It’s Saturday morning, and it’s just me and Will. He wants to play in the backyard, so I sit in one of our beach chairs– our make-shift patio furniture — bare feet on the concrete, hot tea in hand. It’s overcast and just slightly cool which reminds me of home in Napa but also of mornings at Carp.
I watch him as he scampers around the yard, pointing at birds, oohing at planes overhead, throwing his head back in laughter at the dogs, and then running towards me with his toothy, open-mouthed grin. And then he stops and sees the dirt. He looks up at me, his red curly hair flopping just a bit as he does so, and he grins. He shovels a fist full of dirt in his hand and chucks it behind him. Over and over again.
I start to get up to grab my phone to document the moment, but decide against it.
It’s been a week where I’ve been on my phone or on my computer too much. I know it’s true because I feel a fog settle in my brain and it feels like I’m only partially present. I’m playing with Will, but I’m also thinking about the 30 things I need to do as soon as he goes to sleep. I’m writing an email, but I’m also putting on eyeliner, making breakfast, and feeding Will. It’s been a week where I’m so consumed with what I must finish that instead of using my free moments wisely, I’m filling the margin with scrolling, checking in, reminding. It’s the tension of the multi-tasker, the tension that I’m fairly certain everyone feels.
And here’s the thing- I don’t hate it. By and large I love the tasks on my to-list, the items on my google calendar.
But sometimes the pace is too much, the fog rolls in, and it feels as though life is a blur and you’re just trying to catch up.
As I sat in my fancy patio furniture watching Will I remember the years of longing for a child. It’s a wave that arrives every few days, reminding me of where we’ve been. And I remember that on a good day I had a sense of gratitude for simply being alive to feel it all, even if the feeling was hard.
Now, here I am watching my son. I am fighting the urge to accomplish while he plays. I could do this, I should do that, and so on and so forth. But it’s him- he’s here, he’s still here, and I want to know him better than I know my schedule or even my students. I am his student.
And so, I sit. I sit and I listen to him play with dirt. If I took a picture of it to show you, it would be commonplace, nominal. But for me, in this moment, I’m feeling it all.
I watch as he sits on the concrete next to the grass, right up to the spot where Bailey has been digging. His hands find the dirt and he’s amazed. He spots a bag and begins to fill his fists with dirt and transfer it to the bag. He looks up at me with his thin-lipped face- the look he gets when he’s very serious and focused on a task. It’s the face he made when he was trying to hold a toy for the first time, when he was trying to roll over, and when he was trying to turn the pages of a board book. He looks back down, intent on the ground. His pale, slightly rosy cheeks remind me that it’s still morning, my favorite time of day. His brow furrows as though he’s doing some really important work.
I sit back and just keep watching, experiencing right here and right now.
I don’t have the balance of work and family figured out. And I certainly don’t have the balance of when to connect and when to unplug figured out. I know that I believe in both, and so I’m going to try and spend time on either sides. There are lots of essays and TED Talks on this topic and the thing I keep realizing is that no one has it figured out- ever. I think the only litmus test is the murmur in my own soul, when I feel the fog rolling in. When it happens I need to listen well enough to respond.
Tomorrow will arrive and the pace will pick back up. I’ll both love it and be exhausted by it, but I’ll remember the backyard, I’ll remember his curly red hair and the sound of stillness.