Curb Your Enthusiasm…NOT!

[Authors’ Note. I wrote the first draft of this article almost 1-year ago. But while the event that triggered this article might be old-news, the lesson is timeless. Enjoy!]

One of my daughter’s, favorite activities recently is the wild and exuberant release of a sound that is a cross between a Tarzan yodel and a Native American war whoop. She starts out softly and increases the volume as she pats her hand on and off her mouth. It’s an expression of pure enthusiasm and joy for life.

There is no pattern that I can discern, no rhyme or reason to her whooping. It happens spontaneously and rises up from the depth of her being at unexpected and completely random moments. It’s as if the beauty, excitement and joy of this life become too much for her to hold inside any longer and she lets them out!

When we’re at the park or on the beach it’s great. When we’re home it’s usually fine. When we’re in the car it’s all right, although it certainly does echo quite a bit in that small space.

But when we’re in the grocery store, or a restaurant, or the video store, I feel compelled to moderate the volume a bit.

And when we’re on a plane, or at a funeral well…

On our trip to my father-in-law’s funeral, I had the opportunity to experience both of those.

During the 5-hour flight to Nashville, there were numerous repetitions of:

“Stop kicking the seat, Ella.”
“Why?”
“The person in front of you doesn’t like it.”
“Why?”
“It’s uncomfortable.”
“Why.”

And then there were the multiple refrains of:

“No we can’t walk up and down the aisle again.”
“Why?”
“The fasten seat belt sign is on.”
“Why?”
“Because the captain thinks it could be bumpy?”
“Why?”

And then there were those moments when I heard her winding up into one of those whoops. And I knew that wasn’t going to go over very well on the plane! A couple of times I actually had to put my hand over her mouth to muffle her whoops. Which, of course, made her think it was a game and caused her to do it with even more intensity.

You get the general idea.

When we arrived in Nashville, and connected with Melissa, Ella was able to let out some big whoops. And I encouraged her to get as much of it out of her system as she could before we got to the family’s house.

And then came the funeral. It was hard enough keeping tabs on Ella while we all waited to go into the sanctuary. (Thank goodness the funeral home had a kid’s room with books and puzzles and games!)

Finally the staff came and let us know it was time. They ushered us into the sanctuary and wheeled “Pop-pop” in. And the moment the preacher stepped up to the podium, Ella suddenly had the inspiration to start singing. And so she did!

Now, personally, I can’t think of anything more appropriate for a funeral than singing! Especially when it’s coming from the cutest three-year-old girl ever!

But apparently not everyone shared my opinion, and Ella’s. So we went outside where Ella could sing and dance and whoop it up as much as she wanted.

The whole experience, from plane flight to funeral, made me painfully aware of how often I was asking Ella to curb her enthusiasm. I became acutely aware of how enthusiasm un-friendly our culture really is. I mean how many places are there where a kid, or an adult for that matter, can really let loose and whoop it up?

How often do our children hear “shh,” or “stop that,” or “use your inside voice,” or “calm down or you’ll get a time-out?”

How often did you hear those things when you were a child?

Is it any wonder that the vast majority of us mature grown-up types have a hard time connecting with our passion and enthusiasm? Most of us had our passion “shushed” out of us by the time we were three!

Now I know I can’t always give Ella free-reign to let loose with her whoops, but helping her to grow up with her enthusiasm intact is more important to me than being socially acceptable. I want her to grow up with that zest for life still bubbling up from within her. So I occasionally find myself walking the fine line between what is culturally acceptable and what feels best for Ella.

Fortunately, we have found pre-schools that encourage that enthusiasm rather than attempting to stifle it, and Ella has wonderful “friends” (babysitters) that encourage and even join in her passionate expressions of joy.

And even I’ve gotten into the habit of joining her whenever possible, showing her that, yes, there’s even hope for the old-fogeys in her life!

If you haven’t tried it lately, I assure you, there is something truly thrilling and awakening in the pure uninhibited expression of joy and enthusiasm.

What about you? Where does your pure, uninhibited enthusiasm for life come out? Anywhere?

Well, if not, where do you begin to touch the edge of your enthusiasm? Where do you feel your excitement beginning to bubble up to the surface?

