Thursday, 5 November 2015

Enjoy every minute

Reading: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace (again)
Listening to: "Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums" by A Perfect Circle
Outside: A damp November morning

You know when you've got a big day coming up? Your college graduation, your wedding, your first high school prom. You know somebody will say it, you just know it. They will say it because it's just the thing to say, because it's such a big day. Your graduation, your wedding, your first high school prom. Or maybe it's move-in day at your brand new house. Someone will smile at you and say to you, "Enjoy every minute."

There will be variations. Like "Treasure every moment." I know this, because I was told this. I, myself, have said this to lots of people during the run-up of their Big Days, and I'll be the first to admit it. You say this because you want them to. Enjoy it. Treasure it. But, even as the words came out of my mouth, I realized what a thing I was doing. I was weighing them down with absolute responsibility to enjoy themselves at all times. Does anyone else feel what a huge, heavy burden this is?

Say you have a baby. Enjoy every minute, they say. Treasure it.

Well, guess what? It's not perfect. The baby wakes you from your thin sleep to be fed every three hours. Your house becomes a revolving door of well-wishing visitors, each laden with advice and stories and bundles of wrapped pink or blue or the neutral beige booties and you can barely focus on them because you're too busy worrying about the little life you've created and counting down the minutes until the next diaper or next feed. You are exhausted and hungry and, if you're a breast-feeding mommy, your nipples are singing grand opera. Can you really enjoy every minute? Can you do what they say? Can you?

Say you're getting ready for your first high school prom. Enjoy every minute, they say. Treasure it.

Well now, here we go: your svelte, tanned body which you completely do not appreciate quite yet - you'll look back on it in your thirties with a kind of hungry, sentimental lust - shines in a slinky powder-blue prom dress that won't hang exactly right, not like how it looked on the busty mannequin at Macy's. Your hair, done up in an up-do that you did not foresee or even request, defies gravity at the hands of a hairstylist you're sure had some kind of secret vendetta against you, even though you never met her before in your life. Perhaps, you wonder with the beating of your anxious, trapped heart, in some previous life her family hated your family and now karma was biting back. Your dad opens the front door to your date, a boy-turned-man in his dad's tux, holding a plastic box - inside it, your corsage, a rose frosted with baby's breath, shivers. You fight back tears because you can never hold up your end of this Big Day, this Night. The rose shivers just like you. Can you enjoy every minute? Every single one?

Picture from here.

Or, and here's the big one: your birthday party. Pick one, any one. You expect ticker-tape swirling like sycamore seeds, confetti decorating the sky. You want fireworks, strippers popping out of giant cakes. Do any of those things happen? Even if only in your head? No. No, because you probably have a horrible cold and you either eat or drink too much (or both) and maybe you just want to go to bed because you just can't take it. The fact that you're another year older. The squashing certainty that you have one year less to be on this planet, and even more than that, the throat-clenching reality that you are in fact not enjoying every minute even though you are supposed to be.

So, listen up.

Forgive yourself.

You do not have to enjoy yourself every minute. In fact, I give you permission to not enjoy yourself every minute. Go ahead. It's okay. Your lover, your relatives, your son and your friends won't mind, because they won't necessarily have to know. It's perfectly fine to feel sad in the dark, sticky-eyed morning of your wedding day, and it's okay to wonder if the sheer exhaustion of greeting guests and shaking hands at your university graduation party - you finally got that Ph. D. you've been promising yourself since you were fifteen - will ever leave you.

Here's why it's okay:

Because you're human.

These Big Days are full of change. These days are filled with hope and expectation and love (always, always love) and you will change somehow. Fear goes with change. Sometimes, even a kind of melancholy. That's okay. Feel it. Because for the first time, you'll wear the clothes of adulthood, or the robes of academia, or you'll walk in the steps of parenthood. Or maybe you'll call yourself "husband" or "wife" and it seems strange to pair your name in a sentence together with either of those words. Scary or uncomfortable or just, I don't know, skittish. That's okay. You've climbed a summit and you've reached the top. It's okay to feel all those roiling feelings, because it shows you feel the full import of what's happening. Go ahead and feel.

Maybe you go grocery shopping and buy your favorite things for dinner and then just go on a really nice walk. Maybe you see an old friend and have a catch-up. Maybe you just sit down to a warm cup of coffee with your favorite person (your mom, your dad, your neighbour, your closest and deepest-listening cat), on a frizzy-haired, makeup-less morning. Those are moments you don't have to treasure, but I find those are the easiest. They're perfect because they don't have to be.

Unintentional Perfection: Autumn Leaf-Kicking with Jellybean

By all means, enjoy your Big Days (your out-of-this-world perfect moments will come; fireworks when you least expect it), but try to treasure your Little Days, too. Big and Little, they make up all of you. And you - well, that's certainly something to treasure.

Happy Thursday, everybody!

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