Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Two steps ahead

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.


  1. I hear you. Sometimes I think that all I want to do is be able to relax. To have finally made it to a place in my career/life where I'm not constantly looking towards the next challenge. But then I think I would grow tired of the status quo if it stayed the same for long enough. That I'd regret not continuing to push myself. I think the compromise you've settled on makes a lot of sense -- Keep pushing yourself, but also take the time to savor what you have now. And hey, what's wrong with savoring? It's like when you think, "Wow, I actually GOT that grant! That was a good piece of work!" or, "I am so lucky to have found my husband, it feels so nice to lie on the couch with him watching a movie," for instance. Hopefully I'll feel the same way about the offspring!

  2. Great post! I completely recognized myself in it. For me too it's hard to live in the moment, savor my beautiful kids while they are still little instead of just looking ahead, looking to pass another day. I guess we just have to keep trying.