Sill not happening?

Well then, where do you begin to feel the ice of inhibition and constriction breaking? What activities, places, people, begin to awaken your joie de vivre, that innate joy for life that you carry deep inside you?

As you discover these activities, people and places, start making space for them. Allow your enthusiasm to awaken. And when you hear that voice in your head saying, “shh,” or “calm down,” or “Use your inside voice,” I encourage you to stick your tongue out in its general direction and get even louder!

And here’s a tip: There’s nothing like a good Tarzan yodel to break the inhibition and awaken that passion that’s waiting to come out. Come on; give it a try right now.

I double dare you!

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      9 Responses to “Curb Your Enthusiasm…NOT!”

      1. Kelly King Anderson on August 29th, 2007 6:10 am

        Thank you for this wonderful reminder, Ed! Loved it. My kids are often celebrating too…and I’m not always in the mood for it, so now I’m going to try and celebrate more with them! I like how you saw the funeral time WAS a celebration.

        A friend’s young daughter just passed from a lifetime battle of cancer and they recognized that they’d never be able to have a wedding for her so the funeral was a celebration and they asked everyone to wear white and they had a unique service with joyful touches. I wish more funerals were celebrating the person’s life rather than mourning our loss.

        Great post, keep up the joyfulness!

      2. Edward Mills on August 29th, 2007 9:24 am

        Kelly. Thank you for that wonderful story. I too wish that more funerals were celebrations honoring the person’s life. There is most definitely a need to honor our grief and sadness at the loss, but, at the same time, by joyfully recognizing and accepting that death is a natural continuation in the cycle of life, and honoring the person’s life we allow ourselves to move onto the next chapter in our life.

      3. Karen Lynch-Live the Power on August 29th, 2007 2:13 pm

        Ed,
        Wonderfully, sweet post! Ella reminds me of 3 beautiful girls that I know and love! I have the same thing at my house in triplicate and I am blessed beyond measure!
        Great reminder to just enjoy their joie de vivre rather than just always trying to stifle them!

      4. Barb on August 30th, 2007 8:24 am

        Ed,
        This was a great post. I had so many related thoughts while reading it that they’re just in a jumble now, but I completely agree with you about allowing children to be as enthusiastic as possible, even in public. My husband is really affected by what others might think, so I’m having to retrain him as well. 😀

      5. Reg Adkins on August 30th, 2007 9:17 am

        That’s brilliant!
        I think the “joyful noise” is especially appropriate for a funeral. At least I hope my own passing is honored as a celebration of life rather than a ritual of grief.
        In the words of my generation, “Rock on, Ella!!!”

      6. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker on August 30th, 2007 10:11 am

        I wish I had read this article last week when my 4 grandchildren were here visiting. I would have had to show them how even grown-ups can shout and hollar with the best of them to express joy for just living. Thanks for the reminder that “being a kid” is very much ok, no matter what your age.

      7. Ken Daniels on August 30th, 2007 10:09 pm

        Thank You For Your wonderful article. It reminds me of my childhood where a child wasn’t allowed to be a child . Now while in church or a gathering of people & see children whose unconditional love from their parents allow them to be themselves “kids” & not to be small robots I get this warm fuzzy feeling & an ear to ear smile. I started reclaiming my childhood dancing when I felt dancing no matter if it was in a crowd or acting foolish , singing a favorite line in a song. Never let that little kid in us dry up & die

      8. Ellie on August 31st, 2007 7:32 am

        Great article! I am always thrilled at the exuberance of kids …. and Yes I have decided to join them!

        When people ask me how old I am — I tell them 8! I guess I am big for 8 – 😉

        Everyday I remind myself to catch the essence of an 8 yr old – to see all things as new and exciting.
        Whenever and wherever the moment hits me – I will go into a spontaneous happy dance! Yes – I get some stares – but mostly I get other people smiling back at me!

        The best is when my partner and I decide in the middle of Home Depot or the grocery store to dance together. On many occasions we have had other people join us – it is a Hoot!

        I Love to Be Happy and to Express it!

      9. Jenny on October 12th, 2007 3:06 pm

        I’m so glad my son can’t talk yet. 😀

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