Why do we forget this?
There is no way around the maze of daily problems and practical necessities…the only way is through. And it’s more often than not a maddening, exhausting “stroll”. Yet looking back over the years, do we actually remember all those bills, debts and complications that kept us up at night, made us cry, argue and suffer?
We may remember some, but for the most part, these are not the items that show up on the list when we look to sum up value in our lives from time to time. And they also don’t show up on the final lists of those who are at the end of life, and get to take one more look back. They ALL have the same conclusions, the same regrets, the same warnings for the rest of us still on the road.
Because what does add up are things we missed on. The bills all get shredded or stored away, but every single day we still pay the price for all the love, peace, tenderness, intimacy, and that simple joy of meaningfully sharing a life that we may have sacrificed to the small and big crises which came and eventually passed.
There’s an image I always bring up in the coaching sessions…after 9/11, Diane Sawyer picking up papers from the street among the debris, noting that only the day before, these papers had been so very important to someone in those doomed buildings. I’ve never looked at a bill the same way again.
There is no living without what I call “technical” structures that support and finance our existence. Money does not buy happiness, but it does create the space in which happiness can thrive. And I’d like to think that everyone of us starts out with the best intentions…to create the best possible circumstances for ourselves and those we love, so that the struggles over practicalities do not crush us. Because crush us they can, and they do.
And yet, we so often get lost in the problem-solving…in managing the finances, in our careers, in housekeeping, in family matters. Every session with a client ultimately leads to this one fundamental issue…that people neglect or outright forget love, intimacy, affection; they forget about supporting each other emotionally, having fun, nurturing passion and romance, holding each other as partners, holding each other as parents and children, sharing, taking time to laugh and be silly, cuddle, and yes, even talk.
I was sitting with the boys on the couch watching Sponge Bob this past weekend, and in spite of the cuddles, I must have gotten up half a dozen times to pick up and clean. Until I realized I’m spending more time trying to fix something around the house instead of spending time with those I’m fixing the house for!
So I sat down. Soon enough however, I started apologizing to the boys for another day at home. I would have liked to offer them a trip somewhere. I would have liked to take them out for dinner at a pricey restaurant they love, and let them eat crab-cakes and sushi to their heart’s content. I would have liked to have a secret fund for my oldest, so that when he’s 16, he can have his own car as many of his friends will. And in spring or summer, I would have liked to have everything set up so as to take the boys on a trip abroad, to expose them to another culture, to museums and a lifestyle different than the one they know. Or maybe not even abroad…just to be able to take them both to Manhattan for a few days. They both were, after all, born in NY.
And yet I can’t do any of these things right now, and it bothers me greatly. I compensate in other ways, by sometimes hyper-focusing on the things I can offer, like special meals, clean clothes, and a clean house. With so many animals, and a schedule about to get even crazier, it’s not easy to keep up even with the basics. Some nights we resort to paper plates because I just don’t have the energy to even imagine more dishes to wash and put away.
The boys listened to my speech about not doing enough, then told me, as they often do, that I am the best mom in the world. I replied I’m most definitely not, because I wish I could give them so much more, and think they deserve so much more.
“But mom, you give us everything that matters…you’re the best” the older one said, and watched me predictably tear up.
I am not the best mom to be sure, but when I stop spending all my time trying to solve problems and focus instead on these two boys I love, we all end up giving and receiving so much more of what matters most. I still have to clean, and I really hate it, just as I don’t particularly like cooking, dishes, laundry or doing the floors…not to mention paying bills. I also still worry, about the future, about finances, about a million and one things that ideally would be addressed and resolved right now. Because make no mistake about it, they ARE very important. Still, there is a way to live without letting all these things take over, and basically suck all the joy and essence out of life.
I’ve learned my lesson long ago…that problems, however urgent and massive at times, do get resolved and do pass. What also passes however are the opportunities to love and live, to truly connect with those for whom we so actively seek to solve problems in the first place. So it’s essential, and I can’t say it enough, that we stop, put down the bills, set aside the worries, stop trying to plan everything and resolve everything…and take the time to invest in what will eventually last and count…take time to love more, connect more, laugh more, get silly, cuddly and share….you know, the little things, the simple happinesses in life.
Before posting this, I came across another beautiful reminder…and no surprise there, for how can the words of Kahil Gibran be anything but beautiful and inspiring:
“For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed”.