Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Right In Front of Me

We're at the beach. She left her glasses at home, so I can clearly see the gray in her eyes and the sand on her lashes. The salt and humidity has caused her curls to tighten, and ringlets dance around her neck and face. 

"Bury me all the way to my head, mama," she says.

"Oh, we don't have a shovel big enough for that, baby. Maybe tomorrow," I distractedly respond. 

Our shovel is not too small, I just don't want to do it. I'm tired and groggy and have no energy to dig holes for little bodies today. 

Depleted from the expectations and excitement of the holidays, I feel over-fed, over-served, and in a fog of exhaustion and distraction. I usually spend this week after Christmas taking mental inventory of the previous twelve months, which always seems like a productive thing to do, but ultimately only adds to the feeling of paralysis.
My eyes are tired and rimmed with black circles, but my mind is like a pingpong ball - busy with the self-inflicted tasks of analyzing, reassessing, closing chapters, and planning ahead. I think of all of the change that will be heading our way in the new year and I briefly wonder if I can perhaps temper some of my apprehensions by doing more of the things I want to do and less of the things I don't. 

I reflect on everything. My health, my writing, my relationships. I think about my marriage and my children and how I want to be a better wife and mother. 

I think about my friendships: the enduring, well-maintained unions that are blanketed in layers of vulnerability and honesty and trust; as well as a few new friendships that have come my way - some so true and authentic, it's a wonder they haven't been there all along. I ruminate on the relationships that I've worked hard to revive or grow or strengthen, because they mean enough for me to do so, and I pause to pay respect to the few that I let go of altogether because they no longer made sense to chase after (or perhaps they never did).

During this time of over-analyzation, I carry my journal everywhere - firmly entrenched in the task of carving out a path for the next phase of my life; always taking care to pack along any triumphs from the previous year, and leaving ample space for modifications, revisions, and fresh starts. It doesn't scare me to welcome failure into the folds of self-improvement, and I try not to have regrets over my shortcomings. Failure and success and change are all a part of forward movement, whether we like it or not. 

This probably sounds like a horrible form of self-flagellation to some, but the truth is I love it - this constant desire to inspect and scrutinize my life with the whimsical hope that I can somehow make it even better. 

But as I sit here on the beach, looking not at my children, but through them, I realize that there is no point to all of this "betterment" if I'm not experiencing life as it happens. While I'm lost in this mind-numbing chatter of how I might do things differently - as though what I'm doing today simply isn't enough - there is a little girl whose current happiness depends solely on whether or not her mama will entomb her on the shore.

I shake my head and snap out of a week-long fog. If I've learned anything over the past five years, it's that I can trust myself. I may have a host of crazy voices in my head, but I've become pretty adept at shutting them up. 

The din in my head fades and is replaced with the sounds of waves lapping and peals of laughter. I get up from my towel and walk over to my family. Sister has temporarily forgotten about digging in the sand and is now focused on coaxing her brother into the frigid water. I watch them play together - they have gotten so big so quickly - and I know that these are moments that I will never get back. 

I grab my camera and surreptitiously capture the scene before it's gone forever. As I press the shutter, I tell myself that there's nothing wrong with charting a lofty course, but never to the extent that I lose sight of what's right here in front of me. 

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