“I would like to love fully. I would like to love my life and help you to love yours.”
~ Waylon Lewis, Things I Would Like to Do With You.
I will never forget the day my daughter tasted chocolate for the first time.
I remember how her eyes opened in wonder as the little square began melting in her mouth. Overwhelmed by the new sensation of pleasure for her taste buds, she did not swallow it for a while, trying to prolong the moment. She finally asked, eyes sparkling, lips covered with melted chocolate: Mama, what is that?!
I was intoxicated by the world that now contained my baby. I was in love with life and wanted to introduce my daughter to it slowly, moment by precious moment.
Every leaf, flower, insect, or bird became a reason for joy, as I re-discovered them through my daughter’s eyes, sharing her excitement in seeing it for the first time.
Three children and many years later, life became grey and menacing.
I did not notice when and why I lost the joy. The pressures of my children’s busy lives, added to my own adult pressures and expectations, compounded into a constant feeling of overwhelm and not enough time. Not enough time to notice a leaf, a flower, or a sunset. And not enough space in my overburdened-with-worries heart to feel the excitement they used to produce.
Life was no longer about the sharing of favourite things and taking the time to feel the resulting joy. It became about achievement, performance, and success. There was no more time to “waste” on leaves and insects, as we rushed from school to dance rehearsals, followed by homework and hurried meals.
Several years ago, I woke up realizing that, despite cramming in everything required for a happy life, I felt incomplete and unhappy. I could not get excited about this life of drudgery and routine, bland feelings, and people robbed of their dreams by adulthood.
Life was punctuated by busyness and escape. We had to think up more and more elaborate activities and entertainment, and increasing quantities of alcohol for adults, to even feel anything.
It was difficult to find the time to think, to disrupt the continuous stream of forced merriment. Everyone is so busy being busy, running through tightly scheduled lives in order to arrive at some point in the future, that there is simply no time to question why.
If this is what life is, then I do not want it.
I needed to get off the merry-go-round to pause and remember why I am here.
I started meditating a year ago, in June of 2016.
Incorporating meditation practice into my daily routine was not intuitive, but I knew that I was onto something when five minutes of sitting quietly felt like an hour.
After years of living in a panic that life is mercilessly speeding by, this opportunity to pause the spinning appeased me. It allowed me space to pay attention to my feelings, understand my reactions.
Slowly, in the background of depression and apathy, there would appear rare and isolated moments of peace. Not yet of joy, but of peace. The way it felt walking home after a yoga class, my body tingling, my mind still. The serenity of coming home to an empty and quiet apartment. The view during a walk in nature, always beautiful no matter the weather.
One year later, I find it difficult to isolate the specific benefits of meditation.
However, this spring, for the first time in several years, I feel happy more often than not. Watching the renaissance of nature, I feel part of the cycle of rebirth. It feels as if I am finally coming back to life after years of living as a shadow.
Once again, I observe the world I inhabit with eyes that have been washed clear of adult sophistication and jadedness.
I see the buds full of baby leaves on bare branches. I hear the birds sing and notice their different voices. I sense the warmer wind on my cheeks and it gives me hope. I feel joy as the world wakes up to the new possibilities the change of season brings.
I have always enjoyed nature, but this year I was really jolted by the exuberance of spring, as it explodes with colors, sounds, and aromas. I cannot pass by a flower without stopping to really look and occasionally to bring my face close enough to smell it.
I remember what it is to love, to live in love, to regain the freshness of everyday experiences. I realize that life is full of opportunities for wonder and awe, except we look for them in the wrong places.
A few weekends ago, at the request of one of my daughters, we all woke up early enough to watch the sun rise. I hesitated at first, as sleep is so precious for all of us and the weekends are the occasions to catch up.
But I played along, sensing that my daughter wanted to disrupt the routine with a fresh experience. Sunsets are easier to witness, but we rarely have the pleasure of watching a sunrise.
Being the only people on the beach felt like a privileged position. We sat down facing the sea and waited in anticipation. The sand and the morning breeze felt unexpectedly cold and after a few minutes of “no show,” we were looking at our watches with impatience. At the scheduled 5:58 a.m., the sun was still nowhere to be seen and we started making disappointed noises, as if the sun could possibly stand us up.
Suddenly, I noticed a sliver of bright shimmer in one spot on the horizon. Surprisingly quickly, that shimmer grew and we became enraptured with the vision of a raspberry-colored fire ball that was rising out of the sea.
The beginning of a new day is steeped in habits and routines. In families with children, it is often marked by complaints that morning came too quickly and negativity about the anticipated day at school.
But that particular morning, I remembered that we live on a planet. And that a sunrise is not some well-staged event that allows for pretty pictures. The sun appears to rise and set because of planet Earth’s rotation on its axis.
With that realization comes the awe. And the necessary shift in perspective.
Everything that day felt a little more special. The effort made to observe a routine event in a new way woke us up to other wonders.
It also made me remember that, for many years, when my daughters were younger, we were lucky to live with an unhindered view of the sea, from which the sun rose every morning. Sometimes, when the sunrise coincided with the wake up time for school, I would ask the girls to take a few seconds to look out the window. They did, but the experience was quickly forgotten in the morning rush and preparations.
The enjoyment somehow has to be ritualized. We must re-train ourselves to remember that the daily grind is not the whole story. That the beauty of life is here for the taking—all we need to do is engage with it and show up.
Life is here, full of gifts and magic. It is up to us to be present to partake in the abundance. Let us not let it pass us by.
“Today, I find new love in old things: I am a child, once again captivated for minutes by the forest, the light, the occasional mountain snow, the wind, the wood, sounds—in love with the details of this natural world and this human life.” ~ Waylon Lewis, Things I Would Like to Do With You
Author: Galina Singer
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Sara Kärpänen