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"Something that I've realized is that a lot of what I consider mundane is actually very exciting. Like my aunt and mom calling me in the midst of gossiping to each other, I'm not ready for the moment where that never happens again. ... Looking at it in retrospect makes me realize how amazing and wonderful those things are. ... [I've come to find inspiration by] looking at the mundane and approaching it with wonder."
Dena Igusti during Barrel's Spotlight Series [Talk]
Dana and I are still here in Ely, a small city a couple of hours from London, visiting Dana's sister, brother-in-law, and their kids, Olivia and Owen. Although we have met Olivia a few times, she was too young to remember. Now, Olivia is a toddler and, until last week, only knew Dana and I through Facebook Portal. Owen is just a baby, a chill, happy one at that, and this trip was our first time meeting him.
One day when I chose not to sleep during nap time (still a bit off track with jetlag), I read a blog post that fellow Barrel partner, Peter, had shared called How to Enjoy Life. It is worth reading later, but for now, this excerpt sums it up nicely:
"There may not be as much enjoyment available in twenty minutes of waiting in line at the DMV as in twenty minutes of eating cake. But that doesn’t matter—given that we will spend most of our lives in those sorts of obligatory moments, we’re leaving way too much on the table by assuming enjoyment can only be found later and elsewhere. ...
The real transformative effect isn’t in the subtle pleasures you can find when you look (although they’re pretty great). It’s in the completely different way we’re aiming our minds in ordinary moments. We’re looking into our experience, not outwards from it, for interest and pleasure.
We can easily spend nine-tenths of our lives trying to appreciate the free time, hammocks, bike rides, and coffee breaks to come, or we can spend that time—which amounts to decades—appreciating what is already happening. And there’s nothing subtle about the difference it makes."
After several days of hanging with the kids, this blog post resonated deeply. If you ask me what I am enjoying most about this trip, it is not all the usual site-seeing that typically defines a trip, especially one abroad; it is everything in-between. That said, kudos to my sister-in-law, Gina, for organizing a tight itinerary to keep us out and about, but truthfully, it is the ordinary moments, the in-betweens, that I will look back on most and smile.
For example, when we first arrived, Olivia took my hand and guided Dana and I on a tour of the backyard. Once we got to the garden, we made our way through a stone path. As I cleared some brush to make room to walk, Olivia cautioned me, "Be careful, Uncle Luke. Those ones are prickly." Something about those words spoken in her sweet, yet serious tone, with her tiny hand in mine, had me wishing that I could bottle up that moment forever.
There have been too many of these interactions to count. Whether it is Olivia walking with her shoeless feet atop mine to avoid stepping on the patio stones or Owen looking up at me with smiling eyes as we snuggle on the couch, I wake up every morning eager to discover what the day will bring. Maybe it will be Olivia's reaction to a game I devise to keep her occupied before dinner or the story she might tell during bath time.
With kids around, it is easy to find joy in the in-betweens. Kids are full of wonder, and to them, so much is new. Witnessing them experiencing the world never gets old because you never quite know how they will interact - questions, comments, facial expressions. If they get impatient, antsy, bored, etc. - you find ways to keep them going, like making up a song about brushing teeth or dancing while waiting in line. You do whatever it takes and could not care less what others think, assuming they will find it acceptable because you are with a child. What if we embodied that same spirit without a child around?
Spending 24/7 with the kids has reminded me that you can find joy in just about anything, but you have to want to. Instead, we dread tasks like sitting in traffic, shopping for groceries, and cleaning dishes; our only goal is to reach the end. We think to ourselves, "If only time could move faster!" But then, as we get older, we greet our birthdays with dread, complaining that time flies.
As our trip comes to a close, Dana and I are sad to be leaving the kiddos but look forward to the time we have left. I am grateful to return home with a refreshed outlook, ready to embrace all the in-betweens and find a unique flavor of joy in each of them.
Here are some photos from the trip so far:
Lesson? Life moves too fast to wish any of it away. Celebrate the big moments, but don’t forget to savor everything in-between.
Where in my life am I rushing along?