Tuesday, March 2, 2010

To Have and to Hold

Sam, watching Nate and Calvin walk down the street to the bus stop. 7:18 am.

Some people measure the span of a life in years. Decades. Generations.

I measure mine in minutes.

I slice the segments of the day into small slivers and devour them whole. I do not waste time; I spur it forward, hitting the ground running early in the morning. I use the whole buffalo, checking email while making breakfast, writing copy with one eye on the clock in order to get Toby dressed in time for preschool. I contact travel industry reps while watching soccer practice, and I write fiction with Nerf wars raging around me.

The other day, I sat down for my daily dose of bloggers-who-are-better-than-me and read Aidan Donnelley Rowley's Not Good Enough. And whoa boy, did it resonate. My mood is dictated by the internal meter of my success which is always, always running against the clock. I fervently wish this wasn't so. The second hand ticks steadily forward until it's 11 am and preschool pick-up time. The hour hand slowly ages me as my kids grow and the years flip like pages in a book. I let accomplishment or lack thereof bat me around like a cork in a tide: small successes equal small joys, a smile, an ability to let go and allow the afternoon to slide.

Failures pull me under.

I used to think that when Thoreau said to live deliberately, he meant to seek out purpose and uncover it with the careful hand of an anthropologist, mindful of its fragility and value. To brush off each opportunity with steady strokes, and then use it as the tool it is. To not wish and hope life away, but to act and do with conscious care. I still think this, but perhaps I've been digging in the wrong place.

Maybe happiness is as deliberate a choice as anything else. Maybe contentment is within reach right under the soil of the life I've built. Maybe I can lay claim to it whether I'm measuring up to the model of success I've set for myself or not. And maybe then the unmet expectations and the accomplishments not yet checked off the list will cease to matter. Or at least cease to pound a steady drumbeat in my head when I lie down at night. Maybe it'll be calm there, in that place, still waters running deep, tucked away from the turbulent wake I usually tread.

I have so much. I have these amazing children, whom the dog watches leave each morning and return each afternoon with yearning in his eyes. Because he knows what he has when he has it. And wants nothing more. And I have this incredible husband, who--and I know it sounds clichéd, but it's true--loves me for who I am. I have health. I have beauty all around me. I have comfort and travel and the opportunity to seek knowledge. These are things that have been gifted to me.

To have.

To hold.

And I'm not terribly good with gifts. I prefer the hard scrabble, the fighting tooth and nail. Grace doesn't come easily. In fact, that's an understatement. But don't think I don't thank God for them every day, in a whisper, in a thought, while the keys depress under my fingertips or the road slips by beneath my sneakered feet. Perhaps it's a mantra I need to repeat on the hour, every hour of every day:

To have and to hold.

To have and to hold.

To have and to hold.

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