Our family loves to sing. Our girls have the sweetest voices, and they’re big fans of Disney songs, so now and then we’ll put sing-along tracks up on YouTube and pull out their toy microphones and turn our living room into a makeshift karaoke bar. In one of those perfect family moments, I remember looking at my daughters’ cherubic faces as they chirped out the chorus of one of the songs from Moana, and thinking, for just a second, “This is as good as it gets. This is the good stuff.”
No sooner did that thought come into my consciousness that it was followed with one of fear. “What if it’s not always like this? What if something happens to my children? What if there’s a disease looming in one of us that we don’t yet know about?” Instead of enjoying the goodness of that evening, I succumbed to a state of panic for what’s unknown.
That’s the thing about good seasons, they feel vulnerable. It feels irresponsible to get too caught up in them, because they could end at any second, without notice. Isn’t it more prudent to prepare our hearts and minds for whatever tragedy might be waiting in the wings?
Researcher and author Brené Brown gives us a term for this feeling: foreboding joy. Brown explains, “Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience, and if you cannot tolerate joy, what you do is you start dress rehearsing tragedy.” What if my child gets hit by a car while riding her bike? What if my husband isn’t just 10 minutes late, but instead has been in an accident? What if this fever is a symptom of something more serious?
Dress rehearsing tragedy isn’t preparing me for anything. People who have suffered, as we all will, know that there’s nothing that can prepare you for great sorrow. Instead, they compel you to be grateful for the good things you have while you have them. When we numb our joy or self-protect by disallowing ourselves from savoring the good seasons, we’re not saving ourselves a single moment of heartache when it’s our turn to suffer; we’re simply robbing ourselves of the sweetness of life.
I am in a really good season right now, and I’m striving to savor every morsel. This weekend, my husband and I took our children to visit my parents and my brother and sister-in-law for lunch. My parents just moved into a new house, and following lunch, we took the girls outside to explore the woods behind their new house. My children’s giggles echoed through the field as we explored with full, satisfied bellies and the sun gleaming down upon our faces.
This time, rather than panic or allow the intrusive “what if’s” to invade the moment, I silenced my phone and took a mental snapshot. I tried to small details about how our daughters are in this very moment: skin soft, golden streaks woven through their hair, gap-toothed smiles, gleaming, ornery eyes. I smelled the flowers, I admired the way that nature had sprung around us. I silently thanked God for these undeserved blessings. I breathed in and gave myself permission to just enjoy this sweet, sparkly, fleeting moment, whether or not it’s one of a million or the very last one.