What’s the Rush Anyway?

Two years ago Jamie and I took the boys to an egg hunt in Blacksburg. Jackson carried a blue plastic basket in one hand as his two-year-old self waited on the outskirts of the egg hunt zone. I patted his blonde head and asked, “Are you ready?” He smiled back at me, looking mostly perplexed. “When it’s time,” I explained, “you’re going to hunt for eggs! Pick them up and put them in your basket.”  It sounded easy enough. 

Eventually, a man entered a green field littered with hundreds of plastic eggs. He spoke for a few minutes reviewing a list of a few “do’s” and “don’ts.” Finally, he declared, “On your mark, get set, go!”

The kids were off. A mob of two and three-year-olds and their parents swarmed the field. Jackson took off at a snail’s pace. I followed closely, hustling him along. He spotted a nearby pastel egg and reached down to pick it up. “Put in in your basket!” I exclaimed. But he wouldn’t be side tracked. He had found an egg! His very own egg! He was enthralled. As he held up the blue egg for me and Jamie to see, a full smile delighted his round face. He shook it and listened to the rattle of a foreign body within its shell. He turned the egg over in his fingers as he inspected it carefully. He wanted to free its contents.  

I remember being pulled in two directions as I stood beside him that day. On the one hand, I felt a little impatient. I wanted to tell him, “Put the egg in your basket and let’s keep going! There are more eggs to get, baby. C’mon, let’s go!” He was missing the point. And on the other hand, I felt like all my hustling might actually be stealing the joy of the moment. Maybe he was doing just what he needed to be doing as he stood pondering the egg and the mystery within it. Maybe I was missing the point. Maybe I should take a step back and just watch.  

So I did. All around me I heard the excitement of kids and parents on the prowl for eggs. People were pointing and chasing and laughing. I watched as Jackson stood in the middle of the chaos examining his plastic egg. Eventually, he set it carefully in his basket and started looking for a second one. Then a third. After he placed the third egg in his basket, we looked around and all the eggs were gone. The field lay empty.  

I wondered if the next phase of the egg hunt would entail a full scale melt down, but it didn’t. He was completely content to plop down in the grass with his three lovely eggs and savor the glory of them.

It struck me that day that quantity is not always the best measurement in life, that faster is not always better. Maybe the best measurement of an experience is our ability to fully engage with it. Maybe we can only do that when we slow down, when we listen to the call of our own hearts, when we tune out the hustle, when we savor the moment unfolding.

Somehow, adults have become hard wired to focus on having more, doing more and being more “busy” than we can pleasantly bear. Not surprisingly, we are an anxious, exhausted, and overburdened group. But kids don’t start out wired that way. They are curious. They are investigators. They delight in the process, not in their productivity.  

This year, I’ll wander green fields again with a different two-year-old sidekick. Who knows what Parker’s egg hunting style will be. Maybe he will be fiercely efficient as he collects dozens of eggs or maybe he will snatch them from a little girl’s unattended basket. Or maybe, like his brother at that age, he will take a more laid back approach. I don’t know all that much, but I feel certain that I’ll remember to leave my hustle at home that day. Should he hold a yellow egg in his hand and shake it about, there will be no second guessing this time. I’ll crouch down to hear the rattle right along with him. Really, what’s all the rush about anyway? Childhood and parenting, Saturdays and Spring, chocolate and egg hunts are fleeting as it is. 

Let’s be brave enough not to always push the limits of more and better and faster. Instead, let’s live well. Let’s know our own hearts and take good care of ourselves. Let’s know other’s hearts and care for them. Let’s live fully engaged with our people and our moments. The sum of these moments is uniquely grand. It all adds up to a life.  

All the Way To the Chicken Coop

Some nights, I wait for a pause and then cut him off mid-sentence. I interject something like, “I love you too, baby. Goodnight. I’ll see you when the sun comes up.”  

But not tonight. Tonight, I listen attentively to each word as it rambles out his mouth. Much of it is mumbled. Anyone else wouldn’t have a clue what he is actually professing. But as I hear the rounded, high notes of baby speech stream from his mouth, it feels like the truest declaration of love that one can make. He is reciting poetry.  

It starts as I walk over to give his brother one last goodnight kiss. “Mama! Mama! I need you, Mama!” Parker pleads from across the room.

“Just a second, baby.”

I walk back to his crib and he rolls over from his side to his back. His golden hair is unkept and resting on top of his eye brows. It desperately needs to be trimmed. His fingernails are fresh and clean as they clutch Bear. Suddenly, he looks like a giant in his crib. His long body nearly engulfs the length of the bed, and as I reach down and hold his bare foot, I realize it’s nearly as long as my own hand. I wonder when that happened. Babyhood starts to feel long ago and far away.  

He flashes a cherub grin as he begins, “Mama, I wuv you aw da way to da chicken coop and back to da Y…and…I wuv you aw the way to da wibrary and back to our house…and back to da Y and to Germany and Itawy…and…and…back to da chicken coop and aw the way to da moon and back to da wibrary…and da grocery store…and I wuv you aw da way to the chicken coop and back to our house.” His words hold a hint of mischief. I know he’s stalling. Even at two-years-old, he understands the fine art of prolonging bedtime.  

But I don’t mind tonight.

I don’t mind that it’s late.
I don’t mind that it’s far past his bedtime. 
I don’t mind that I’m exhausted.
I don’t mind the toys covering every square inch of the floor.
I don’t mind the cracker crumbs on the sofa.
I don’t mind the endless “whys”.
I don’t mind the tears and tantrums.

I don’t mind it at all. Not one little bit, tonight.  

