It’s easy to get pumped about the milestone events. We plan for graduations, weddings, children, trips, and retirement. The excitement is almost too much at times. What we struggle with is embracing the moments in between major life events, and since those moments make up the majority of our time here on earth, shouldn’t we train ourselves to savor them?
Anticipation is so exciting as we work towards achieving our goals or wait for a fun event. Remember the anticipation as school kids, when our excitement grew each day we got closer to a vacation? The thrill in the air was almost palpable. (By the way, in case you were wondering, teachers are equally or more excited than the students as vacation approaches!)
Jeff Goins addresses this frustration in his book The In-Between:
I’ve spent my whole life longing for the next season, hoping better things would come when I graduated or got married or gave my life to a career worthy of my talents.
A danger in putting our hopes too much in the big events is that, naturally, they rarely ever pan out in the spectacular fashion we had hoped. We rush ourselves to graduate from college only to discover some harsh realities of having to be independent and pay our bills. We can’t wait to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right and “put a ring on it”, but soon learn that our ideal partner snores or is a slob in the bathroom. And plenty of retirees, early or at traditional ages, report disillusionment as they navigate the unfamiliar terrain of retirement and finding their place in the world yet again.
You already know I dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom before it became reality last fall. It has its positives, but it’s not free of frustration. I get upset with my kids waaaaay more often than I’d like, and I question whether this situation is truly best for all of us. I love the idea of really leaning into the present moment, but my execution of that idea is often lacking. An awesome default change to pursue: being content with each phase of life as it comes. I really hope when I eventually go back to work, I won’t have a bunch of regrets over how I spent these brief years in between jobs.
Maybe what we call “mundane,” what feels boring and ordinary, is really how we spend our lives. And we have an opportunity to make of it what we will–to resent its lack of adventure or rejoice in its beauty. -Jeff Goins
So much of each day creeps into the boring and mundane category. Tons of repetition. Kids wake up seeking comfort. Kids request food and drink. Kids argue over who gets the toys, shove and chase each other all over the house, snuggle and snap at each other. I take Junior COD to preschool three days a week and take them both to the library nearly every day. We frequent playgrounds and parks to get fresh air and exercise. Then there’s of course cooking, cleaning, and fitting in writing or working out whenever possible.
The weird thing is, I also had plenty of dull, ordinary, “in-between” days when I was working, when I was in college, and long before that. Whatever I’m doing the majority of the time becomes commonplace, loses its luster. It makes sense and shouldn’t surprise me, yet I still have this yearning to reach the next “big” thing. I’m not even certain of what I want my next big thing to be…although a trip to somewhere European wouldn’t be the worst thing…just sayin’.
I envy those who apparently have the ability to put a fresh perspective and find glimmers of glory in each ordinary day. (Are any of these people here?) I wish I could fully embrace every night’s bedtime routine as special, enjoy every game of Sorry and Hungry Hungry Hippos, appreciate every hug even amidst frustration with my kids. But of course we all know that “enjoy every moment” is an impossible aspiration, one that primarily serves as a favorite catchphrase the older utilize to counsel the younger.
Yes, it is wise for us parents to remember that there will come a day when the Cheerios will no longer be crushed into every available surface in our homes, and the shrieking voices and stomping footsteps will be but an echo in our minds. We’ll one day miss certain things about the phase of life we’re in right now, but that doesn’t make it any more feasible to truly enjoy every moment. We’re simply not wired that way. When we’re in between the milestones, we eagerly anticipate those milestones.
I found it easier to enjoy every moment with my kids back in my working days. Spending nearly every waking (and sleeping) minute with my kids makes it tougher to appreciate them. Frustrations mount the more time we spend together. But when I went to work every day, I experienced a different kind of discontent: the heartache of leaving them with a sitter and going to teach other kids. I missed Junior and Mini COD so much that it made those brief evenings and weekends together ultra-sweet. And the bonus days off (Columbus Day, President’s Day, etc.) were truly a bonus–I LOVED having an extra day here and there to spend relaxing with my boys! Now, I enjoy nearly unlimited time with them, but look forward to my occasional time away from the kids, sitting in a cafe or running solo.
We have this innate sense of discontent, don’t we? No matter our situation, we always yearn for something from our past or a dream of our future. The grass is always greener on the other side, and all that.
Who here is working their tails off, longing to reach retirement as soon as possible? Who is anxious to finally kick Sallie Mae out of their lives and authorize that final student loan payment? Who is dreaming of a new relationship, a bigger house, a more fulfilling career? All of these are worthy goals, but whatever your next big thing, I hope you can take a step back once in awhile to enjoy the journey to it. “Success is a journey, not a destination” is certainly cliched, but it can still help us embrace the in-between. Goins reflects, “As we embrace the wait, we learn to appreciate the delays and postponements that teach us some things in life are worth waiting for.”
I’m learning it’s not only about the destination, but neither is it only about the journey. Both play equally vital roles in our overall satisfaction and joy. I think of the way I feel when I go on a beautiful hike. I may grow weary and thirsty and look forward to reaching the end of the trails or the pinnacle, but the best part of the hike is still…the hike itself. I savor the landscape and the challenge and the quiet, and it’s just perfect. Perhaps I can enjoy the in-between moments of life if I relate them to those tranquil hikes. Living in the moment is so important, since the future isn’t promised, and the present is all we have.
What big milestone(s) are you waiting for? What kind of “in-between” are you resting in right now? Let’s find the beauty in the present together!