I was sitting on my thinking chair (the toilet) the other day when it occurred to me that while my podcast, Lighten Up with Melanie Dale, runs the gamut of topics and guests, from the poignant to the ridiculous (the guests are never ridiculous, but sometimes what I make them talk about is), there are some overarching guidelines that I use to craft our conversations. These guidelines allow us to engage just about any topic or situation in life and come out on the other side a little lighter. I offer them here, for us to discuss, build on, and use in our daily conversations on and off the interwebz.
1. We’ll let ourselves laugh at our own wonderful weirdness.
I try not to laugh at other people too much (It’s a work-in-progress, people.), but I love laughing at myself. I am weird, both accidentally and on purpose, and I’m learning to laugh about it. Embrace your weird side, and if you don’t think you have one, look closer. Everybody’s got something.
2. We’ll engage sweaty subjects with grace and bravery.
Lightening up doesn’t mean avoiding serious and important topics. Talking about hard stuff can breathe light and life into relationships rather than stuffing it all down. I want to engage with what people care about. I want to share what I care about. So let’s be brave as we talk about complicated or difficult topics, and let’s be gracious and loving with each other as we do it.
3. We’ll give ourselves permission to enjoy things in life.
There is no prize for the most stoic, humorless person. It’s okay to let ourselves laugh and enjoy the world around us, even in the middle of hard things. We can let ourselves have fun because we are the boss of ourselves.
4. We’ll cultivate homes filled with laughter.
Laughter and lightness are things that you nourish and grow. If you don’t tend to them, they wither in the trend toward darkness and solemnity. We need to foster a spirit of fun, model it to our kids if we have any, and fill our homes with the freedom to chortle. This means chasing down funny – read funny books, watch funny shows, tell funny jokes, ask funny questions, and let the laughter bubble up.
5. We’ll actively look for the silly and ridiculous.
Silly things happen all day long, and we will take the time to notice and savor them. And often ridiculous things that show up to ruin our days would be the very things we’d laugh about if they were happening to our favorite characters on TV. We’ll seek to notice the ridiculous, call it what it is, and laugh in the face of it.
6. We’ll value storytelling and the people telling the stories.
Everyone has a story, and I want to hear yours. Let’s value each other’s stories, laugh with each other during the funny parts, empathize with each other during the difficult parts, and listen with both ears, all four heart chambers, and our brain lobes. When we value our stories, we value our humanity.
7. We’ll accept that it’s okay to suck at some stuff.
We don’t have to be great at everything. We’ll swim hard in our own lanes and stop trying to take over the whole pool. When we do suck at something, we’ll laugh our heads off and embrace the humility and wisdom that comes with beautiful failure.
8. We’ll be honest about our feelings and let ourselves feel them.
Some of us are more serious. Some of us are naturally sarcastic or funny. When things happen in our lives, we might feel several emotions all at once, a sad-mad with a side of snort-laugh, maybe a rainbow of happy-embarrassed-nervous. Feelings are complicated and we all have different combinations at different times. We’ll work to acknowledge our feelings, honor the feelings of others, and let ourselves have them.
9. We’ll leave space around us for a variety of opinions.
I’m not approachable if I’m taking up all the air in the room. We need to live with plenty of room around us for people to share. We need to learn to listen well and hold space for each other. It’s okay to have tension. We don’t have to resolve all the tension, but can learn to live with tension kindly and respectfully. We can learn from each other.
10. We’ll have fun on purpose because it’s important and worthy.
Lightening up is not frivolous or optional. We need to prioritize fun because it’s an important part of being human and cultivating relationships with one another. Lightness, playfulness, and humor are worthy pursuits that can help us process difficult topics, traumatic experiences, and the daily rigors of life. We will play together and value that time just as much as we value the serious work.