I can’t always make myself get up early enough to make the 7:00 workout class, but today I did. Since I’m living at home with the fam for the summer, it’s also not often that I’m the first one awake. I was in the kitchen, trying to throw together a quick-yet-healthy breakfast, also trying to hurry because although I sometimes get up early, I certainly never get up early enough to take my time getting where I need to be. So, I’m hurrying, I’m throwing eggs into a pan and putting a K-cup in the Keurig while my eggs are frying and simultaneously dropping a piece of bread into the toaster, when I hear, “Well, you’re up early.”
Lilly, my 10-year-old and youngest sister, comes bopping down the stairs, hair already French-braided and ready for the day. Of course, my first reaction is to be annoyed – my one little bit of quiet/alone time that I might get today has been disturbed, and now I have to add “talk to someone” to the list of things I am currently doing, all in this moment.
“Can I make pancakes?” she said.
“I don’t have time to help you, I have to go work out.”
“I don’t need you to help me. Can you just turn the burner on for me?”
I had to laugh at that, because it’s my mom’s massive fear that our house will catch fire that kept me from being allowed to turn the burner on until I was probably like 16.So of course, I told Lills I would turn the burner on for her.
And you should have seen the look on her face when I told her she could make pancakes. I did not know pancakes could make a person smile so big. I laughed at her and told her to be careful with the stove and left for my workout, but secretly, I was wishing that I still got that excited about pancakes. (Also wishing I could stay home and eat the pancakes instead of having to go workout.)
Now, about this post’s title: if you haven’t heard “Happy People”, obviously, listen to it. When I first heard it, I played it on repeat for weeks on end. (No joke, weeks. One of those weeks included a road trip to South Carolina. I played it on repeat for at least half of that drive.) Maybe it’s that my songwriting idol (and life idol, really) Lori McKenna and my new friend Hailey Whitters wrote it together, but it’s just so simple yet so profound and also so. true.
Now, back to Lills. Lills is a one-of-a-kind little girl. Coincidentally, she loooves the new Little Big Town album – in fact, I think she heard it before I did, and I was counting down the days – and when I first heard the song “Happy People,” I immediately thought of her. I told her it reminded me of her, and she put both her hands on her hips, leaned back and said, “Awww yeah girl!” That’s Lills. Big, loud, lively, hilarious, and wonderfully herself. I just love her. I want to be more like Lills. And everyone should.
See, here’s the thing about Lills that makes me want to be more like her: she knows the things that make her happy, and she does those things.
Let me say that one more time for the people in the back: SHE KNOWS THE THINGS THAT MAKE HER HAPPY, AND SHE DOES THOSE THINGS.
It sounds easy, doesn’t it? And you’re wondering why I’m beating you over the head with it, right, you sweet sweet person who cares enough to read this? Because it’s not easy. Because a lot of us forget how to do that.
So Lills likes books. I mean, Lills is always reading. Like, when my parents dragged her to another one of my shows a few weeks ago (I don’t blame her for not feeling like coming, I’m sure it gets old hearing me play the same songs all the time), I looked down at the front row and she was reading. At a bar in Downtown Nashville, (during the daytime, mind you), Lills is reading a book. If I brought a book into a bar, I would most likely be kicked out. But books make Lills happy. So if she wants to read, she’s gonna read – wherever she might be.
Lills likes to sing. So, she gets in the shower and belts. it. out. I’m talking Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood-style belts it out. She doesn’t care if we have friends over, she doesn’t care if I’m right across the hall in my room, she doesn’t care if my other sisters and I are huddled outside the door listening and laughing silently. (I don’t actually think she knows we do that.) She just sings, because singing makes her happy. And she doesn’t worry about who cares.
Lills likes dance. She dances everywhere. Sometimes I think she does more cartwheel-ing than actual walking. She walks around the house in her leotard – no tights or skirt with it, just the leotard – proudly. What I would give to care that little.
So why am I saying all of this about Lilly? Because she’s one of the happiest people I know. People who are happy with themselves are people who know the things that make them happy and do those things, frequently, and people who are happy with themselves are people who make other people happy. Pancakes. Reading. Shower-singing. Cartwheeling. These things make Lilly happy, and she does them all the time. And she makes my whole family laugh hysterically, because she is just so wonderfully herself. And she just makes it seem so easy.
It should be that easy, really. Now, I’m not talking smiley, giggly, dizzy kind of happy. Champagne does that. I’m talking heart, soul, way-down-deep happy. I know what makes me that kind of happy. Music makes me happy. Sitting in a room with another person and a couple guitars and a lot of feelings and telling life stories and turning them into songs makes me happy. Getting onstage and sharing these songs with a crowd makes me happy. So I’m doing my best to do these things as often as possible. I made a decision a long time ago – in 8th grade, when I skipped my championship softball game to play my first ever songwriter’s round – to do this thing, to chase this dream I have of myself standing on a big stage with a big crowd of people who all know the words to my songs because they relate and they understand and they get it. That dream makes me happy. And I plan to spend my life working toward it.
But maybe that’s not your dream. Maybe what makes you happy is playing soccer or painting or making medical discoveries or personal training or styling hair being a full-time mom – I don’t know what your “thing” is. But I do know that you should do whatever it takes to make your “thing” what you spend the rest of your life doing. Now, hold up a second – sometimes your “thing” requires some work, some effort. Sometimes the steps along the way to making your “thing” a career or an empire or whatever you want it to be, sometimes the steps are steep and unsteady and stressful and scary. Some of the steps aren’t all that *happy*, and that’s where people tend to give up. But happy doesn’t necessarily mean smiling and skipping around all the time – sometimes happy just means having a certain peace in your heart because you know you are using the gifts God gave you. Because at the end of the day, God gave us gifts that He wants us to use, not stifle or ignore or put on the back burner. And in using the gifts God gave us, we not only make ourselves happy, but we make the people around us happy, the people who get to enjoy those gifts. And thus, a beautiful cycle begins.
So take the steps. Put in the work. Love the process. Be proud of whatever it is that sets your soul on fire, and make time to do it. Here’s to whatever puts a smile on your face -whatever makes ya happy, people.
God loves ya & so do I,