It’s humbling to admit this little epiphany occurred to me when watching a movie called “About Time.” The movie is one of those think about your life, cherish the small things and live every day to the fullest kind of movies…very cliché stuff, which is not typically my kind of flick.
But…my personal revelation came at the end of the movie when a father and son have just one single moment to re-live before they will never see each other again, and they very consciously and purposely choose to re-live a day simply walking together on the beach and throwing stones into the ocean – the kind of uneventful day we easily discard all the time. And, of course, that was the point…
The father selected this seemingly uneventful afternoon as their final memory as father and son – the last moment they’d ever enjoy together – as a day spent walking on the beach. Wow. So simple, and so sweet. This scene broke my heart wide open. In the deepest, most personal part of my soul, I felt a little shame, a little guilt and a lot of regret.
I can’t count how many times I’ve failed to cherish peaceful afternoons with my family, heck – even full days. Far too often I’m caught up making sure everything gets done for the day, and I don’t ask myself why am I doing any of it? Goodness knows, I’m not stopping to savor the seconds that tick away right in front me.
Why do we run around scurrying kids to activities, or ask them to “keep it down” while they play because we are SO busy watching a movie, game or some other unimportant activity? How many times have I been too busy with work just to take a few minutes to throw the ball in the backyard with my son? For that matter, how many times am I too upset focusing on what they’re doing that I don’t like, that I miss all the amazing things they are doing that I love.
What I’m forgetting far too often is that life IS throwing the ball with my son, not for some pre-determined goal of improving at a sport, but for the sake of throwing the ball with my son. Too many days become a competition against one another, but for what?
As far as I can tell, the purpose of my life is to pass on what wisdom I may have to my children, and make sure they become people with great character and integrity. Cherishing time with them definitely helps to accomplish that goal, and encouraging them to follow their passions surely accomplishes that goal as well.
Often enough, I find myself reversing this purpose – as if task completion is the goal, or that perfection is expected with every little activity. I need to re-think how I view of each moment of every day. That could mean laughing at my children’s clumsiness when they break something, instead of yelling. Or perhaps it could be finding pride in a strong-willed, defiant little spirit, rather than frustration. Quite often, it will mean eliminating tasks and activities completely, or just letting the kids do things in their own way….which may not be how I’d do it, or even the way it can be done…but simply how they choose to do it.
Thanks Mr. Whitman for so saying it so eloquently, from this moment forward,
“I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…”
My question for anyone reading this is – are you so busy watching every little thing, that you are failing to embrace anything? I was doing just that. I hadn’t created enough of my own, personal cliché moments, and its time to end that practice.
For all of you, who are like me – make a decision to enjoy every single moment as if it will be that one afternoon you choose to consciously and purposefully re-live at the end of your life. When close to the end of my years, I know it’s not going to be work projects, sports or vapid entertainment activities that I remember. I want to be looking back at countless uneventful afternoons, where I hope I can proudly say, I didn’t miss a thing.
To all the cliché moments ahead of me.
PS – I stopped writing this 3 separate times to play games with the kids. This is something I was completely incapable of doing just days ago. Hope for me after all…
Very good post. I, too, have been struggling with this issue. Having just landed a few hours ago on what was my 58th airplane this year, I wonder whether the time away from the family is worth it. Like you, I find myself spending too much time focused on the mistake my kids make and not enough time praising the things they do right or even their attempt to do right. Your post will keep my noodling things for quite some time. Thank!
Loved Thea Shoemake’s response to this post, channeling Thoreau.
“Out of fierce, unadulterated love, we want to protect and provide for so many things: physical, education, opportunity & civil liberties; a quest that will all too often separate us from the very ones for whom we are passionately driven to provide & protect.
Then, the rubber band effect: Realizing that nothing can make up for our presence, especially since we will not always be here, we snap back and wonder how we ever thought that working harder, as fruitful as it may be, apart from them, can even come close to the joy of being together. This [hopefully] prevents us from extending out so far, off-balance, the next time we inadvertently venture out.”
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” ~Henry David Thoreau
Your article reminds me of an “I don’t remember where I heard it” quote, “Quantity time leads to quality time.”
When my business partner’s son was in the ICU with traumatic brain injury and the world had collapsed under everyone’s feet. I remember him – one of the greatest communicators I know – reaching into the depths of his soul just to say good night to his son as we left the hospital one evening. The most hopeful, closest, most heartfelt, most human thing I think I have ever heard one person say to another was his simple promise to his son “We are going to get through this. I am proud of you. And we will be grilling out in the back yard again soon.”
John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans.” Don’t miss it.