In my younger days, I was an infinite seeker. I spent a lot of time exploring the meaning of life, the way I wanted to live it, and the idiosyncracies of myself and my society which propelled me to make the choices I made. I read a lot. I traveled. I spent time in Buddhist monasteries and many hours on my yoga mat. I once sat alone in the middle of the barren dessert of Death Valley and cried about it all for an hour as the wind whipped by my face flinging sand into my tears. I slept alone by a river in the Yolla Bolly Wilderness for a week, pacing the waterfront and pondering by day, poking at my campfire and pondering some more by night. I tried a lot of things that scared me, from surfing to veganism to riding a night train alone in a foreign country. All of the epiphanies that came to me in these years bubbled around me and lived in my mind, in my journals close-at-hand, and, I would like to think, in my day to day movements and choices.
Then life started happening. I prefer the self-assurance and beauty of family life I’ve found in my thirties to the chaos of my twenties, no doubt; but I do miss the time for seeking that I once had, and I’ve recently realized how many of those revelations I gained during that time of my life have been buried in the exhaustion of my current existence, despite the fact that now is when I need that hard-sought knowledge the most.
Parenting calls upon you to be present in literally every moment. Yesterday I refereed various spats over a certain sought after purple sandbox dump truck for close to two hours. In the one moment that I took to close my eyes and tip my head up towards the unusually strong February sun, my son pelted an unsuspecting little girl in the head with a Matchbox car. Minding a toddler really does mean staying completely in the here and now. Many days, just meeting the basic needs of my family and myself seems to take up all the time in the day. When the serenity of evening falls, my brain grinds to a halt, and I seek solace in Jon Stewart and Top Chef, or maybe, if I’m really ambitious, a few pages of a book before my eyes droop closed. Each day, I have big ideas about writing projects and pithy conversations and general productivity that will take place after 8pm, and each day, come 8pm, making a full sentence becomes difficult.
So, I’m living in the present, but without the time to ruminate, sort and organize my thoughts, and epiphanize like I used to. I should meditate, but I don’t, as sitting still with my eyes at half-mast makes me fall asleep. I mostly move very quickly and purposefully through my days, covering the basics of food, water and shelter, with some creativity and leisure peppered in sporadically, but none of the luxurious, naval gazing sort I once knew in my other life of my twenties. But this is all okay. I know this stage of life is so fleeting. Having young children is a challenge and a joy like no other, and while it also seems to reduce you to a mumbling, strange outfit wearing zombie for a few years, I’m more than happy with having made that bargain. Our family will grow older, and the husband and I will once again have time for seeking on our own and together too. I know this to be true. I don’t mourn a life of seeking, as I know its time will come around again.
What I am trying to sort out in the meantime is how to take all the lessons I gathered in the seeking of my twenties, and integrate them more fully into this markedly less peaceful and contemplative life that I’m living today. Every once in awhile, when I’m falling asleep at night mostly, or when I’m walking somewhere, a glimmer of one of those lessons will tumble into my thoughts. I’ll have an instantaneous, crystal blue moment of knowing exactly how I might approach a conflict I’m dealing with or a decision at hand, based on some shell of wisdom I garnered years ago. Sometimes I have to hop up from bed or stop in my tracks just to jot these crystal moments down, so fleeting are they in my tired mind. But when I do capture them like some sort of rare butterfly, I’m reminded of how many more lessons and things I know to be true there are lying with them, just below the surface of the day to day. It stuns me sometimes how easy it is to forget myself, to forget who I was who got me to where I am now, to forget that seeking traveler girl who my husband originally fell in love with, all photo albums and Buddha statues and inspiring quotes hung on the wall. I’m grateful that that little vagabond has matured into someone who is okay with staying still, but I also need to embrace her knowledge more and keep it right where I can see it. But how?
How do you grow and move on from one phase of life, but hold close the lessons of the past in a way that is relevant to the present with an eye towards the future? How to let go and move on while honoring, in a real and daily way, that which you learned along the way? This is what I am seeking currently.
From Sweet Mama Jane.
Photo from The Goodwin Project