Life can change forever in a moment. We all know that on some level, of course. Either we’ve been there, or we’ve witnessed someone we know whose entire life was upended by a random moment that stopped everything dead in its tracks.
When life-changing moments happen, I yearn for a deeper understanding of whether there were warning signs or contributing factors that might have signaled the impending change. I evaluate my own life and wonder if I too am moments or years away from everything halting. I say the same silent prayers everyone says to protect those they hold most dear and hope for the best.
Over the past few months, I’ve witnessed three families experience these gutting, life altering moments of significant tragedy. I’m fascinated by the resilience of people, the value of community during moments such as these, when the life someone has built has swiftly fallen apart. There are a great many lessons we can take away from these moments, but the one I’ve come back to over and again this year as I bore witness to the tremendous loss of another revolves around this question: “Am I taking everything for granted?”
Am I enjoying it all enough? Am I grateful enough? As a parent, how do I balance the taxing nature of parenthood and my need for self-care amidst the chaos of these years with the need to enjoy every single second you can with my children? As an employee, how do I balance day-to-day frustrations with the gratitude I hold for my job? Am I filling my hours and days with enough joy that, if it all came to a sudden end, I’d be happy with the way I lived?
Answering those questions is really a matter of perspective. When my perspective is narrow and I’m looking at just the past few days or hours, it’s hard to give myself the balance I need to sustain the pace of this season. The competing priorities of parenthood, marriage, home ownership, work, friendship, faith and self all require my full attention. If I’m spending the evening snuggling and reading with my daughter, then the dishes won’t also get done tonight. Yes to one good thing is no to another good thing, maybe for now, maybe for longer. How can I feel frustrated with this screaming toddler when my friend would give anything to have her toddler back?
I’m learning that the answer to the question, “Am I taking everything for granted?” is both yes and no. There are moments I’m not enjoying it enough, but also there are moments of tremendous joy. It’s both/and. No, I’m not enjoying the tantrum in the moment, at all. But, when the tantrum settles and those pudgy arms wrap around my neck, there’s no end to the amount of gratitude I have for that precious babe.
When I can lift my head out of the chaos and broaden my perspective, it’s much easier to see that everything is good, and identify the areas that need attention. This past Christmas, in the midst of a fresh swarm of questions about whether my priorities were in the correct order, I made a photo book for each of my children as a gift. Each book featured one of my children and their highlights of the year.
As I was compiling the photo books, I was reminded of the awesome things we’d done together as a family over the course of the year. We’d taken trips, visited museums, walked to the playground dozens of times, celebrated birthdays, watched parades and enjoyed ice cream cones. There’s no limit to our capacity for wonderful moments, so no matter when it comes to an end, in a year or in a hundred, it’ll never feel like enough. Yet, with a broader perspective, we can see how rich the lives we’re leading are, and find comfort in the tension of this incredible season.