Warning: Apart from the odd swear word, this post also contains some serious thought. Not particularly intelligent, but serious nonetheless.
The last few weeks have been a blur of school holidays and getting shit done. Each day has been a running sheet of survival amongst the weeds of making food, trying to tap out some paid words, getting to appointments somewhere near ‘on time’ and pretending like I give a toss about the growing mess under the bench where the kids eat and whether mice will soon realise there’s a smorgasbord to be had there. There’s also the bathing and the feeding and the putting to bed and then some more feeding (WTF kids GO TO SLEEP!?). Amongst the weeds are the hardier saplings of catching up with friends and wonderful lazy lunches, kids’ birthday parties, the first swim of the season, pyjamas til lunchtime and the like: things that stick out as ‘good’ or ‘memorable’ or ‘worthwhile’.
And after some awful news, I’ve been trying to remember them more than ever: to build pathways to them through the quagmire of my brain.
Very recently we had a brief message from an old friend who’d been battling cancer courageously and successfully. But he wrote that it had won and he was now choosing which pain medication to spend the rest of his fragile, short life on.
In the devastation and tears that followed I fumbled around on his social media feeds attempting to glean more on his diagnosis and general mental state. Instead, I stumbled upon a post from the week prior: he’d enjoyed a beautiful lunch out with his family. There were photos of his child and he embracing. Smiling.
I wondered whether this was the last ‘big’ memory he would have of that child and of being happy? Would it be that time they stood up against a fence in the sun and laughed as someone took a photo? That day out when the grass was emerald green? When his child was impossibly grown up but still young enough to lean against him as they sat at that lunch table?
Probably not. Facebook is notoriously unreliable as a litmus test for happiness, so hopefully there were many more ‘big’ happy things he experienced between his hospitalisation and that photo. I fiercely hope there are still a few in the making.
Being outrageously narcissistic, I then wondered what my last ‘big’ moment would have been had I had a mortal diagnosis at a check-up that morning. I knew what it was instantly and to my surprise, it wasn’t ‘big’. It was a simple and brief calming cuddle as Sussie and I lay down on the bed, waiting for the Boetman to get his shoes on. We were going for a bike ride. She squeezed me, I kissed her on the top of her head and we laughed at his excited monologue about “flying boat planes.” I could pinpoint the minute, the smells of the room and the physical feeling of the duvet beneath me, holding one child close while listening to the other. I don’t remember the bike ride itself or what we had for dinner. The day had been lost to the weeds except for that fleeting moment and to be fair, I probably only made a real connection to that instant because I had consciously gone searching for one.
Yet again I have been proven to be disgracefully wrong: big moments can often be the brief, quiet ones. Not long enough to get your camera out, or pretty enough to Instagram or even extra-ordinary beyond the school pick-up shlep. The ‘big’ moments are those realisations that this … this … is joy. Wonderful, quiet, fleetingly recognisable joy; significant in in its simplicity and forceful in its emergence.
It’s a little clichéd and I’m not a fan of the “Dance Like No One’s Watching” memes (because that’s how I dance anyway- like Elaine Benes jacked up on a jug of margaritas), but faced with mortality and the very real fact that for some of us time is quite literally up, well, it’s hard to avoid clutching at those moments more and more to make them firm memories. To make them something more than just flashes of nice that slide into the dark recesses of my mind, stuck somewhere between my brief dalliance with tencel jeans and the 23rd time I read Where Is The Green Sheep?
So I’m making an effort to see joy in each of my days. It’s pretty hard to find joy in hanging out the washing mind you. But there’s still a cool breeze in the hot sunshine while I do it, not the oppressive humidity of the summer that’s coming and I’ll revel in that while it’s still here. There’s not always joy in the bedtime routine, but listening to a happy game being played in the bath (before it turns into the bubbled apocalypse of hesaidshesaid) is joyful. Hearing my husband open the door after being at work… even that little unlatching of metal can be joyful.
Incredibly, it’s making me more present, calm and dare I say, happier. Things still piss me right off: cancer’s the obvious one, but there’s also the traffic at the farmers’ market and anything to do with the World’s Dickhead Du Jour, Donald Trump. But in pinpointing a few moments that are joyful and being grateful for them? Well, life in general seems better. There are lots of studies to support this as well, suggesting that practicing a little gratitude will make us sleep better, be healthier and happier.
It won’t cure fuck-awful cancer, but then they’re still searching for that. I’m hopeful that our friend is feeling the culmination of love and light his ‘big’ moments might afford him: he’s most certainly part of mine.
What’s your joyful memory today?
Linking up with Kylie Purtell and #IBOT