When Nick was 6 years old we took a family trip to Hawaii. On the island of Kauai, we took a hike through Keahua Arboretum. While the rest of us were awed by the grand scenery–the big picture–it was Nick who exuberantly pointed out gorgeous details along the way, like the many colors of rainbow eucalyptus trees and the texture of yellow hibiscus petals.
He has always been detail-oriented and a huge fan of nature. I loved watching him walk ahead of us on many a hike, joyfully exclaiming “look at this! Look at that! And that!” Through his eyes, I learned to notice and appreciate details–and developed a love of macro photography.
Nick enjoys things—good food, beautiful details, fun activities–with his entire being, and keeps enjoying them afterward: “That really was a big trout that I caught! He was nice and fat, too. Definitely my best catch yet.” And I will hear this over and over again for days (or weeks or months) as he savors the memory.
I remember when I reached an age when exuberance wasn’t socially acceptable anymore. I had some embarrassing moments when I would get all excited about something and other kids would make fun of me, or adults would tell me to knock it off already, so I learned to restrain my reactions and “act cool.” As Nick got older, he never held back his exuberance and he didn’t care what other people thought about it. (Which is way cooler than acting cool!)
When I started hanging out with Karla, I saw the same exuberance in her. It was really easy to let my restraint fall away and step into the practice of thorough enjoyment.
The first time we spent a day together, we went to brunch and exclaimed happily over our yummy food. Outside the restaurant, she sat near a fountain and took in the sight and sound of the water while I followed my camera around, shooting close-ups of flowers. I took my time, and Karla not only understood but encouraged my detail-oriented pace. We learned that our speed of moving through the world is very compatible as she takes in all the details along the way and I examine them through my lens, both of us eagerly exclaiming over awesome discoveries the whole time.
Karla was the first adult I met who showed exuberance as a matter of course–some would call it child-like, but really, why shouldn’t we adults get to let loose too? Since we have become friends, I’ve come to love this easy and relaxing way of being. Hanging with Karla means I don’t worry about what other people think or say. I immerse myself in the awesomeness of swirly flower hearts and spicy Thai food and the silky feel of moving water and all the other great things we discover all the time. If people give us weird looks because she’s flapping her hands with excitement and I’m doing a happy dance… so what? I notice the looks with amusement, and Karla doesn’t notice at all.
Accepting and enjoying exuberance has been great for my relationship with Nick. I no longer feel anxious when I see other people looking at him funny. I don’t stress about what they might say to him about his joy because 1) I know he really doesn’t care and 2) they are the ones who are missing out. I let his exuberance infect me and I enjoy every minute of it. He knows he can share things with me and I will respond with genuine enthusiasm. We bond through joy.
As I write this, I am in Karla’s RV on the Washington coast and we have just watched an amazing sunset after a fantastic hike to an utterly gorgeous spot where you can watch the grand Columbia River meet the impressive Pacific Ocean in the shadow of a really cool old lighthouse!!!!!
While hyperbole may not make the best writing, it sure is a great way to enjoy life.