Posted by: Ingrid | October 10, 2015

Living in a Gift

The other night as I was going to bed I recalled something I’d seen on Facebook that morning.  A child I’d babysat when I went away to college was now twenty-five.  Twenty-five. I vividly recalled him in his ten-year-old form, precociously pontificating from behind the couch, while I chased the unclothed two-year-old and his other two siblings danced around the room.  That somehow sparked a whole trail of memories of the three years in southern California working on my BA, memories so tangible that I caught my breath at how vivid they could be fifteen years out.

I was away at school, with hardly a demand on me other than paying for my education by working on campus twenty hours a week and keeping up with 18-21 units of classes.  But other than that, I could have done anything, explored anything, visited anything and anyone.  I could have approached interesting people, tried things that intrigued me, traveled to different places.  I had all the time.  All the time in the world.

I was living in the middle of a gift and I didn’t even realize it.

Instead of leaning into the endless opportunity I rationalized my way out of my semester at Oxford even after applying and being accepted (couldn’t figure out the exact price tag and refused to take out loans). I let opportunities slip by because the fear that I was too fat, or I wouldn’t get in enough exercise for the day, or would (God forbid) be somewhere where I would eat something I hadn’t planned on and then get even bigger than I already was, trump the fact that there was a whole lot more to be interested in than whether my thighs were too big.

Of course I see that now and I see the waste, so much waste, of time and energy and emotion on things that never ever mattered in the first place.  It makes me wish I could go back and grab all of the things that I missed, to throw out the limitations I set up to make my college life predictable, calculated, and safe.

More than that, I know that right now, in the middle of my messy house with three days worth of laundry that I keep moving from floor to bed, with the three kids running around, that I am still living in the middle of a gift.  And I am so afraid that I won’t really be able to appreciate it for another fifteen years when it’s gone. I don’t want to spend my life always looking back and wishing I had enjoyed and soaked in all life had to offer in the moment.

I see it when I look across at my daughter with her curled hair framing her face, peanut butter smeared on her round cheeks and I’m struck by the fact that I can’t have ever seen anything so beautiful.  Or when the boys go tearing out the door to greet their dad at dinner time, with our strange kitten loping after them.  Or when I have my lap full of kids voraciously listening to book after book and they are so interested and intelligent and alive. Or when I get home from a run and a pajama clad pirate and a superhero come tearing out the door yelling: “Mooooommmmmmmmyyyyyy!”

I feel like the moments when I actually realize that now is a gift are wrapped in so many layers of mundane exhausting never ending repetitive activities.  I want to press fast forward and get to the really interesting part with more sleep and less laundry. Whenever it is that I can sit in rapt fascination of the sheer energy and creativity my children possess.

At the very least, I will keep reminding myself of the gift my life is right now. Maybe that means in fifteen years I will look back and think, “What an exhausting gift that was!” rather than feeling remorse over missing it.

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