Z and I finally convinced ourselves to go for a walk together, after a week of travelling, having company, working, viewing houses, and just generally overextending ourselves. Part of us just wanted to sit on the couch, watching another mindless sitcom, to “unwind”. Luckily we got our exhausted selves outside!
A friend had told me that the rose garden was in full bloom at the Arboretum, the community park and garden only a couple blocks from our apartment. It is the same place where three years ago, Z proposed to me.
So we went for a stroll. As we began the walk, we laughed as a young mother attempted to photograph her toddler against the backdrop of the rose bushes. His hair was carefully slicked to the side with gel. His gold bracelet glowed against his plump brown wrist. It was clear the mom had put a lot of effort into getting him ready for this photo. But when she set him down and stepped back to take the photograph, he cried and wobbled towards her, hands outstretched. She would drop the camera, come forward again, and comfort him. After a moment of snuggling, she’d set him by the rosebush to try the shot again.
And again, he would shriek. The mother just couldn’t get the shot, because she could not be behind the camera and in front of the camera at the same time.
Z and I couldn’t help laughing a little, and as we laughed he took my hand. We are excited about having our own little ones someday; every time we see a child, we sort of look at each other with dreamy eyes. “Someday soon,” our looks say, and we feel connected about the future. As we rounded a corner, we reminisced about the past. Different stages of our relationship, the different people we’d been through the years. We hadn’t talked like that in weeks. A further way down the path, on a whim, I suggested we start running. To my surprise Z agreed.
We raced through the trails. I could feel the path under my pumping feet, the moisture in the air gathering on my hot skin. My lungs were working, as was my mind, on the action of running. In fact, there was nothing else at all on my mind. Sometimes people passed us. Other times we passed them. When we became tired, we walked again.
Finally we came to the end of our little constitutional. Coming up the other side of the rose garden, between two full bushes, I spied the young mother and her toddler again. It seemed she had given up on the perfect photo she’d had in mind.
Instead, she was lying in the grass, her short arms and legs outstretched. Her child came to her, climbing across her broad tummy, shimmying down her full hips. He would dance away for a moment, then return. They were both laughing.
On the way home, and for the rest of the evening, I couldn’t get the happy little family out of my mind- I didn’t want to. The mom was not able to get her predetermined picture. She did not execute her plans. But instead, she created a beautiful memory.
How many times do we ignore the beauty of the present, because of our concerns about the future or the past? How often do we let these moments slip through our fingers, unnoticed, because we are focused on forcing the impossible? How much of our lives do we spend “being in two places at once”, our bodies present but our minds and energies elsewhere, instead of wholly committing to the ongoing, if imperfect, experience?
Because it will go by so quickly. And none of us, regardless of the money we make or the perfect pictures we take, can get any of our time back.
The next time I am struggling with my inability to be in two places at once, literally or figuratively, I will call to mind this mother: a woman who is able to let go of her own expectations, to accept her own limitations, and to genuinely appreciate her life for exactly what it is in the present moment- no more, but certainly no less.