Reflection & Ramblings: Volume thirty-four
I. Moments, noticed.
After a dreary week, a week that was just a touch colder than could ever be considered comfortable, yesterday was warm. The sun shone brightly. And because meteorologists can tell us the future, I knew to appreciate yesterday for what it was.
Yesterday’s appreciation of the sun shines pink on my face and upper arms today, though. That’s because I spent as much time outside as possible. Our spring tulips and daffodils and hyacinths have somehow battled through the below freezing temperatures as much as they could. I assume yesterday was their finale before they succumb to the Nebraska unkindness of winter temperatures that stubbornly refuse to leave us.
The sky is gray today. Flurries are are swirling around. The tulips clinch their petals in what I imagine is discomfort. It’s probably not so different from how I felt at my son’s soccer practice last Wednesday when I wore a jacket a little too light for the breezy evening. I paced back and forth uncomfortably cold. I felt each minute pass, desperately waiting for time to pass. I sat on a bench to somewhat hunker down. I looked up and saw a bald eagle flying over. I know bald eagles are more common to see these days, their population has quadrupled since 2009, but I always think it’s a neat sighting.
This weekend felt relaxed. Something I can’t really say I’ve felt for a long time while at work. The mood of the house was pleasant, peaceful, cooperative. It was a joy to spend time with the teenagers in my home. We laughed and got along with each other. It felt like a big family. That’s what it’s supposed to feel like. Not like work. That’s what makes my job so fun. Covid-19 stripped a lot of that away from us. Isolation. Cabin fever. Extra rules and regulations. It’s tough on us all. But this weekend, and yesterday in particular, it was not work. It was mostly that “I get paid to do this?!” feeling.
I drove our van to Ezra’s soccer game. Sarah stayed behind at home because one of our girls was taking her CNA exam at the same time. That still meant that I had seven of our Boys Town girls as well as both Micah and Ezra and Lydia. I felt no stress about it. It feels normal to me these days to drive ten people to a soccer game by myself.
The hardest part was finding a parking spot for the fifteen passenger van, but even that wasn’t very difficult. All eleven of us, an entire soccer team’s amount of people, walked over to the field Ezra had been assigned to. He was excited to have an entire cheerleading section devoted to him.
Micah brought a toy tractor to play with, but the afternoon sun quickly made him tired and he leaned into the lap of one of our girls and immediately fell asleep for the whole soccer game. It was cute, and a moment that I’m sure will stay with me for a long time.
II. Thoughts that poke at me
I’ve been having this thought a lot: “What if these days that I am living right now are the best days of my entire life?”
There’s so many details that cause this thought to poke at me, but mostly it’s spurred on by my children. Ezra at seven is playful and curious about everything. When he apologizes he wants a big hug, and will often still give me a big kiss to show his affection. He loves being goofy. He is in soccer and in dance class. He’s cute. He is still small and light enough to pick up, yet big enough to do so many tasks independently.
Micah is eight and a half, and although he still has many details in his life that brings complexities to our daily lives, I believe that our time with him at this age is just incredibly precious. He is so cute, and he loves to play with his stuffed animals. He likes watching Paw Patrol. He’s still young enough to snuggle with our Boys Town kids and it be 100% innocent. This won’t always be the case. Our boys will eventually get to the age where snuggling with the girls in the home will not be appropriate, and that’s sad because it’s all they’ve known in their time here at Boys Town. It’s all Sarah and I have known for our kids as well.
And there’s Lydia. At seventeen every day feels important with her. I feel the scarcity of time with her perhaps most directly. It’s one of the reasons why taking a family vacation to Colorado was so important and rewarding for me. I love talking with her, seeing her interact with the boys. I love her laugh, and how easy it is for her to laugh. Looking in the rearview mirror and seeing my three kids asleep on each other on our nine hour car ride filled my heart with love so strongly that I almost lost my breath a couple times.
I’m thirty-four. I love my family. I have a wife that loves and supports me. We enjoy a marriage that is almost eleven years old. We live in a big house with a total of thirteen people living under it given to us to care for and manage by working a job we love.
