One High Holiday morning many years ago, when my oldest was still very small, the township began to remove the massive metal plates that had been covering the gaping holes in the road outside our shul for months. My son and his posse of friends stood there transfixed, watching the trucks and the men at work. We moms all agreed we could never have planned a better activity to keep them busy for so long.
The memory is imprinted with their childhood sense of wonder, that ability to shut out everything else and focus solely on some magical thing in the present. At a time when it was so much easier to make them happy than it is now, it was breathtaking to see them take simple pleasure in learning how things worked – that, and the thundering bang the plates made when they landed on the flatbed of one of the trucks.
As I drove home the other day, I had a bit of déjà vu. Several trucks were parked across the street. One worker stood inside a cherry picker, hovering above a tall oak, while a handful of others held tethers to the tree from below. It was noisy, and at first I was frustrated, certain I’d never be able to concentrate on a writing assignment I needed to finish. Yet to my surprise, I let it go. In fact, I found myself smiling because the sight of a huge saw and a falling tree would once have been such fascinating entertainment for my sons.
Before I knew it, I had taken my cup of coffee and opened the front door to watch them work. I kept thinking, “I’ve got so much to do,” but couldn’t tear myself away. It dawned on me that I was reliving that cherished moment in front of the shul, a scene the boys – now young men – likely don’t even remember. They are blessed, thank God, not to feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. They are of the age when they are busy enjoying the here and now, paying almost no attention to the past, and to the future only on an as-needed basis.
To say it was out of character for me to just stand around like that would be an understatement. I’m the sort to carry my worries on my sleeve, to let them keep me awake at night, to allow them to distract me throughout the day. But as I watched that tree, and then the next one, come down, I realized how much I want to take a cue from my boys and let this living in the moment thing come more naturally to me. I want to enjoy, not just accomplish, to dream more and worry less, to stop moving at such a harried pace, and mostly, to master the art of making the time to enjoy it.
I’m not expecting I’ll become a different person overnight. I admit it’s going to be a struggle, especially for someone so nostalgic yet so anxious about the future all in one package. My first move is to try silencing the voice in my head that usually hinders me, the one saying, “I’ll wait until/when/after.”
Now I’m making big plans: to return to the days of weekly dates with my husband, to shut down the computer at dinner time, to curl up with a book a little earlier each night. Let’s see if this middle-aged dog can master a few new tricks. Let’s see, shall we, if I can fall madly, deeply in love with the here and now.