I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
Lately we’ve been taking care of a sweet stray cat that my husband named Doctor Jillian Floppytail. (She’s a Ph.D., not a medical doctor, he says. Her field is ornithology.) I already have three cats, so I’d like to find her another home, but that’s never easy. Whether we end up finding her a home or fully adopting her into ours, this in-between time of uncertainty and disrupted routines has been a bit stressful. But it hasn’t been without some wonderful moments.
Last week, on a mild night when I was still letting Doctor Jillian (“D.J.”) sleep outside in a little shelter I’d made for her (since then we’ve had a string of cold nights, so I’ve been bringing her inside), I went outside to spend a few minutes with her before I went to bed. My husband was watching TV and my other cats were all either meowing at me or watching me suspiciously, knowing I was headed outside without them. I shut the deck door behind me and was immediately plunged into late-evening quietness. The stars shone clearly and the air was warm enough that I was comfortable in my shorts, zip-up sweatshirt, and socks. I sat down on our bench and cuddled with D.J. for a while; then we just sat quietly side by side. I felt a peace restoring itself in my heart after the busyness of my day. (Ideally I would make quality quiet time like this a daily ritual!)
I started reflecting that whatever was to happen with D.J., that moment with her right then was beautiful. Despite an uncertain future, I could enjoy the present. And all the more so because that present was fleeting: however the situation resolved, I wouldn’t be having that same sort of time with D.J. for much longer.
As I looked at the stars, this thought of enjoying the present even when it’s imperfect and in limbo resonated with me on a larger scale. I am always striving towards big goals and dreams and often fighting discontent with my present circumstances. (For example: I want to write a great book that gets published and sells so many copies that I don’t have to work a wearisome day job anymore! Or [a less serious but still completely true example]: I haven’t read all of Shakespeare’s plays!!—I need to read the rest of them A.S.A.P.!) But I need to remember to enjoy the unfulfilled, in-progress times in my life—not only because the present is all I truly have (since we’re not guaranteed tomorrow and since “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard), but also because it’s beautiful in and of itself, just like that moment with D.J. My life now, though it feels very busy and though I yearn for more time to do the things I really want to do, actually has a lovely simplicity to it that I will probably look back on and miss, at least to some extent, if and when I do finally achieve my desires. For example, if I write and publish a bestselling novel someday and get to quit my nine-to-five job, my life would surely take on lots of new complexities—book tours, contracts, deadlines, etc.—that would make my life now seem pleasantly simple by comparison: morning routine, work, evening routine, bed. Repeat.
Another reason to enjoy the present is what I talk about so much on this blog because I always need to hear it: life goes a lot better when we Just. Slow. Down. While striving toward goals and dreams is great, what’s always most important is to being true myself in the present moment. As in: write because I love writing, not because I want someone else to love what I write and pay me money for it. Read and study what I want to, not what will help me achieve some abstract goal. And most of all, take my time. Be lazy when I need to. Say, “Screw it.” CHILL OUT. When I feel refreshed, I will find myself diving back into my pursuits with a rested mind; but I must respect the pace of my body, mind, and heart. This requires listening to myself—still a big theme for me lately (and so, apparently, is writing in sentence fragments). Pushing myself to get things done will not help me reach my goals any faster, and I won’t be cherishing the fleeting moments that have been given to me.
Because, flaws and all, they really are beautiful.
(P.S. Do any of you live in or near Charleston, West Virginia, and want to adopt a sweet young cat who might also be pregnant?!)