing against, by the way. If becoming an Olympic athlete is your dream, do it. I’ll just be in the local 5K, though. Sometimes I feel like I need someone’s permission to have simple dreams. Or that I’m lazy for not desiring more. Let me take a moment to reassure myself and anyone else in this boat, your dreams are worthwhile, regardless of how big or small they are. I give you permission to dream up the life you truly want and go for it.
Your brain may chime in with the “sh-” word: “You should do this instead.” Forget that. You should do whatever brings you wholehearted joy. Notice I didn’t say pleasure because I’m not advocating that we live all willy-nilly and give in to any impulsive desire we experience. If that were the case I would never clean and I would eat ice cream for breakfast. I said wholehearted joy: that feeling of “all is as it should be,” which you can have even while drowning with mushy pretzels in applesauce.
What makes you feel whole? What brings you joy? Those are your favorite things. Those are your dreams. My dreams are of my kids hosting a neighborhood lemonade stand. Slow dancing in the kitchen with my husband. Taking a walk on a tree-lined path. Simple, but so so good.