I got the new Vineyard Vines catalog in the mail. One of its pages teased: 92 summer days ahead. I couldn’t help wonder if whoever wrote that sent their kids to Catholic School. I checked my own school calendar for accuracy and calculated we only have 68 days of summer. How’s that for a penance?
I don’t know why this struck me anyway. Maybe it was all the crystal blue water splashed on the pages selling pastel-colored polo shirts for $85 a pop. But, I couldn’t stop thinking of that number. It was so finite. So, use it or lose it. While summer has not officially started, I can’t help but feel a little panicked about its inevitable passing. It reminds me of how fast all of life is passing. I wonder how many whale logo purchases it would take for me to slow down and have some of those carefree moments like the people in the catalog.
I was grateful to Shep and Ian for reminding me to embrace the days ahead that sprawl out like a bath towel on the beach. Too short. While I don’t love lists because I can never find them after I make them, I made a plan for summer that would make any whale smile.
Forget about being mindful: Lord have mercy. There is so much pressure to be in the moment. I lost a great bulk of my mind during childbirth and what’s left of it doesn’t want to focus on putting a fork in the dishwasher. Most of what I do is just not that interesting and I know that would probably make Oprah sad for me. However, the season of life I am in is hurried and hectic, mundane and meaningful, and relies heavily on mercy and grace. So, I don’t have a lot left for mindfulness. Instead, let your minds wander. We use to do this as children — boredom would breed great imaginings, inventions, and undiscovered places. Let your minds drift away to a happy memory, a hope for the future, or a childhood dream. This makes putting a fork in the dishwasher so much more pleasant. Read more
I am in the “letting go” years of motherhood. I know Alzheimer’s disease is considered the long-goodbye, but having teenagers feels as much so. Except instead of forgetting precious memories, I am flooded with them: story times at the library, field trips to the zoo, class parties, countless baseball games, first dances, and ordinary moments that have aged into extraordinary memories.
It is often said of parenting that the days are long but the years are short. I would only add that the years get successively faster like a racing heart sprinting toward the finish line. The teenage years are propelled with a momentum that has little to do with parenting but is filled with our children’s pursuits. We no longer set the pace of their days. Instead, we race to keep up or merely watch their projection as they shoot off like a ball in a pinball machine: hither and yonder, to and fro, until they finally land in their beds at night. Still. Safe. Ours.
But the truth is they were never ours to keep. They were trusted to us by an ever-generous God for what suddenly feels like too little time. Somehow, he put us together knowing that we will each learn from the other. We are shown we could love more than seemed physically possible and that we can stretch beyond what we once considered strong to a surprisingly soft place of resilience. I can’t think of anything else that compares to the ways it has broken me, built me anew, and taught lessons that only love could teach.
Most of us overcomplicate things. I like to think I am better at this than most people but I know it is not nice to brag. It’s one thing to overthink where you want to go for dinner (I have heard some people do this). It becomes ever more complicated when we fixate on something as weighty as life’s purpose.
By middle age, if not as early as middle school, we realize life doesn’t always go as planned. Yet we live in a world where the plan is all important – we have books about it, calendars, and self-imposed criteria for how it’s all going to go down like we are detectives Sonny and Rico on the 1980s television series Miami Vice. If we just plan life with enough precision, our boat won’t crash, drug traffickers will meet their demise, and life will be as sunny as a sweat-less day at the beach wearing pastel T-shirts and a white suit. That’s the script we are asked to write from ourselves from as early as preschool when a sing-song voice inquires about what we want to be when we grow up. As if it’s merely a matter of picking what color space ship we want to fly during our mission to Mars.
I don’t mean to sound cynical because it can be fun to make plans, motivating to set a course, and rewarding to achieve goals, but you know what they say – “life is what happens when you are busy making plans.” A friend of mine, who could be anyone really because to some degree I think all of us have gone through this – is questioning her life’s purpose. Again, I don’t mean to brag but I have excelled in exploring the same question. “What am I doing with my life?” “What color is my parachute?” “What is God’s plan for me?” “Seriously, God, is that the plan?” I could go on because like I already said, I am really good at over-complicating things. My friend puts it more succinctly and asks: “what are they going to write on my tombstone, ‘a good friend to all?’” While that is better than “she was hit by a bus,” I certainly appreciate her perspective. Read more