Do we spend so much time rushing we miss out on the beauty of everyday life?
I’ve been contemplative this week. That happens around my birthday, and I’ve written some long pieces that share my heart about our culture. It’s tiring. And a few weeks ago I was writing about wasting time, and I felt unsettled, as if some things were left unsaid. I do believe that we waste too much time, but the answer is no always to be more productive. Sometimes it’s just to do things that feed our souls, rather than things–like video games–that sap it.
While thinking this I came across this column I wrote about ten years ago. I never published it on the blog, but I thought it fit in well with these themes. So I thought it was time. I hope you enjoy it.
Gophers were not meant to run.
They’re pear shaped with tiny little legs, and when they try to gain speed the effect is not of grace as much as it is of galump-galump-galump, as the flab takes time to catch up to the rest of the body. It’s quite the sight to behold.
Right now I’m watching a gopher—-or is it a groundhog? I can’t remember the difference—-trying in vain to put distance between himself and a very inquisitive toddler. I’ve hooked up my laptop in a library, where I can gaze out the window and enjoy the scenery when the mood captures me. It’s really very peaceful. That’s why I choose to come here rather than stay in my home with the telephone, and the doorbell, and the feeling that I should put on a load of laundry the second writer’s block hits.
Too often we drown the comfort out of our lives in favour of rushing.
It seems we almost bow at the altar of multi-tasking. Few things, though, are truly satisfying when they’re hurried.
One of my favourite times of day is in late afternoon, after I’ve rushed through my day, and my to-do list is as to-done as it’s going to be. I slip a jazz CD in, pour myself something good, and begin to cook. I’m not a great cook, but I do enjoy trying. Chopping vegetables, smelling the garlic and onions as they sautee, or seasoning the roast are all immensely satisfying. I even love cleaning up the kitchen while everything is spending the last few minutes simmering. It’s supremely satisfying to know that one has created a decent meal for one’s family, and has had fun doing it.
On the nights when my husband isn’t home it’s hard to get up the energy to do all that. I wonder what the
point is, since the children are unlikely to appreciate it anyway. Increasingly, though, I’m beginning to understand that I need that forty-five minutes or an hour to myself to reflect on my day and feel that I can at least accomplish something. It feels very purposeful.
Of course, being purposeful doesn’t mean that we always have to be productive.
I think that’s a rather modern, North American way of looking at life. Some of my favourite, purposeful memories aren’t when I was “doing” anything at all. I remember one particular day when Rebecca was only three months old and was lying on a playmat on the floor. She was looking into my eyes and “vocalizing”, as my pediatrician would say. I think she was actually telling me a story. And I remember ordering myself to study her face, so that I could remember just what that moment was like for the rest of my life, as if I were bottling it up for posterity. And I did. It was perfect.
I had other such moments that perhaps don’t make me smile so much but are just as meaningful. I remember the conversation I had with my little boy in the hospital room before they came to carry him off to the surgery from which he would not recover. I told him all the important things I wanted him to know, and held him, and kissed him, and memorized his eyelashes, and his fingernails, and his tiny mouth.
More recently, I cherish the times that my husband and I spend just walking around our block, exploring our new neighbourhood and filling each other in on our days. We’re not moving fast enough for it to really count as exercise, but that doesn’t mean it’s time wasted. On the contrary. It’s time that feeds your soul.
I read recently that Albert Einstein once wrote that we either live as if everything is a miracle, or as if nothing is.
I prefer to believe that everything is, but that means I need to take time and actually enjoy what I’ve been given. So stop and smell the roses. Gaze at your child’s face. Or watch the gophers. There’s much in life to enjoy if only we could learn to savour it.