I feel joy and most alive when I go fast. I enjoy a zippy ride on a bike, on skis in snow or water, in a motor boat or sail boat. An enclosed vehicle like a car or plane doesn’t do anything for me; I want to have the wind in my short hair. It’s best if my face is flattened and my eyes are watering. My smile is huge; I’m all teeth, and I’m probably letting out a few whoops and hollers. Balancing between fear and exhilaration can take my breath away.
I feel joy and most alive when I cheer for a sports team on their way to or in a championship game. I love watching the physicality of the players/runners, watching a team work together, observing the coach-player interactions and even the coach-referees interactions. If I know the athletes because they’re my kids or my students, that’s even better, but I can even cheer for a horse. I hollered in my living room during each race of American Pharoah’s quest for the Triple Crown. I can get interested in and excited about Jordan Spieth and his surprising quest for golf’s Grand Slam. “I love basketball season!” I expressed to a friend. After pronouncing my excitement about the start of a new athletic season and the promise of a good team, he promptly replied, “Barb, you love every season!” It’s true. Watching the US women’s soccer team was almost too much for me. Well, probably too much for my kids. They looked at me in wonder this summer as I coached and cheered from my couch. “Who is this woman we call Mother?” But then they remember World Cup soccer games in the past and they check if I have tears in my eyes. Great competition and athleticism can choke me up.
I feel joy and most alive when I laugh at the foibles of life. Few things are funnier than word slip ups, particularly if they’re mine or my students’. There were many opportunities for this former junior high science teacher to say and hear things about eruptions and organisms and Uranus. Little kids are funny. I think it’s hilarious when they speak the awful truth. I observed a child at the grocery store point to a typical awkward adolescent checker with acne and say, “Mom, he’s got chicken pox, too!” How about when children fall asleep mid-sentence or mid-bite? Funny! How about a good, practical joke? Ever put a stuffed badger under your friends’ kitchen table? How about physical slip ups? I still laugh so hard I cry when I remember slipping in the kiddy pool at the local pool. Although my feet went well above my head, I was unhurt. A man in the hot tub, observed the whole episode, and after determining I was okay, pointed at me, smiled, and winked. Classic. Laughter frees my spirit.
I feel joy and most alive when I experience synergy in a classroom, on a committee, or in a department meeting. The energy and ideas generated from a team all pulling together to solve a problem or set a new course makes me buzz.
I feel joy and most alive when I connect with people I’ve known for a long period of time or in just a passing moment. Sharing an interest, background, friends, or experience with other people is fulfilling and all the better if it is a shared connection on my “most alive” list.
I realize that the above list isn’t very deep, but it is devotional. I know who created me the way that I am. I know who to thank when I get to yell, “Cowabunga,” or “Let’s go, Dordt.” And I know who I need to seek when I get out of balance and I begin to idolize the gifts rather than the Giver. What blows your hair back?