Sometimes I feel like I design my life to be a series of challenges. I consciously choose difficult paths, persevere to get through them by checking off each task/day/month, and then bask momentarily in the satisfaction of completion until I move on to the next. I don't have a concrete set of longterm goals that I'm working towards. Instead, I take it one thing at a time, driven by this constant feeling of "What's next?". This is particularly true in my professional life (schooling, training, and each difficult project I undertake), but I've recently discovered the same pattern in my personal life.
My current challenge, of course, is parenting a newborn---the breastfeeding, colic, sleep deprivation, all coupled with the lack of any meaningful positive feedback make this phase particularly harrowing for me. I keep looking ahead to each milestone not as a beginning but as an end of a more difficult phase. 3 months, 4 months, 6 months....I realize that soon...much sooner than I can imagine...the challenge of early infancy will be over. Then the inevitable enters my mind..."What's next?"
I mentioned this before, but the idea that I have finally "arrived" is terrifying and unnerving. Its easier for me to keep my eye on the prize and power through to a finite endpoint then to really dive in and live this life fully & deeply. I wonder if this tendency comes from the years and years of study & training where life was divided neatly into semesters/blocks/rotations that you weathered through, crossing days off a calender. If life sucked, just wait a few weeks, it would change completely---without any personal effort, just the routine changing of the schedule. I never really had a consistency to my life, where I knew that the next month, season, year would by and large have the same structure & rhythm, and that I would have to consciously work to improve, but also, enjoy it.
I have been attempting to change this mindset. To learn to stop pushing ahead and wishing my life away one challenge at a time. To appreciate & even enjoy the career, family, and life I have built for myself. Because as much as I tend to wish away the present times, I know how fleeting life can be, and that there may come a time when I will be wishing wishing wishing to have these moments back.
For now, I want to savor (for the last time) the wonder of a newborn baby...the way he smiles in his sleep & flashes his dimples, the way he moves his arms around so aimlessly as if he is still underwater, the way he clings to our chests like a treefrog when he's sleeping, the lovely warmth of him snuggled up in the crook of my arm in bed on these cold nights. Simultaneously I am trying to savor the amazing transformation of a nearly-two year old...the way his vocabulary is expanding daily & everything we say is fair game for copycatting...yet some words persistantly come out so adorably wrong (bicy-kickle for bicycle, go-wanna for gorilla, mo morning for good morning), the way he's developing interests (music, books) and personality quirks (shy, but with a sense of humor like both his parents; he wants to see "KIDS!" at the park but then hides behind my knees when they come say hello. He's making jokes---saying daddy is a gorilla or that the he wants the dog to read his stories tonight.)
There is just so much going on right here & right now...I don't want to look back and realize I missed it all because my eyes, mind, and heart were too busy looking ahead.