I thought today about what I would do to enjoy the day if I knew it would be my last. I didn’t stay in that place too long because I do plan to stick around for quite a while. [Though having a realtor randomly show up and ask us if we’re planning to sell in the near future gave me a foreboding “what if…?” to ponder.]
Anyway, I decided to wear my white pants before Memorial Day. And then I decided that I could spend my “alone time” with my son, who was feeling left out by his brother and sister. I suggested we go on a walk to our mailbox (it’s a small hike, uphill both ways), and he eagerly got ready.
Then he looked at the hill and asked if we could drive. I guess I haven’t taken him on my daily jogs to the mailbox. A walk sounded so much more pleasant.
I asked him what he would like to do. First he had me jump on the trampoline with him and play “Dead Man.” Eerie.
Next, he wanted to “cool off” by walking on the grass. I liked that idea since we have some grass now. We’ve been doing a lot of work to put in a yard without paying someone tens of thousands of dollars.
So we have tens of thousands of weeds.*
But! My husband bought a fancy riding lawnmower that trims those weeds down to a humble height so that I can don my ghostbuster pack and spray weeds until it’s pitch black outside.
[I actually just came inside from doing that. When spraying wild blackberries, you don’t need to see what you’re doing to hit your target. You just listen for the sound of spray hitting impenetrable foliage while barbed vines threaten to trip you and tear you apart. That’s all.]
Back to my lawn buddy. We went out on our work-in-progress green and talked rocks. He said I could put big rocks into his tractor bucket. I found fist-sized rocks on our mowed meadow while he pedaled his hand-me-down, falling apart love-of-his-life plastic tractor along a gentle slope. He informed me that the rocks were tiny.
I disagreed as I had all sorts of tiny rocks that I was throwing into the road as free gravel.
He gave me a look, that said, “Honestly, Mom, I’m ten percent of your age, and you need me to show you a big rock?”
Then he walked to the edge of the yard and tried to heft one of the 3-5 pound stones along the road.
“Mom, this is a big rock! See how it’s bigger than my knee?”
Oh, I saw. It was bigger than my knee. My knee that was now on the dirt bracing me against the ground as I pulled out a tiny rock. White pants. The white pants that were going to keep me from doing yard work so I could just enjoy my day.
The usual conversation in my head began to roll. I was explaining to someone that I had planned to just relax by wearing just-relax-clothing. The other person in the conversation said that was like trying to go shopping while hungry. I’m not sure if that was a logical comparison, but I politely went on with the conversation.
“No, you see, I find yardwork to be quite relaxing. I don’t really mind if I get dirty.”
“But,” the other person pointed out, “you told yourself you were going to relax and enjoy your day, and now you’re obsessing over weeds again.”
Then a small scuffle started in my head. Was I being honest with myself by confronting this little hypocrisy I’d found, or was I deceiving myself into just reliving the same day over and over because I wasn’t letting myself enjoy it?
I dug deep. I could settle this fuss with a win-win approach called “love what I do and do what I love.” Ah, the power of tricking my brain through positive thinking (it usually only works once, and then my inner toddler catches on).
I walked over to my ramshackle garden (a patch of weeds that didn’t get seeded with grass in the autumn), and I retrieved my weed digging tool. I had missed some dandelion-like weeds with my Round-Up (sorry, Earth) earlier in the week, and I wanted them out.
Do you have any idea how often I don’t get ahold of the right tool for the job? Considering that my husband usually has more tools than jobs on-hand, you’d think I’d have this mantra rooted deeply by now.
So with some smug satisfaction and with the right tool for the job, I went to work pulling out tap roots as big as my knee. Well, maybe as long as my knee. I have long knees.
With each successful removal, I commented to this No One in Particular, “See? Isn’t that satisfying? I could do this all day.”
I lost track of this pleasant debate when I became aware of my son addressing me. I tuned back in and heard, “Mom, could you please put your shovel down and come watch me ride my tractor?”
I tried, but my tool wouldn’t let go. I was having too much fun! And I’d already seen him ride his tractor. It was like watching a game of Olympic curling. Slow and painful with repetitive motions that appeared pointless.
My little man walked over, took me by the hand, and said, “Follow me.”
Such a patient child. I want to be like him when I grow up.
He then showed me how his older brother had taught him to pedal quickly down the hill for the ride of his life. So even though the steering wheel no longer connects to the wheels (it pulls out just like in an old cartoon), and the “engine cover fell off and is going to explode,” he managed a descent of about 15 feet before the wheels went sideways and stopped him.
I braced for the disappointment.
“Did you see me, Mom?! I went fast!”
Disappointment is in the eye of the withholder. I had just witnessed pure joy and nearly missed it in a blink.
So up and down he went. Since steering didn’t matter, sometimes he threw all caution to the wind and went backwards. He and the tractor and the hill were one.
I pulled weeds, tried to figure out what to do with seed fluff that I didn’t want to spread, and decided today wasn’t the day to vacuum them. Those days are all in the past. I hope.
I knew those weeds were a drop in the bucket, but I didn’t care about efficiency. I just relished the quiet triumph of one weed down.
After an easy dinner that I didn’t make (or eat, for that matter) I decided it was time to spray blackberries. Those thorns had no roses, so Poison seemed like a great solution. While on patrol, I thought more about what made my son’s day joyful while I got locked in this sort of “argument” with myself.
I decided that I generally struggle to answer this question, “What do I want to do with this moment?”
Either I want to do everything simultaneously so nothing gets forgotten, or I want to do nothing. But that doesn’t make sense. I never want to do nothing, But that’s where I spend a lot of time each morning when I awake.
Maybe I do this because choosing one thing and focusing on it would give me room to find out how committed I really am, how prepared I am, or how capable I am. Am I afraid of what I might find out by trying that one solitary thing?
Asking myself if I’m living in fear has worn thin. I’m afraid of living in fear. I could be afraid that even when I’m not living in fear, maybe somehow I am living in fear at some deeper level. On and on and round and round it goes. It’s like living in a test where I have a 50/50 chance of living each moment right. Or wrong.
So I put this test to the test. What is it really? Does it prove what progress I’m making? No. It’s a flimsy excuse for the life I’m building, that’s what it is. Just a coin flip because no matter what I choose, there’s always some chance that the other side of the coin was better. And I can do better than leaving my future self to chance
What I want to do in each moment, I’ve decided, depends on who I honestly want to be. When I see this person in my mind, what would she be doing right now?** What–and whom–would she embrace? What would she let go of, knowing she can reclaim it again if it’s needed?
I squeezed the last drop out of my herbicidal backpack and tucked in some post-movie night kids. I knew I needed to get words out in my blog tonight. I began searching for a loose thread to tie off. One of my old drafts? A blast-from-the-past poem I found in a box of remembrances? Something that brought closure to my harried mind.
I felt the argument coming on, the endless debate over which option is better and why.
I decided to leave that childish quarrel behind and instead looked to that inner child my son saw in me today. I closed my eyes, and I lived it again because you never know when it will be the last time you have a perfect day before you.
Or the first.
*I only get rid of specific weeds: dandelions (don’t tell my son I’m killing flowers…), thistle, blackberries, crabgrass, and these curving stalks that look like Jack spilled his beans last night. Everything else stays.
**I framed this thought after viewing a session from Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife’s course, The Art of Desire.