If You Don't Stop and Look Around

I don't always quote iconic 80's movies, but today I'm remembering a particular scene in Ferris Bueller when he offered this wise advice:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

This advice seems apt right now. You see, the month of May is a bit crazy. It's crazy because the kid's school year is dying down, and by dying down I mean amping up with a dozen-or-so end-of-year celebrations ranging from final track meets, to final choir concerts, to prom, to awards ceremonies, to emails from teachers with Sign-Up Genius links to bring in something for some class party / event / thing. 

In our household, May also is a month of birthdays. We celebrate three birthdays over a span of eleven days. There's cake, then more cake, and then more cake after that. This May, specifically, marked the threshold where our youngest turned 13, so Joel and I are officially parents of all teenagers. We feel this.

To keep May hopping, I finished spring teaching, took a week's pause after finals week to prepare our house to rent it for graduation weekend (which requires cleaning the house to the point that it looks like we no longer live in it), and then started summer teaching, which runs at an accelerated pace so we can cover fifteen weeks of content in six weeks.

This, I have discovered, is just the nature of May. It moves pretty fast.

But there's today. Today has been a slow day, a heart-stopping beautiful day when the weather must be a precursor of the climate in heaven. The grass is cut and the peonies are in full bloom. The breeze carries sounds of kids playing down the street. Chores are done. There's no immediate work to attend to. 

It's peaceful and calm, slow and savored. It's a gift that I don't take for granted. Even as I write from my back porch, I linger between sentences to let my gaze wander. If I don't stop and look around, I'm going to miss it.

I don't want to miss it.

I'm trying to do the same during this season of life. Our oldest daughter graduates high school next week. Someone with younger children recently asked me how this feels. She's attending college close to home, which helps to mitigate some of the feelings that parents must feel when their child moves far away, but I still have feelings.

There's joy, of course. She's worked so hard, grown so much, and she's ready for the next step. There's surprise. I mean, people tell you that 18 years go fast, but when you actually measure the span from newborn to emerging adult with a milestone one evening where they wear a cap and gown, you realize that those people were right. It goes fast in the way that 18 years can go fast -- which is not at all, and entirely so, all at once.

Of course, the feelings wouldn't be complete without the loving concern about all the next steps and challenges: adjusting to college living, working through inevitable moments of frustration when living with a roommate in a dorm room the size of a Wheat Thin, making decisions about the future. When my thoughts wander, I find them circling over the same themes:

Have I taught her enough? Have I shared what I want her to know deep in her core about how much we love her, and how valuable she is, and how she can trust God with every single one of these steps into adulthood?

I hope so. I really hope so.

There's also sadness intermingled with such joy that it's impossible to separate one from the other. My face gets confused with all the signals from my brain and heart. My mouth smiles and my eyes cry because it's all true: this person I loved before I laid eyes on her, this baby I carried, this toddler I hoisted on my hip, this kindergartener who wore a backpack nearly the size of her body, this elementary school child who learned to read and ride a bike and master the monkey bars on the playground, this middle schooler who threatened my sanity, this high schooler who passed a driver's test, had her first fender-bender, competed in hurdles, gave presentations, took AP tests, stayed up late doing homework, and came home late after hanging out with friends, this young woman who's lived her life with some high highs alongside some inevitably low lows, is taking her first steps out the door.

So, how do I feel?

There aren't enough words. I feel it all. It's joyful and surreal. It's good, and sweet, and aching. It's a reminder that life moves fast, and that it's important to look around, to feel these feelings deeply, to let myself smile and laugh and cry.

I don't want to miss any of this.


The Start of May

Ah, May has arrived. I like the month of May. I like that the semester ends. I like that peonies bloom, that I can smell lilac in the breeze, and that the world comes alive. I like that I get to start cutting the grass, that we mulch our flower beds, and that living spaces spill over onto back patios and front porches. 

With all that said, that's currently not what May feels like. It's 40 degrees outside. It's also wet. A will-anything-ever-feel-dry-again? wetness. There have been multiple daily torrential downpours, intermingled with slow stretches of lackluster rain, punctuated by moments of hail.

Welcome to May.

If I had my druthers, the start of May would be vibrant and sunny, fresh and fun, comfortable and carefree. But, as we all know, we don't control the weather. 

There's so much we don't get to control. I recently was talking with a friend who's facing some serious challenges in her personal life. I understood. Same here. Even though the particulars of our circumstances are different, she and I share a similar bottom line: we both have chapters in our lives that we hadn't envisioned and wouldn't have chosen for ourselves.

This is universally human. We wouldn't have chosen illnesses and cancer diagnosis. We wouldn't have chosen hardships in marriage. We wouldn't have chosen infertility or miscarriages, heartbreaks and bullying, wayward children or job termination, addictions or anxiety disorders, house fires or losing loved ones too soon. We've all lived life events we never would have written into our own stories willfully, but those stories have come nonetheless.

If we had our druthers, things would be more vibrant and sunny, fresh and fun, comfortable and carefree. But, as well all know, we don't get to control all the twists and turns of life.

So today, on this second day of May, I accept the blustery temperature, the rain squalls, and the cloud coverage. I'll work inside and choose contentment, rather than lamenting that I can't work outside. I'll steal a moment to sit and read, curled up under a blanket on my couch, instead of in the wishing I was reading on my porch with my sunglasses on. I'll remember that these few rainy, cold days in May are temporary. It's not going to stay this cold and damp forever.

That's the same with life. When we face hard times, they feel immersive, as if there's 100% circumstantial cloud coverage. But hard times don't last forever. I love this advice from Kristina Kuzmic:

So here's a tip: add right now to whatever is frustrating you about parenting or life in general so that you're not putting a permanence on it. You're realizing that whatever is difficult right now doesn't have to be difficult forever. So, for example, 'I'm not getting enough sleep right now. My toddler is throwing daily tantrums right now. My teenager acts like he hates me right now. This divorce is so excruciatingly painful right now.'

This is right now. This is not forever. You are not stuck. A bad year or two or five doesn't equal a bad life. It equals a bad year or two or five. Hard parenting days won't last forever. Hard life days aren't permanent either.

It's not permanent. It's right now."

Sure, the start of May has been wet and cold. But it's not permanent. It's just right now.

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