When the word lockdown entered our vocabulary, back when it seemed like a proposition that might last a couple of weeks, I believed this would be the ultimate setting to slow down. This was certainly uncomfortable, with looming uncertainty and persistent unrest, but within the walls of our home, I sought peace with abandon. If there was a time to savor moments with our family, it was now.
“How much longer are we going to be stuck like this?” a saucy eight-year-old asked this summer. She was unimpressed by my attempts at a family yoga session. Since there are very few places left to go, stuck seems to be the operative word for 2020.
In this “stuck-ness”, despite seeking feelings of peace in our home, there was an underlying sense of urgency that would not leave my mind. Part of our daily lives was lacking, we just couldn’t put a finger to what. Something will be taken from us, if it hadn’t already disappeared this year. We have to protect this enigma, since we aren’t quite sure what it is. Trying to safeguard the unknown only makes our scrambling more desperate.
When I got out of my head long enough to actually see my children, my third-born caught my eye, as she’s apt to do. This child was born to be heard and forces your attention in all the not-so-subtle ways. She is always running, her aggressive movements reflecting urgent busyness. Tinkering is her specialty, whether it’s a pre-designed STEM crate or our vacuum cleaner, she will conquer each task with the grace of a bull.
As she matures, I’ve noticed her attempts to change. She is trying to slow down, to savor the moments around her. This is a struggle, and more counter to her being than any experience in her short life thus far. I see her as a reflection of myself; less so in her impulsive behavior, but certainly in her attempts to be more thoughtful.
How do we encourage this transition from aggressive to thoughtful? How do we alter ourselves, when we’re used to running at full steam, in fifth gear, through life? Can we change, while still respecting the people we are at the core?
In our attempts to move away from urgency, I’m reminded that being thoughtful does not mean that we have become complacent, defeated, or lazy. Instead, we attempt to move through life giving attention where it’s deserved.
If we are always multi-tasking, hurried, and rushed, there is little space to be thoughtful. By savoring the moments we have in front of us, we can contribute to the hidden blessings already in our midst.
Doing more isn’t necessarily better; often, the simplest answer is the right one. At the hospital bedside, I teach my nursing students that there is always something nurses can do. When medical interventions cease, we can improve our patient’s care simply by being present. Whether they are waiting for test results or seeking peace at the end of this life, spending a moment to be thoughtfully present with our patients is often the best action to take.
I am working to translate this lesson from the hospital to my home. There’s little coincidence that I’m writing this essay the morning two of my children were supposed to set foot in a school building for the first time since March. And then the roads flooded from tropical depression-like downpours. It’s so 2020.
There’s such a strong sense of urgency regarding our children’s education and how far they’ll fall behind in this inconsistent, atypical environment. While I’ve been told I am a decent nursing instructor, I can assure you that does not translate to teaching a sixth, third, first, and preschool-aged child. I am about as secure in their virtual classrooms as I am at the dentist; it seems like something I should do, and the research supports it, so I’ll clench my hands while the discomfort ensues.
In November, as we turn our minds towards gratitude, my goal is to acknowledge my appreciation through savoring thoughtful presence with my family. Yes, there is still work to be done, maybe even more now that this year has been so tough on us all. Our tasks are abundant; there are always ways to improve outcomes and ensure that we are serving our families well. But in the moments when we are defeated, whether it’s by the state of our nation, our discomfort in a new circumstance that seems to be here to stay, or the pile of laundry that we can’t conquer, I wonder if we can savor instead.
In their last semester of school, my nursing students have one goal, and that’s to swim like a duck. Fully explained, we want them to be able to enter a patient’s presence with peace and tranquillity, while paddling tirelessly under the water to provide excellent care. I’m planning to change it this year; I think we can float, without any behind-the-scenes paddling. We have had enough urgency and despair. My students know what their patients need, and they will work to ensure that they have it, but without perpetual panic that comes from a hidden struggle.
I’ll work to extend the same grace to my household. We know what our children need, and it’s not always more work to do. Even if it means that they fall a bit behind academically, we can set them up for success by savoring the extra time we’ve been given. They need a present parent, who will sit with them through their struggles and their triumphs.
And maybe then, by grace alone, we’ll learn to follow our own lead.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in this series “Savor”.