On Friday morning, I took my daughter to visit the school where her brother attends kindergarten. We sat in on the preschool class as they went through story time, played with toys, ate snacks, even went to gym class and raced around orange cones. The kids were so precious; there was so much joy. We were in a safe place.
That afternoon, of course, everything changed. Elementary school, the place of innocence and hope and dreams, no longer felt that way. I lay on the couch at two p.m. and drifted off to sleep; when I woke and scrolled through Facebook on my phone, I saw that something terrible happened. I wept and couldn’t stop.
A little while later, I walked to the bus stop to get Mr. B. He got off and I held him close, feeling his warmth, hoping he wouldn’t see me cry.
Earlier that day, I had started to write a draft of this post: “Flying Through Your Life.” It was based on my recent trip to the dentist, where the hygienist asked me how I was doing. When I told her that the weeks seemed to be going so fast I could barely catch my breath, she sat back and said, “Welcome to the rest of your life. You’re going to feel like you’re flying through it.”
That recognition weighs a little heavier now. I don’t want to live as though life is speeding by. Not long ago, when the kids were younger and I was home with them, the days felt endless. I could get through the morning and lunch; I delighted in afternoon naps (which I usually took, too), but afterward, the afternoon stretched out before me, empty. I longed to feel more fulfilled and less busy at the same time. Now that I’m working and have that satisfaction of being in the world, rather than feeling isolated from it, I realize I don’t give myself the time to just sit on the couch and watch the kids play. I’m always busy, always doing something—and often that something comes at the expense of mindful moments enjoying the light of my family.
I can’t do much about the tragedy on Friday, though I wish I could. I can send prayers, and sign petitions for gun laws, weep, and read news reports. I can march. But nothing will take their pain away, or the pain we have as a country. We have to accept we live in a war zone now. Until things change, none of us is safe.
One thing I can do, on a personal level, is stop flying through my life.
I can make sure that my family has breakfast every morning together, and dinner. I can put away my computer and my phone when I’m with my kids. I can make brownies or cake, watching my daughter pour the oil into a silver bowl. I can do the animal puzzle after dinner, look at the kids’ art projects, play with the dreidel Mr. B made and brought home from school. I can stop and sit still and take in the preciousness of my children, for as long as humanly possible.
I have so much imagination, and can veer too easily into fear. But I know that’s not the way to go through life—bracing myself for any sadness or tragedy with the idea that the mere expectation will take away my future pain. Instead, I have to choose hope and love, even when those choices seem wildly optimistic.
So I will plan dates with my husband, go out with friends, watch my kids smear brownies all over their hands and faces, write, and remember to savor the moments as much as I can. Mindfulness won’t protect me from everything, but it will help the happy moments shine a little brighter.
Image: “Sun-Flower” via Flickr.