The 6 Stages of Data Loss

I’ve spent the last few months trying to carve out a little bit of time for myself to write each day. I snag thirty minutes here and there – when the kids are napping or while they lie on the sofa in a T.V. coma watching “Paw Patrol”. More recently I discovered a new little trick for finding some time to write. A few days a week I head to the YMCA, drop the boys off at Child Watch, go to yoga for an hour, and then use the second hour for uninterrupted writing time. No sippy cups to fill or snacks to dish out. No naked parades through the house. I almost feel civilized when I write at the Y.

Yesterday looked promising on all accounts. Jackson practically pranced out the door, excited to be eating lunch at preschool for the first time. He proudly carried his Star Wars lunch box in one hand and rambled on during the entire drive. I dropped Jackson off at school and as I buckled Parker back into his car seat he asked, “Where we going, Mommy?” I braced myself for the onslaught of tears and drama, but he did not complain one bit when I told him we were heading to the Y. 

 The stars were aligning. I dropped Parker off at Child Watch and checked the clock. I was only seven minutes late for yoga. A new record for my punctuality. I felt quite accomplished as I walked into class. I rolled out my mat. I relaxed. I breathed. Then later, as I looked behind me while doing a downward dog, I saw a face peeking through the window into the studio. She looked familiar. Was she trying to get my attention? I pointed to my chest, me? She nodded. I plopped down on my mat and realized it was a YMCA employee who had come to retrieve me. Parker had pooped, of course! There is no such thing as life without interruptions. I walked back to Child Watch, changed a poopy diaper and got back in time for the last ten minutes of yoga. The good news was that I would now have the next full hour to work on some writing.  

I sat down at my little table and pulled out my iPad. This is when the unraveling began. I was greeted by this screen, a screen that would not go away despite all my wishing and thinking and trying.

 

You see, I’m not very savvy with technology. I’m a virtual granny. I’ve never backed up a single file, photo, or device. As I sat staring at that perplexing screen, I realized that I was getting ready to lose big time in the game of technology. It was time to navigate The Six Stages of Data Loss. I hope the same fate never finds you, but just in case it does, here’s what to expect:

Stage 1: Confusion

In this stage, your brow furrows. Your face is lost in deep thought and concentration as you try to resolve the problem. Your head tips from one side to the other as you consider different solutions. You think, “This is so weird. Why is my iPad locked? I’ve never seen this screen before. And why would it say, ‘iPad is disabled’? There is not even a keypad on the screen to type in my passcode. Where did THAT go? So weird.”

Stage 2: Fear

This stage is marked by a tightening in your chest. Uncertainty creeps into your mind as you walk through endless “what ifs” and none of the outcomes are pleasing. Sweat begins to pool in your armpits as you frantically turn the device on and off over and over again. You think, “Shit. What if I can’t get my iPad to work again? What if I lose everything? That would be catastrophic. Horrible. A national disaster.”  

Stage 3: Hope

You wonder if maybe you are overreacting. Maybe this isn’t doom and gloom. There is a chance that the iPad will work again and all your files will be intact. You seek out positive energy and good vibes. Your mind explores, “Maybe if I let it sit for a while, it will start working again. I’ll just wait. Surely there is someone somewhere who knows how to fix this thing. I know, I’ll google it. Google always solves everything. It can’t be that complex. There must be a way to fix it!”

Stage 4: Anger

Then the rage finds you. You’re frustrated by the ridiculousness of the situation. You want to throw the device out a nearby window. That would serve it right for locking up on you. Heat rises to your face as you scream internally, “Why is it still not working?? This is MY iPad. All I want to do is open it. I’m not asking for much. Open! Open! Open! How can they do this to me? I’m so mad at Apple and my purse and my keyboard. One of them or all of them are to blame. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.”

Stage 5: Self-Loathing

The anger soon transfers to yourself. You beat yourself up. You feel incompetent. You wonder, “What is wrong with me? This has probably happened to exactly nobody else in the entire world. Only a crazy lady could permanently lock her iPad. Clearly, I am a crazy lady. And I suck.”

Stage 6: Acceptance

You come to terms with the situation. Even though the problem feels quite tragic in the moment, you know deep down that it’s not the end of the world. It just feels like it is. You check in with perspective. You think, “It’s gone, all gone. I’ll just breathe in and out. I can’t fix or change or redo any of it. I’ll have to start anew.”  

 

I pieced together that the problem started as I carried my iPad and wireless keyboard inside my purse. The keyboard was turned on and as it jostled with each step, the keyboard keys were pressed, resulting in too many invalid attempts to unlock the iPad. This happened so many times that it permanently locked me out. As in forever. I called the Apple folks who confirmed that the only thing to do at this point was to wipe the iPad clean and start anew. My writing was gone. Lost in space. I would be starting fresh.  

I really didn’t want to start fresh. I was grumpy for a whole day. However, after slowly navigating The Six Stages of Data Loss I realized that it will all be okay. Stories will keep unfolding, I will keep writing. While Humpty Dumpty couldn’t be put back together again, my lost files won’t have the same fate. They can be recreated with some time and effort.  

So tonight I raise my glass to all the fresh starts we make by choice or circumstance, misfortune or ignorance. It’s hard to start again. I look outside my window and see that spring is on the verge of breaking through. It is just beginning its own fresh start. The yellow blooms from the forsythia quietly unfold, and I notice daffodils standing poised and proud in the morning sun. Green leaves sprout from the stalks of our hydrangea. Spring is all around me, offering the gentle reminder that starting over is well worth all the effort. After all, starting anew is the precursor to each and every bloom.  

Now I’m off to retrieve my iPad. I think I tossed it somewhere in the bushes. Stage 4 can be brutal.