Monday, March 20, 2017

The Next Forty Years

I remember when I was a teenager and the daughter of a family friend was turning thirty. I thought how very old that seemed. I couldn't picture myself at thirty -- what I would look like, what I'd be doing, what I'd say or even where I'd be living. And being in my thirties for the past decade, I kept looking at forty sideways thinking, I know... you're on your way. I won't be ready for you when you get here. I'm too young to be so old.

I'm not sure what I expected as I turned 40 this past weekend. I knew the world wasn't going to end, of course. I knew it was just one more day past 39, and I'd already felt old for some time. But I realized that day that it wasn't the big monster I'd made it out to be, just like thirty wasn't.

The truth is, we never know how much time we have here. I might not even be halfway through my lifespan. I might have a heart attack tomorrow. There's no possible way to predict, so what's the point in trying? Why focus on how much time you may or may not have left? Why not, instead, focus on what you can be doing with the time you DO have, day by day?

I spent a great deal of my life waiting for The Next Thing. I've spoken of this before (well, written.) When I was in elementary school, I couldn't wait to be in high school because my brother was so cool and his friends were so cool and I wanted to be like them. I couldn't wait to drive. I couldn't wait to get out of my parents' house and go to college. I couldn't wait to be married out of college and move closer to my parents. I couldn't wait to get divorced and stop feeling miserable all the time. I couldn't wait to be single, to date, to have an apartment of my own. On, and on, and on. At some point, I learned that I regretted things so much more often when I couldn't wait to do them, jumped in, and then pined away for the good old days. The good old days before I had bills and responsibilities and pressures, before I had obligations and payments and expectations laid upon me. So I lived my life in this torpor between wanting the future and missing the past.

So I was never happy.

Do you know what I am now? Right now, in this moment? I'm happy.

Not because I have finally gotten to the place where I want to be, but because I have learned to enjoy where I am while I'm there. Instead of complaining that the baby never sleeps well, I'm taking advantage of this delightful nap he's taking by getting some things done I've been wanting to do. Instead of lamenting that we had to buy a new washer the day after we had to fix our garage door, I'm loving the fact that I can do my laundry and press a single button to lift my door up and down. Instead of wishing for the day when I can move out of this area to somewhere I can get good coffee and have pizza delivered, I'm finding joy in the things I CAN do while I'm here.

I'm thinking about the next forty years, but realizing that I can wait for them. I can wait, day by day, living in the moment, basking in the joys when they're here and scurrying past the sorrows when they're near.

As I look back, these last forty years went pretty quickly. My goal is to fill each moment with as much impact as I can so that, when I'm eighty, I can look back without regret and look forward to whatever the next forty will bring...

Stephanie Jean

Monday, March 6, 2017

Breaking the Silence

I cannot believe that it has been 3/4 of a year since my last post. My life has become a whirlwind named Stevie. He's 17 months old now, still not sleeping through the night, running everywhere, climbing everything, and as exhausted as I am, it's exhilarating at the same time. To have wanted and waited so long, and then to be given this magical little creature -- it's indescribable.

But there is life aside from crazy toddlers, yes? And currently it is enmeshed in political turmoil and media overload (both traditional and social). I had to step back. I used Lent as the reason for removing myself from Facebook for several weeks but the truth is, I couldn't stand myself anymore.

After very little, and quite sporadic, sleep, I would awaken to a cranky child pulling at me to carry him while I fixed my coffee and his breakfast, and we would sit down to eat at the breakfast table where he refuses food unless he watches a video of some sort on YouTube (hey, whatever it takes.) On the second window, I would be scrolling. At one point, I had 1100+ 'friends' on Facebook and had pared that down to a mere 700. I now stand at 550. Let's be honest, nobody has 550 'friends', right? So there I scrolled, through an endless sea of food pictures, kid pictures, political rants, political memes, 'fooled you' videos, screaming goats, and so much more, but so little at the same time. And I realized (as my toddler pulled at me, because now I wasn't on the computer while feeding him anymore, I was walking around the house glued to my phone, begging carpal tunnel with my thumb and finger blooping scroll, scroll, scroll...) that I had had enough.

I won't change anybody's mind politically, spiritually, emotionally. And they won't change mine.

I don't really care what someone else made for dinner because they didn't make it for me, I wasn't hanging out with them, and I know nobody cared what I made for dinner no matter how good my Instagrammed photo of tuna casserole looked.

I didn't care whether the news was fake or real because the lines had become so blurred, so skewed, that I just wanted to pull my eyes out.

Yes, your kid is cute. Yes, my kid is cute. But I was wasting so much time with my phone in front of me trying to take the perfect picture and post it so you could see just HOW cute he was, that I wasn't enjoying my time with him. I was upset with him for moving while I tried to take a picture. Of his cuteness. Because he was moving, cutely.

And it occurred to me that, a decade ago, two decades ago, three decades ago -- life was so much different. I'm not saying it was better or worse, it was just different. I remember saying a few years back that if I ever DID have a baby, he wouldn't be playing with my phone or a tablet or watching TV all the time. I remember looking at people in restaurants on their phones next to their spouses thinking how disrespectful it was, and where did romance go, and what could possibly be more important on that phone than the person in front of them?

Our disconnect has gone so much further than being absent physically from our loved ones. Technology bridges a gap between those overseas and across countries, but it creates a rift in front of those we are right next to, or want to be right next to, day and night.

I thought sure I'd miss it -- I'd want to scroll everyday, wondering what I was missing out on, what comments I could be making, what pictures I could be posting, what funny or tragic thing was happening that I wouldn't be privy to right away.

I don't.

I don't miss it.

I looked at the sky today. It was still up there, where it's always been, beautiful shades of grey and blue and white, tiny skyrocketing drops of rain pelting my face intermittently while I went to get the mail. I stared at the budding flowers bursting through the damp soil near the house, and the birds flitting from branch to branch debating whether or not to take wing because I was so near. I looked into the eyes of my toddler, and he smiled and kissed me, and was so much less fussy than usual as we shopped, and played, and ate breakfast. I read something REAL. I visited the library, ran errands, listened to music, read some more. And look -- I wrote! I actually wrote something for the first time in so many months I wouldn't even have been able to recall if it hadn't been right there in front of me when I logged in.

And I think about the people who didn't look at the sky, or the rain, or the plants, or their children and I'm telling you -- I don't miss it.

Not at all.