What we have is time. And what we do is waste it, waiting for those big spectacular moments. We think that something’s about to happen — something enormous and news-worthy — but for most of us, it isn’t. This is what I know: the big moments are the tiny moments. The breakthroughs are often silent, and they happen in the most unassuming of spaces.
Weddings are momentous, as are births, especially for moms. Beyond those two, though, most of the really significant and shaping moments of my life would be unrecognizable to anyone but me. That’s how it is.
What I’m tempted to do right now is run you through story after story of how life can change in an instant — an accident, a disease undetected, violence. We know these stories. We hear them all the time. But if you’re like me, sometimes you intentionally don’t hear them. You absently stroke your kids’ heads, you murmur a prayer, less a devout show of faith and more a whimper — not us. Not us.
And then you shake it off, square your shoulders, fasten your mind firmly elsewhere — details of the day: library books to return, oil to change and diapers, too.
You comfort yourself with the mindlessness of it, protecting yourself from the reality that your life is actually happening and you might not be there. It’s scary to be there — present, invested, right there on the front line of your life. It’s easier to numb yourself with details and daily doings, waiting around for things to feel spectacular.
But this is it: this is as spectacular as it gets, and you have a choice, to be there or not.
I sat with an old friend today. She and her husband have endured unimaginable loss throughout the course of their lives, and another very fresh loss in these last months.
We sat in the golden fading light of a Chicago spring. Our kids ran around and around the screen porch, and the grass was impossibly green, almost glowing. And in the midst of all that wild and lush beauty, we sat facing one another, and she told me the particulars of that most recent loss. What I heard in her voice stunned me, moved me, instructed me.
She was present to it, unafraid. She told me about it unflinchingly, and what I realized is that she decided a long time ago that she wasn’t waiting for perfect and she wasn’t numbing herself against the worst case scenario. She had seen the worst case scenario, more times over than any of us should have to.
What I saw in her was a vision for how I want to live: in the midst of one her darkest seasons, twisted with uncertainty, bruised by the words of former friends, she sat with me, present and unarmed by busy-ness. She looked in my eyes and told me they’d be fine. She told me funny and sweet things about her kids, asked me about myself.
She wasn’t waiting for the good part. She knows that these are the good parts, even while they’re the bad parts. She wasn’t shut down, going through the motions. She wasn’t holding tight till this season passed. She was right there with me, right there with her kids, right in all the glory and pain and mess and beauty of a spring night in between everything.
That’s how I want to be. That’s who I want to be: deeply present in the present, in the mess, in the waiting, in the entirely imperfect right now.
But what my friend knows is that there are no throwaway moments — not when it’s easy, not when it’s hard, not when it’s boring, not when you’re waiting for something to happen. Throw those moments away at your own peril.
Throw those moments away and you will look back someday, bereft at what you missed, because it’s the good stuff, the best stuff. It’s all there is.