As I mentally added items to my morning to-do list, I unintentionally glanced toward the open window. The cool September morning air lingered by the screen unhurried and unmoving in the breezeless stillness whispering to itself, “Fall is coming. Fall is coming.” My mental to-do list seemed to slide out of my ear, down my side, and onto the floor while my own delight refocused my attention. The dewy green grass, while less vibrant in color than when clothed in new spring attire prior to the fading that comes with the daily morning washings and chronic over drying of summer, still looked like thick, shag carpet. Crispy brown leaves from a nearby tree lay on top like a box of dumped out Legos waiting sorting and adventure. Laying there like that the leaves risked annihilation by a lawn mower much like their indoor counterparts risked the vacuum cleaner.
At the thought of vacuum cleaner, my mental to-do list jumped from the floor. Shouldn’t the leaves be mowed or raked – somehow tidied? Isn’t that what I am supposed to do as an adult? Adults don’t have time to play, and, if my to do list is any indication, my son might fit in a few minutes of play between our errands – if he eats breakfast focused without a hundred tales of imaginary friends, and if he gets dressed quickly without giggling while trying to use his pants as a hat and his socks as gloves. Yes, then he might have time to play.
What about me? When do I play? Do I play? I think “relax” finds its way to my goals from time to time. First, I must finish the to-do list that my brain tried to dump, but I think I read something about the health benefits of play in a newsfeed once. I will add play to my list. I do need to work on that goal I set of learning to play the piano. I should exercise which is play if I turn on the TV. Maybe tonight if I am not too tired… Maybe next week… I should probably take care of the leaves first.
Or – maybe I can take just one item off that list today because surely one of those items can wait. Maybe my son and I can go outside together. Instead of pulling up a chair and encouraging him to “go play”, as if “play” is contagious and must occur far away from my adulthood, maybe my adulthood can step nearer to his childhood and together we can discover joy in the stomping of crunchy leaves.
When I was old enough to aspire to become a teenager but still young enough to have no idea why, I delightedly spent a late spring watching tadpoles turn into frogs in a serendipitous puddle on the top of an above ground pool cover. This past spring, my husband, son, and I wandered in a nearby garden. I glanced down at a tiny pond as we walked past and saw – tadpoles! My husband caught one, and we all hesitantly touched it. Following that evening, we returned to the pond about every five days to check on the tadpoles’ progress, which, to my sometimes fast-paced world, felt painfully slow. But, they grew…first into just much larger tadpoles, then into swimming creatures with legs, and eventually into half-hopping, half-swimming tiny frogs with long tails.
The pond observation provided another parenting moment (of many) when I questioned my educational level. The first came when I had no idea what sound the animal made on page two of an infant animal book. At this particular moment I was quite certain my ten-year old self, who had never heard of the internet, could have better explained the metamorphosis of a tadpole into a frog to my son. Or, maybe I am just learning the difference between knowledge and wisdom, the latter of which I believe comes with realizing how much I don’t know, notice, or truly take time to see. I can describe in detail the home screen on my cell phone, but I am not sure I can tell you what color shirt my husband wore yesterday. I do not know the colors of this evening’s sunset or when it actually occurred. I cannot tell you the phase of the moon.
I looked at many things today and in the moment all those screens, emails, and newsfeeds seemed important. I feel embarrassed to consider how many times I look down every day to see if someone has texted me – each time thinking I can pause reality like a DVR. Life will just wait until I can give it my attention…in a few minutes…a few hours…a few days… I will find moments to spare until I am interrupted again by the siren call of technology in my pocket.
I deceive myself. Time and life do not pause, fast-forward, or rewind. Without the aid or technological interference of any device a tadpole turns into a frog whether I notice or not. Though failing to notice a tadpole probably will not greatly alter the course of my life, I have to wonder – what else do I miss? What do I not really see? Can I hear my son’s laughter in my head? Can I describe the exact shade of blue of my husband’s eyes? When I get to tomorrow, will I look back on today relishing beautiful moments that must surely have existed, or will I be too distracted still holding down my imagined pause button to even realize what I might have missed?
My mom once compared me to Jimmy Buffet’s lyrics, “Yes I am a pirate, 200 years too late”. My college guidance counselor refused to clear me to enroll without a career counseling assessment after I told him I wanted to be a Muppeteer for Jim Henson and design prosthetic legs while also enrolling in a ballroom dancing course. My New Year’s Resolution this year is to learn how to juggle. I am a wanderer and a dabbler. I love learning, and I fear failure though it is an occupational hazard of wandering. In melancholy moments of self-doubt, I desperately search for purpose and meaning. I wonder what I’m supposed to do with my life, my career, my family, my passions, and my grocery list which insists on me writing it once a week in spite of whatever existential crisis I find myself in at that particular moment.
Yet, I find little purpose and meaning amidst all the “doing” of life and striving to accomplish the next step, task, goal, or to-do list though those things may be important. Meaning whispers to my soul in little moments of being…watching a sunset, checking to see if tadpoles have sprouted legs, holding my husband’s hand, or laughing with my son. These moments do not ask for my resume to determine my worth. Rather, they invite me, as I am, to join a moment for no other reason than I exist at the doorway of time.
Welcome to my blog. Feel free to wander. I hope my words will inspire you in your own journey in pursuit of what breathes life into your soul. You are welcome even if you don’t know where you are going. I often don’t.