A Bit of Whimsy Belongs in Each Life

Susan Sachs - Mill Valley, California
Entered on February 29, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that every life should contain some personal whimsy. What is personal whimsy, you may ask? Well, seeing as I made up the term, I get to define it too. Personal whimsy is the ability to find and even seek amusement in things that others may find mundane or not even notice. Personal whimsy, in other words, is comprised of the little things – sometimes unseen by others – that often make life seem more full.

For instance, in our house, whenever the time on the digital clock results in a fun pattern, such as 11:11 or 1:23, we all stop whatever we’re doing and make a wish. We also make wishes in tunnels, holding our breaths for the lengths of them. The grocery store near us exhibits personal whimsy by playing thunder and lightning noises when the vegetable sprinkler turns on, creating a mini rainstorm over the radishes. The same goes for the anonymous person who took a paintbrush to a pair of small tree stumps near our walking path and turned unattractive remnants into colorful mushrooms of the sort that fairies and elves would enjoy.

Children naturally have great stores of personal whimsy. They sing in the supermarket and pretend there is hot lava under their beds. But this quality knows no age limit. I have friends in their 70s who blow giant bubbles at their gatherings. This couple has personal whimsy to spare.

The artist and sculptor Alexander Calder seemed to live much of his life according to personal whimsy. It’s not hard to envision the twinkle in his eye when he balanced his first mobile, or created an entire miniature circus full of acrobats, weight lifters, and tightrope walkers that actually moved, out of everyday items like wire, wood, and yarn. This was also a man who made fun branding tools to mark the pieces of toast he made for his daughters at breakfast, for no reason other than to amuse them.

Of course, due to circumstances, certain lives have more capacity for personal whimsy than others. It could also be that when things are particularly grim, we need to call on our personal whimsy the most – to help us remember that it is still possible to laugh, by ourselves and with others.

In my case, it doesn’t hurt to be married to a cartoonist, but even if you don’t have one of those at home, you can still apply these basic principals of personal whimsy:

1. Take a moment to register and create life’s amusements, no matter how small.

2. Share them with someone else, perhaps even making a game out of them, and watch their benefits multiply.

3. Do this repeatedly, thus establishing your own mini-rituals and fun memories.

While I can’t guarantee that you will never again have a mirthless day, chances are, if you follow these steps, your own personal whimsy quotient will rise, oh, 62½ percent.