One of the great joys of my life is the ability to have an 11-year-old girl in my orbit at my advanced age. Never in my wildest dreams would this be the case, but alas here we are. Many of my friends are empty-nesters, and they are enjoying their free time once again. No sporting events, parent teacher conferences, or lunch packing for them. If they want to take off for a weekend, they do it without reservation. It looks great, but I feel as though there will always be time for that, for us, later.
Maggie is a joy-filled bundle of enthusiasm and energy. She optimistically always has something to which she is looking forward. It could be a friend coming over in two days, a field trip, one of our older kids coming to visit, or a family movie that we agreed to watch. Whatever it is, she is always looking forward and lives life with no regrets. When the event that she has been looking forward to arrives, she greets it with enthusiasm and is fully present in that moment. The next day she will exclaim what is next on the list to be excited about. I don’t know that she ever looks backward. She doesn’t stew over things in the past in a way that can also be habit forming. I have known people that live entirely in the past, and the contrast is stark and eye opening for me.
She greets each day with a joy and energy that for me is a wonder. But at the same time, it is inspiring. She makes me take stock and re-think how I face each day. I am not as good as she is, but slowly, she has a way of inspiring me to look forward with enthusiasm. All too often I look at my expansive schedule with a “I hope I get through this” attitude. Everything on my calendar is good, and I truly do enjoy what I do for a living, but sometimes the schedule grows in an overly ambitious way that takes on a life of its own. The other problem I have is that some of the things to which I look forward are so far in the future that they seem elusive and unobtainable. Maybe a big trip, or a conference that may be a half a year away. I am living so far in the future that I don’t appreciate the day right in front of me.
I used to be a lot more like Maggie when I was younger; but the demands of the days and years have seemed to be added to my life like barnacles on the hull of a ship. Each one is a particular drag that clings to the side of the ship (beneath the water) invisible to everyone. Over the years the barnacles inhibit the speed and ease with which the ship moves through the water. Occasionally just Maggie’s presence and energy are like scraping those darn things off of my hull, and I am able to move more easily through the water. I do need her around to help me.
One intentional method that I have found to bring me back to the present is the gratitude jar we have in the office. (Maybe you have noticed it.) I know that I have mentioned it before, but how it works is worth repeating. Each morning Tammy places three blank slips of paper on our desks on which we will each write three things for which we are grateful. These are private and not read by anyone else. Once I take stock of my day, I can see the blessings for which I am grateful. I write it down, fold the paper in half and half again, and stuff it in the jar, which has a glass lid that makes a distinctive noise when placed back on. I can be down the hall in my office and hear that noise as someone else places her gratitudes in the jar. This sound is another gratitude for me, because I appreciate that someone else is grateful for something.
This practice, combined with living with my charming daughter and seeing her enthusiasm, brings me a little bit closer to living more in the present and emulating her. What are you looking forward to? What are you excited about? I would love to know.