I’m warning you that this is especially stream of consciousnessesque tonight. There’s a point somewhere if you bear with me, reader.
I ran across this photo recently in my Flickr archives, and I realized it was exactly one year ago from yesterday.
It’s so weird when I look at that person. I mean even looking past the beach ball of a belly and the swollen cheeks and feet, I feel so different than I did then. I also recently stumbled on this video, Reflections of Motherhood, posted on Facebook and a few blogs, and it made me think about what my answer would be. What would I tell my pre-child self? I don’t know if it’s simple enough to be on a poster or not. There’s so much I’d like to say to her.
I’d probably tell her that things don’t always go like you want them to, but sometimes that’s okay because you are writing your own story and it’s a work in progress. I’d surely not tell her about how things would unfold or how hard the beginning would be for us because really – what would that accomplish except dread? I would remind her though, that in the end, your story can be your own even if it feels like someone else is writing it and you are not in control at all.
I’d tell her that she might never sleep again, but it would be okay. That she’d be pooped on and it would be okay. That she’d screw up sometimes and it would be okay.
I would be sure to tell her to remember every second. To soak in the new baby smell. To hold him without guilt or apologies because those weeks are so precious and pass too quickly. I’d tell her how unbelievable it is that this tiny thing can make her feel so real, so loved. I’d spoil the surprise and tell her that he will have his dad’s grin and her eyes.
I’d tell her that she’ll quit her job like she knew she would, but that she wouldn’t really miss it at all like she thought she would. That there aren’t many things in life more important than this. Than now. The contentment will surprise her, and those stop-always-wanting-more and bloom-where-you-are-planted things that she’d never been good at will actually finally happen and they will feel so good.
If I ever get the nerve for another tattoo, it will be William Blake’s “Rise and drink your bliss. For all in life is holy.” It’s a quote that has always struck a chord for me, and there are these moments in life when you are bathed in holiness it seems. They are always the simple ones. It’s usually my unexpected moments when I say So this is it. This is what it’s all about.
Eating a fabulous meal. Lying on a beach alone for a minute to feel your body sink in the sand and relax. Having one of those connected moments in a conversation when you make eye contact as you laugh at the same thing. Talking over margaritas with friends at a sunny sidewalk table. A road trip where you stare out the window and realize you’re totally comfortable with silence in the conversation. Seeing a beautiful place for the first time. Making dinner with a glass of wine in hand while garlic sizzles in a pan and there’s Van Morrison or Marvin Gaye on the speakers.
These things happen when you aren’t expecting them. They happen often. But some burn their place in memory more than others. I remember one of these moments when I took a post-graduation trip with a college roommate to the beaches on the gulf, and we somehow ended up staying another day and then just another, and soon we thought maybe we should extend the trip through the weekend. In the end, I don’t even know how long we managed to postpone real life and ignore adulthood and responsibilities and other grown-up things. One night we found ourselves at the birthday party of a friend of a friend of a friend at an old beach house with a great porch and a perfect breeze. We listened to a bluegrass band have an impromptu session with some jazz musicians we’d met while we waited on the roasted chicken to finish. I remember thinking I wished I could freeze life right there, smelling dinner in the oven, surrounded by friends old and new. I wanted that moment, not a year or a month or an hour in any direction. Right here. I thought, this is happy.
One other of these moments happened when I was in Paris two years ago. We went out for dinner, shared wine and champagne with friends, and at the end of our meal, I made room for creme brulee. When we walked back to the Metro station, we passed the Eiffel Tower all lit up for Bastille Day celebrations. I was wearing a dress I loved, had a stomach full of food and wine, was breathing in Paris and standing next to the man I love. Again, I said, This. Pause. This is happiness.
I had another one of these moments riding on a ferry from Nantucket to Hyannis with Scott last summer. The weather was glorious. I was eating fudge and drinking iced tea. The woman next to me had a book in her lap and her lazy Golden Retriever on a leash lying on the deck of the boat. The sun was strong, but the breeze was just enough to need my cardigan. I remember feeling the tiny legs kick my belly from somewhere inside, and that little kick-kick was telling me, “Hey. In case you don’t notice already. This is beautiful and life is grand.”
These little moments that remind us life is precious, they are only getting richer and more common for me. And that’s what I think that woman in the picture could not even imagine. No, they don’t burst forth as I stumble in for a 2 a.m. feeding or clean a messy diaper. Those tasks might not be remarkable, but there’s so much more that is. Because seeing life through little eyes makes happiness more unfiltered, more potent than anything else for me. It’s not that a baby is the only way to be happy, or even the best way, but for me it’s what best allowed me to understand that the beauty in life, the Life in life comes in tiny, unassuming moments. Motherhood boils everything down to the bare essentials, and those things that mattered before, now they don’t really take up that space in my consciousness, so all that’s left is room to drink in The Happy till I’m almost sick on it. I’m so grateful for that, for little eyes that encourage me to live life in a big way.