I have time to write, read, think, and take photos. When it’s safe to do so, I go out weekly to the same neighborhood bar to vent and chat and laugh after all our kids all go to bed. Sometimes we take bike rides together.
I’m healthy for the most part, I think, but have decent health insurance if I find out I’m not. Even though I despise relying on a car, we have a safe and reliable one. I have student debt, but my bank account isn’t hovering at zero. I have a 401K and work for an organization that helps match the money I put into it.
I have a fridge, pantry, and two freezers full of food for my large family. Too much food, even.
The list could go on.
I feel a participant of a life that is filled and surrounded with so much goodness, blessings undeserved. I have friends that I message or talk to on a daily basis. We talk about anything and everything. We support each other through our daily frustrations, through our life’s challenges. We support and encourage and inspire one another to be better people, to be thoughtful and introspective about how we live our lives.
Am I currently living in the best days of my life?
This thought sometimes feels like a tap on the shoulder. A nudge to stop and notice the moment, to appreciate it. So in these moments I close my eyes and take a deep breath in. I smile slightly as I bathe myself in the gratitude of the moment, allowing for life’s joy to fill my lungs and flow through my body.
Am I currently living in the best days of my life?
This thought sometimes feels like an anxious prodding, a poke. Anxiety about the future robs me of the gratitude and rephrases the question as a deceptive statement: “Perhaps my life never gets better than this.”
The fears and anxieties are attached to the well-being of my children and wife. What if one of them gets sick? What if Micah is unable to control his emotions, his anger? What if he runs away and gets hurt? What if Ezra’s kindness towards his brother turns to bitterness? What if Lydia chooses the wrong friends or goes to the wrong party or gets into a dangerous situation?
These anxious questions regarding the future are fueled by the loss of my brother which hovers through each of my days. There’s a guilt that survivors talk about. Why me? Why do I get to go on living in this world and he doesn’t? Should I truly allow myself to fully appreciate the good things in my life while my brother’s death moves further and further into the past? The memory of him challenged by more and more of life’s experiences without him? The time of him not being in my life expanded by another day, another hour, another birthday, another visit to a family gathering without him.
These are the sorts of wrestling matches my mind plays with and against itself. It sounds exhausting. Is that why these last four months have felt more tiring than any other time in recent memory?
III. Photography is
IV. The demand of writing
I woke up very early this morning, I think partially due to allergies and partially due to it being like a furnace in my bedroom. I awoke from a dream, which are so rare for me. I attempted to go back to sleep, but could not. I skimmed around on Instagram for a while until my eyes grew tired and I tried to go back to sleep, but I could not. My mind decided it was up for the day. I decided to listen to a book I started on Friday. I ended up finishing it today.
In the book the author briefly mentions the need to write, something that I think you hear from many writers. And I think about that often. It reminds me of photography. Since I’m not a full-time professional photographer it used to be very hard for me to say that I was a photographer. Writing is similar. I’ve only been paid to write twice, but it’s not about getting paid. Writing is like an itch that needs desperately scratched. Photography has always scratched a certain creative itch I’ve had. It’s a way of stopping and pausing the world around me. Preserving a moment in time. It’s a way I announce to the world that I am grateful.
Writing also scratches an itch, one that feels deeper inside me. You know that feeling when you’ve been trying to remember a name or perhaps a specific word, it’s on the very tip of your tongue but you just can’t quite get it out? Or where you recognize someone, or perhaps an actor, and you’re trying to figure out, “Where have I seen this person before? I know I’ve seen them before!” and so you think through as many contexts or shows or movies to try and remember. And you keep watching them, their mannerisms, their tone or accent, and then finally in a sudden mini-eureka moment, you remember. That feeling, that satisfying moment, that’s what it feels like for me to write when my mind feels very scattered with all sorts of thoughts, especially those revolving around strong emotions.
That’s how I felt this morning. I didn’t have anything dramatic to discuss or write about beyond what I’ve written about today. But I needed to simply write. I was feeling itchy. This is simply me scratching.