Because I hadn’t read the 20 books I purchased with Amazon money at Christmas, it only stood to reason that I should buy a new book. Now my stack is one higher. But I don’t regret buying this one. It is changing how my eye beholds. The book is called “The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir” by Katrina Kenison. Put simply, it is a mother writing about her journey to loosen her grip on her changing family and to be okay with the changes and her lack of control over them. When she wrote the book, her boys were in high school, one a senior. She knew she was standing on the edge of a shifting landscape and she was trying to find her footing. In searching for hers, she has helped countless others find theirs. But she doesn’t find THE ANSWER and then provide readers with it. She comes to terms with the fact that there is constant change and no one right answer. There is no arrival at a plush resort where you can prop up your feet and read a welcome note from the universe that says: “You did it. You got there. Good job.”
There is just the journey. Just this day.
I have read quite a bit of the book already and will likely reference it more than once as the days pass. If you are on the brink of children leaving your nest, I recommend it. If they have left already, I still recommend it.
In contrast to this book, I received a blog by Sean Dietrich in my inbox this morning that got me thinking. Often I read his late night posts at 5:46 a.m. when my alarm has gone off but I’m not ready to swing my legs over the side of the bed quite yet. Sometimes I snooze too long and have to skip the posts altogether. This morning, I’m glad I read it because it got me thinking about the value in a single day. Sean wished the world a good day. He said, “So wherever you are, I wish you the best day you ever had. Ever. I really mean it. I hope the weather is bright, sunny, and warm. I hope someone you haven’t heard from in years calls you unexpectedly. There is nothing easy about the business of living. This is why I hope you have a good day. A perfect day, even. The best you’ve ever had.”
I know what he meant by that. I know what he was getting at. And yet, that hit me so funny. Like knocking my elbow hard on the corner of a table and then seeing black gauze for the next 10 minutes. How many of us are going to have a perfect day today? The best one ever? I would guess no one. Not a single one of us. The Midwest and northeast is experiencing flash flood warnings, winter storm conditions, and heavy snow. They haven’t seen the sun since late October. I would bet there are only 6 states in the U.S. that have any hope of warm, sunny weather, mine being one of those 6. Someone I haven’t heard from in years is not going to call me unexpectedly. My texts today consisted of having one child rat out another one for his driving with the ending line, “Don’t tell him I told you.” I also heard from my Shipt shopper, who does not know what a pepperoncini pepper is. He didn’t save me any trouble at all, because I still have to go back to the store for the two things he got wrong.
Other than those things, my phone has been silent.
This afternoon, my oldest son will come home and nod as he walks through the family room to his own room. He will later ask me what’s for dinner and offer a one word response to the menu.. If I ask him how school was, he’ll say, “Good.” And that will be it. I won’t see my second born until much later, after band is over. He doesn’t talk a lot these days, either. The girls will have plenty to say, much of it sandwiched in and around requests or complaints that I can’t do much to affect.
They won’t ask me about my day. They won’t ask me to read them a story. If I asked them about a story, they would squint at me. My youngest, who’s 11, would probably comply.
My point is not that things are bad now. I don’t feel that way about it. But they are different. Vastly different. My children are not the same people they were 5 years ago. We are not the same family we were when the boys listened to me read Little House in the Big Woods. Before iPods and cell phones. I look at the picture from this post of my young boys running down a Colorado hillside wearing baggy clothes and off brand shoes and I wonder where those boys went. I could wish for 10 minutes of that back. It does make me ache a little. But that’s not productive or rational thinking. They didn’t disappear anymore than I did. It’s just change. Growth. A moving into the Now What.
I have struggled all along with trying to manufacture that perfect day Sean wished me. If I just do this, then this will be the result. If A, then B. But that isn’t how it works. “A” flies up and hits you in the eyeball and “B” is a kick in the pantaloons. Kids grow. Parents make mistakes. TV sings its siren songs. Friends rise in importance. Likes and dislikes shift. Storms happen. Sideview mirrors hit trees. People get the flu right before out-of-town trips.
If I looked to have a perfect day, I’d be a Grade A Wreck by 8 p.m.
Today isn’t going to be the perfect day. Neither is tomorrow. The trick for me is to find a peaceful place to stand in an imperfect landscape.
To enjoy the short spurts of conversations, instead of wishing for an hour of soul sharing.
To just be content in this day, with these people, in these shoes that I’m wearing.
Katrina Kenison says: “Life is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. It is an exploration, sometimes treacherous and terrifying. And sometimes the only way to move forward is to let go of all our cherished ideas about the way things “ought” to be, so that we can begin to work with things as they are.”
So, yeah. The beholder of beauty and the liver of a day cannot be under- emphasized. I was not a conventionally beautiful child, but my mother looked at my 4th grade afro and dress with the turtles on the collar and thought she was seeing something pretty special. So while there’s some people that don’t need a merciful beholder to be beautiful, most of us do. And some days are borderline perfect when all the planets and hormones and day planners and weather systems align. But most days fall far short of that and need just to be lived well for what they are.
All any of us really need is a heart that can handle whatever an imperfect day hurls at us. There is no way that life ought to be. There is only what is. How I choose to feel about that and what I do with it today is up to me.