When I was a teenager I dreamed of leaving home and beginning a career. In College, I wrote out 5 and 10-year plans and impatiently longed to meet a man who would treasure me and of the day I could own a home and begin a family. When my first-born arrived I fed my voracious appetite for parenting books, always so impatient for the next child-development milestone, constantly thinking ahead, pushing, dreaming and planning. These days I often find my thoughts drifting ahead to retirement and what life will be like in the season of empty nest. It can be so hard to live in the now.
I wonder if you relate at all. Do you spend many of your waking hours dreaming of a ‘better life’ or the next achievement- a trimmer body, a fuller bank account, one more promotion to propel you to the top of the food-chain, the day your business takes off, a fabulous relationship, a life of more travel, adventure, or ease? None of these unhealthy goals, necessarily. Or perhaps you move through your days worrying and chronically fearful of what lies around the next corner.
What if in all the day-dreaming and impatience for life to get started, the plotting and thinking ahead, real life is passing us by? What if we are missing the joy in the simple things.
We are always getting ready to live, but never living.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
None of us knows the number of our days and loss has a way of teaching us that life can be fleeting. Like a vapor.
So I want to embrace the simple gifts of today. Smack dab in the midst of work and loving people and commitments, I want to pause and appreciate – the sparkly snow outside my window instead of constantly longing for spring. My 10-year-old with wild hair, all curled up in jammies, watching Netflix, recovering from a virus. Soon she will be a teenager and out of the home more than in. The distractedness of the cashier’s face this morning that reminds me he is a real person carrying within his own hopes and dreams. The text message from my teenager informing me she forgot her lunch and would I please bring food which, though frustrating in the moment, reminds me that I am needed and that all those years ago I dreamed of being mom. This is real life.
I want to allow myself to feel. To admit the pain sometimes attached to loving people deeply. To lean into the fear of stepping into the unknown rather than numbing it away like I used to or cowering from all stress. To be fully aware of the tendrils of shame or comparison or unworthiness that snake their way into my mind. To notice them but not let them take root. To confess to myself the sorrow of missing my college-age child who will never again cuddle close with me on the couch, reading picture books. And the pride of watching him learn to fly. To feel, to my core, intense gratitude flecked with sadness, sometimes even despair, as I prepare healthy food for my family; so many mamas cannot feed their babies today. To acknowledge both the sweet and the sour of this simple day before rushing forward into the next. This is real life.
I want to savor the sights and smells and sounds of day-to-day life. The long talk with a long-distance friend who affirms and encourages and shares a sacred piece of herself with me. The rough skin of my husband’s hands and the light, tentative way that my teenage daughter lays her head on my shoulder. I want to delight in the unexpected gift of spring-like weather wafting through open windows, mid-February, and the earthy tasting, happy-inducing mushroom-espresso coffee from the conscious eatery that I rarely get to visit. I want to sit down, to rest, and smell and taste and chew my meal and the slightly bitter dark chocolate melting on my tongue instead of rapidly eating while standing and texting. I want to be nourished, not simply fed. This is my one real life.
I want to shed those things that hold me back from really living today. The weight of not good enough. The comparison that steals my joy. The lie that I am broken and irreparable. The internal pressure to move faster or do more. My too high standards, my addictions, my judgments. I want to throw off the burden of other people’s opinions or choices. I want to freely offer love and compassion even if they turn around to bite me later. To share my story whether others listen or not. To simply sow what I have need of myself in this life. What I have need of today.
I want to live now. Awake and aware. To breathe deeply and hug long. To linger and connect. To take joy in the simple things of this daily, ordinary, beautiful existence.
To rest assured that if today is my last I will have really lived.
P.S. Tell me – what are some of the simple things bringing you JOY today? For further reading, you might like The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World and Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being (affiliate links).
*Image via Death to Stock