I have always known, but somehow need to be continually reminded that time outdoors is essential to my happiness and well-being. Some of the moments in life that I have felt the deepest connection to spirit and self have been times that I’ve spent alone or with a loved one in nature. Soaking in the reality, beauty, and simplicity of the untouched world. Stepping away from screens and music, work and stress, and the continuous noise of busy life into the quiet sounds of plants and birds and children’s laughter. Experiencing sunlight as it filters through the trees creating shadowy artwork on the ground. Discovering forgotten clearings along paths through the woods that seem as sacred as a temple and using those spaces to meditate and reclaim calm. Sitting on a park bench and watching children who are still too young to be self-conscious run and play and be free in a way that many adults envy in the deepest parts of themselves. Dropping the restraints of time and tasks and pretending for a short time that they do not exist. Inhaling the smell rag weed and wood mulch, dead leaves and earth all in the same breath and feeling cleansed by it. Going home dirtier than you’ve been in a long time, yet with no desire to wash it off. This is life in its simplest and best form and I am grateful for it.
I am continually amazed by the resilience of children. No matter what ails them, or what’s got them down, they are consistently a shining example of silver linings. My son and I have been sick with the same crud for over a week now and yet every morning, with what little voice he has after coughing much of the night, he wakes up singing. How can I not go to him smiling when I hear that? And this evening, after yet another movie that we watched together in bed (since that’s about all the play Mama can handle right now), he caressed my face and said, “I love you the whole, whole world, Mama,” wrapped his little arms around my neck and held me in that embrace for several minutes before he asked, “I helping you feel better, Mama?” Such a huge little heart! After melting mine with such soft sweetness, he got to have pancakes in my lap for supper followed by a long, hot bubble bath.
No matter how bad Aiden feels, although he may be somewhat more whinny than usual, he dredges up all of his happiness reserves and smiles and plays and brings light to any bad mood. Why are we, as adults, not more like this? We get the slightest achy cold and we grump and whine and want to stay under the covers till we feel better. I find myself thinking, as I watch him, that maybe we would feel better if we made a bit more of an effort to feel better. If we saw every bad feeling as an opportunity for a silver lining. If we stepped outside of ourselves, even when we’re down, and sought to encourage others, perhaps we would find ourselves encouraged.
I have had more than one conversation lately in which I voiced some version of this statement: “I do not look forward to the future because I so much enjoy the present.” I can’t decide if this is a virtue or a vice. Perhaps it is both. Certainly contentment with the present is to be admired and sought after, but fearing the future because I see it as a goodbye to the to the things I love now – this is probably weakness and immaturity. The truth is, I have never experienced such significant growth and blessing, stability and strength as I now possess. My life has been an ever-changing sea of faces and places, in which dreams change and lives change and goodbyes are an inevitable part of that change. It still makes me sad to think about what was lost. But perhaps it is that very loss, those very goodbyes that produce the stability and strength I now hold so dear. Without them I would not be the person I have become. Why would I assume that the future holds anything other than further growth, development, and strengthening of my loves?
When I first learned that I would be moving back to the South, I was terrified that I would be isolated and bored and uncomfortable. Now, after voluntarily spending a decade here, it is hard to imagine another place I would call home. When my heart was broken in college, I feared it would never be whole again. But severing it from such an unhealthy attachment, made it wholly ready to embrace my husband and a better man I cannot imagine. Before Aiden was born, I worried that my relationship with my extraordinary husband might not be the same, might suffer even, after he entered the picture. On the contrary, he has added such depth and wonder to our lives it is impossible to imagine life without him. Why, in the face of these and countless other examples of the richness of the unexpected and unimaginable, do I still fear the future? Should I not excitedly embrace it as the conduit of my dreams – both known and unaware? And yet, as I find myself on the brink of a vast new change, bringing another human being into the world and into our lives, I find myself afraid. But I have a choice. I can embrace the change and assume, as life has constantly taught me, that it will bring good, or I can give in to the fear and rob myself of the present which I so enjoy by worrying away its beauty. I chose to embrace . . . the change when it comes, my husband and son now, my friends when I am able, and life in all of its varied, complex forms.
I came across this quote recently that resonated with me in a big way:
In trying to find who the quote was attributed to, I quickly discovered that it is a rather clichéd saying that can be found on such kitschy items as pillows and coffee mugs, calendars and cookie jars. But as I have said before, often times things are clichéd for a reason. Because they express or embody something that rings true for so many of us. This is certainly the case here. Life is full of storms. We cannot avoid them. They come and go and hopefully they make us stronger. And, to quote another cliché, often when it rains it pours. In those times, when we feel completely flooded by the storms life brings, it is all too easy to wallow in a nearby puddle. To spend more time whining to our spouse or coworkers or friends then we spend trying to find a solution. I am as guilty of this as anyone. But this simple little quote is a reminder to stop sitting on the sidelines, safe and dry, waiting for things to get better and start making them better. Get out in the thick of it and turn an affliction to joy. Don’t drag your feet through the water and wish things were different, dance in it. Jump and shout and scream if you have to, but dance!
It’s true what they say that laughter is the best medicine. Today I had the distinct privilege of spending my Sunday morning in an after-hours clinic because of a stabbing headache that has lasted 3 days (and counting). I thought it might be due to an ear infection, otherwise I might have toughed it out. But I was fully prepared, upon leaving the clinic with no helpful news, to embark upon my terrible day full of head pain and crabbiness and exhaustion. Thankfully my boys had other plans. Jonathan took a sick day so he could take care of Aiden while I went to the doctor and he managed to wash, fold, and put away all the laundry and do the dishes while I played with Aiden, took a nap and read my book. Yes, I am a lucky woman. And we both discovered (again) that there is nothing quite like the laughter of a child to make you forget your woes. Aiden was in a remarkable mood and was constantly finding something to giggle about. Like pretending that dozens of kitties were coming out of the tiny box in his hand and tickling us with their tongues. Or spinning in circles till he collapsed on the floor and watched the room spin out of the corner of his eye. Later, because we were all getting cabin fever, and I wasn’t about to cook, we picked up some supper and went to the park. There was a storm brewing and it was gloriously breezy for such a hot afternoon. Aiden tromped around the park barefoot, in true boy fashion, and laughed at everything he saw. And not just little laughs. These were full-faced, throw your head back kind of laughs that were absolutely infectious.
As we drove home, Aiden requested his favorite music, an album of high quality children’s bluegrass by David Holt. And, as always, he requested his favorite track, “I Got A Bullfrog,” which is a musical blooper of epic proportion consisting of at least 30 seconds of laughter that the singer is trying desperately and unsuccessfully to get under control. I LOVE that they left this “mistake” in the recording. Every time it comes on Aiden grins from ear to ear in the back seat and laughs along. I can’t help but join him no matter how many times I have heard it.
At home, after supper, I let him have a piece of cake and after every bite, he wriggled with glee, doing an excited little cake dance while he . . . you guessed it . . . laughed. By the end of the day as I felt the piercing pains in my head again, I realized that although the pain had persisted all day, I had not thought about it in hours. It had not dominated my day as I had feared it would. And I had laughter to thank. I wonder how much healthier, and of course happier, we would all be if we learned to be a bit more light-hearted and laugh a lot more readily.