From where I sit at my desk at home, I can see into my neighbour's backyard. Not my next door neighbour's, but the one across the road. Through my window, I can run my gaze down the side of their weatherboard house and straight into a grassy area with a trampoline.
That’s where I was looking one recent sunny Saturday, staring out the window in the hope of finding some inspiration or perhaps a muse for my writing, when I saw the woman. Our neighbour.
Bouncing off the black polypropylene and leaping into the spring air, her legs and arms were spread wide apart like a starfish. Her face shone with a grin bright as sunshine. I swear she was only just holding in the screams of delight.
I looked for a kid. I scanned the grass for one of her children who no doubt inspired the backyard purchase in the first place. But there were none. No one else. Just her.
In her book about her battles with anxiety, first, we make the beast beautiful, Sarah Wilson of I Quit Sugar fame, talks about the enormous benefits of adding a little whimsy into our lives. She says whimsy (that is, excessively playful or fanciful behaviour or humour) makes our lives better.
One of the things Sarah loves about whimsy is that it’s often meaningless, aside from the meaning impressed on that very moment by whimsy itself. Whimsy just makes us feel good at the time, which helps pull us out of any rut we may be experiencing in life and get a clear sense of perspective on it all.
“And herein lies the lovely rub,” she says in a blog post of hers about the topic. “Whimsy drags us from our purpose-mad existence, it presses pause long enough for us to get a taste of life lived in the now and free-fall for a bit. When there’s no discernible outcome to be achieved, there’s no disappointment or timeline. It’s just playful, right now.”
Just playful, right now. There were no better words I could think of to describe what my neighbour was doing that sunny Saturday. And there was no doubt she was happy in that moment.
But what if we don’t have a trampoline handy? How do we bring this kind of whimsy into our lives?
In How to Have Kick-Ass Ideas, Innovation Consultant Chris Barez-Brown writes that ruts are best broken with small moments in whimsy, not seismic changes in behaviour. Counting men with moustaches on the way to the bus stop or sleeping at the wrong end of the bed is enough to shift perspective, he says.
“The little shifts add up and steer things in fresher directions. This sprinkling of small change, delicately and incrementally, is gaining momentum in happiness theory circles.”
When we think about life changes, we often think about having to make huge shifts in our behaviours and habits that sometimes seem too daunting to even contemplate let alone execute. And that’s why I love this idea of whimsy. Small changes? Having fun right now? That’s the sort of life shift I can get around.
Trampoline shopping, anyone?