Saturday, November 14, 2009

Back in the Saddle...

. . . but just a little wobbly.

I've lived much of my life thinking about "what's next?!" Whether it's the big things like when do we have another child? To the smaller stuff, such as deciding on what color to paint the nursery, I often seem to have my mind on the next thing to be done. Well-intended as this approach is (as most of "what's next" normally concerns my family), with a bit of age, I mean wisdom, I've begun to realize, like most things, there is a downside to this kind of thinking if it's done all the time. I think I am getting it: if you are always looking ahead, it's easy to miss out on the enjoyment and wonder of what's going on right now.

Luckily I am married to someone who is more about dealing with the here and now and takes time for reflection. I admit at times this has driven me crazy. Me and my let's get it done (BTW, even in the county we should try to say it properly), let's not miss out on an opportunity, let's try to take some control of the situation kind of approach. I used to view his method as indecision (and occasionally even as slackerdom). But after over a decade together, I am learning that in some situations, there is much merit to what I used to consider madness. Why sit back and let things just happen to you? Shouldn't we try to influence and alter our fate, trying to put the odds in our favor? Come on! Let's go after (fill in the blank)! But I am recognizing that there are times, many times in fact, when not focusing on the future and simply living in the present is good.

Along with my thoughtful spouse, I also have two marvelous, miniature reminders of why it's important to let some things just happen. If I constantly continued my "what's next" approach as a parent, then I would have missed out on so many amazing moments. Lately, I am getting much better at sitting down with my children and molding things out of playdo and spending less time obsessing over whether or not we should take advantage of the currently low mortgage rates. I am a work in progress, trying to figure out when to play which card-living for the now or mildly manipulating what's in store.

In fact, a few weeks ago (on the night of October 20 to be exact) I had a particular full-on, sit-back-and-enjoy-life-right-now enlightening event while I was tucking our son in bed, while my more easygoing partner was reading a bedtime book to our daughter in the next room. I remember the date vividly because the next morning I was going to chaperone my daughter's school field trip, and at my son's bedside I couldn't help but think of all the things I NEEDED to be doing instead of scrambling around the zoo with 80 plus five- and six-year-olds (among many things, needing to write two FL articles due on Friday). And then I looked at the lowering eyelids of my little boy and was struck at how much I love him, and how blessed I was to be there at that moment. So instead of seeing this as an opportunity to run out of the room and go work on my articles, I intentionally took a deep breath, and tried to mimic the gentle rise and fall of his chest. I took a minute to admire the beautiful quilt that covered his little body. My mom had made it for him before he was born. After a little while, I tiptoed to my sleeping daughter's room, full of anticipation about spending some reflective time with her as well. I ended the evening by hanging out with my husband-intentionally minus talk of possible jobs, suggestions of future plans, or other potential changes. A great way to end the day.

And it's a good thing I did too. When I went upstairs to awaken the kids the next morning, I saw that the little guy had wet the bed. After scrambling to get them ready for school, I went to check my email real quick-like and found a horrible message-my computer had a virus. Ugh! Where was the natural high from the peace and satisfaction I had experienced just hours before?! Why could I already feel it deflating like a cheap grocery store balloon? Where was the beautiful inner harmony that sang in my soul as I was enjoying the present just last night? Oh well.

At the zoo, about halfway through a mostly fun field trip (inner peace slowly returning), we visited the gorillas, and I noticed my boy's warm forehead. By the time I collected both my kids, checked out with the teacher, and swiftly moved to the car, my son's violent vomiting spell had begun. Once I got them home and settled down for quiet time, I checked the mail and discovered my cell phone bill had almost tripled (my bad, honey). The next letter was a hospital bill from some more tests our normally healthy daughter had to undergo. How much?! (Ooohh! Christmas gifts are gonna be slim this year.) Minutes later I go check on my napping cherubs to find my son's temperature is 104.7. It takes two hours to get it to budge. I'm told that my pediatrician's office cannot see more any patients that day. ("The flu's going around, you know?") I get his fever under control and, of course, he sleeps next to me that night so I can watch him. I wake up at 2:00 a.m. as achy as a newbie taken Tracy's Turbokick class.

The next day at the doc's, my little boy is officially diagnosed with the flu. And yes, I have it too. I admit I fought the urge to run to my computer and check the day's mortgage rates-the future was surely looking brighter than the present (but remember my son and I were not the only ones with a bug). After quarantining ourselves upstairs for a few days, he bounces back, I don't. Doctor's diagnosis-probably a minor lung infection. Briefly I am better. A week later, I am worse. Diagnosis-pneumonia. Briefly I am better. A few days later, I wake up and cannot walk. Doctor and hospital visits later, I learn I have a blood clot in my leg. Are you serious?!

It's been over three weeks since my remarkable night of clarity, and I am well on the mend now. I don't know how I knew it, but somehow on October 20, somewhere deep inside my mind and soul, I knew that I needed that special gift of a few minutes of blissful acknowledgement and reflection of how life could be so wonderful right then and there. During my tri-sickness, I continuously returned to those moments with each of my children and husband. In those rather trying weeks, I rarely thought about what I needed to be doing next (heck, my computer and I were too sick). Honestly though, remembering those precious minutes was far better than any medicine (even the pain killers) that the doctors gave me. My latest awareness is that we must truly be plugged into the here and now to create the memories that make the past a pretty good place too.

(Oh and, yes, in case you are hiring a writer, I did get both articles done on time.)


  1. Pat on the back. You know, I've always thought of our lives as an inverted pyramid of priorities. Let me elaborate!
    The most basic priority is to Survive. Survival at any cost. A basic, the MOST basic of instincts. The next is establishing family, community, shelter. These are all in the "now" present. The next is securing future food, shelter etc You get my drift. Then we start to want things as our Needs are secured. The more secure we feel the more we forget about needs and focus on wants. Our wants start to become needs. Our dreams stray from needs to desires. Our focus shifts from "now" to next month or next year or next house. "So, how did I get to this?". I say, "welcome to America"!!! How's your budget? Not just your money but you soul, your relationship, your marriage etc... Sometimes it takes a quick trip to the tip of our inverted pyramid to see how much we have.

  2. Hey Bone,
    Where's your blog? Daily column? Book?
    Here's to being on the right side of the pyramid.

  3. I love it, Sabena! You are so talented in your ability to "capture" your audience and make us feel like we are right there with you. I'm so glad you are feeling better.

  4. Hey M,

    Thank you.
    Hope you are not too saddle sore yourself. :-) I know you've had a lot to juggle.