I wake up to birdsong and soft light washing in through a window that no curtain can cover. I drink coffee and read a book, easing into the day. Work starts with an interview. A woman interrupts at just the right time. Doorbell rings, dog barks, life continues. She wants to mow my lawn in exchange for the ability to pay a bill. I say yes and go back to work. The children play upstairs and I try to focus.
The heat is harsh this week and still somehow wonderful, like a blanket you don’t need but filled with memories you can’t let go. I go for a walk for no particular reason at no particular time, and it is transcendent. A woman passes with her baby in a stroller, and we both nod in recognition as if to say: “This was a bad idea.” We smile at the absurdity of our poor planning, then resume this silly game of pretending that life is anything other than perfect, always.
I go on a business trip and it‘s cooler in this new place, but the sun still shines. I feel tired and miss my bed and window with the sun rays. I eat too much and drink more than I should, watching my belly droop over the waistline each morning while feeling new aches in odd places. This, I think, is what getting older must be like.
My body remembers high school and taunts from older boys whom I foolishly mistook for wise; a familiar shiver of shame shakes through me, bringing attention to the parts that no longer feel young. I walk to get ice cream and forget my troubles, noticing that I am still here, smiling as the wind caresses my face, unperturbed by my tiny melodramas. A tightness in my body releases without prompting, and with it, an exhale I didn’t know I was holding.
Who knew a life so simple could be so sweet?
I come home. It rains here but only for a minute. A meal is made by my hands on a new grill that sits on the patio. It is served with care and love, and before bed, the whole neighborhood stops by for s’mores. The kids want to see their mother and I agree to make a stop the next day.
When we meet, they hug and cry and say goodbye, and I watch from the driveway. The return trip home is filled with golden moments of sunset reflecting off green Tennessee hills in miraculous and unforgettable splendor. And yet, in a moment, I forget it all, because more room must be made for the following moment.
The night wraps its cool arms around the car as it barrels down country roads, stopping at the corner station for snacks before pulling into the cul-de-sac. We are Here. Everything is as it should be, in spite of dwindling bank accounts and children who accuse in one breath and gleefully squeal the next—and a father who doesn’t know what to do with any of it. All is well.
My life feels smaller these days, but richer. I imagine there are pieces of my story that some may pity, details others would want to change. But it is my life, and I love it all, even the parts I don’t understand. There’s not a thing I would change, because I can find nothing wrong with any of it.
I am loved by a woman whose affection I cherish and whose honor I protect. There is a dog in our care whom the doctors say is dying. They’ve been saying this for months, though; and in this moment, he chases stuffed toys thrown deep into a dying lawn. It is ten p.m. He returns the bedraggled ball of fluff after each throw as street lamps illumine our view, offering a spotlight to adult conversation.
There was a time when I wanted fantastical exploits and over-the-top experiences, a life lived to the full. Now, I can find no part of me who desires such things. I have no room for anything larger than this. It is all I could ever want, filled with more than enough wonder. And yet, there’s always more. To be tuned in like this, to be here for all of it, feels like heaven. And for all I know, it is.
If I could offer some sliver of observation, something that approximates advice, it would be this: What fills your life is you. No success can give you any sense of satisfaction you don’t already possess. A little life can contain an entire universe when you know what to look for—and learning to look is what it’s all about.
Every grand achievement I’ve ever encountered ultimately disappointed me in some way, leaving my soul in a state of greater confusion. When the glitter of accomplishment faded, what remained was the life I was trying to get away from, the one that kept staring back at me. Eventually, I had to face it, and what a wonderful face it had.
In spite of what the self-help cliches assert, you don’t actually get to choose your life. Try as you might, you can’t control what happens. What each of us can do is learn to live—to be in this life, all the way, for as much as possible.
When we do that, we discover that the little stuff is larger than we thought. We start to see that it’s all here, right now—a fireworks display of majesty in every single breath. And we realize that the life we were waiting for was actually waiting for us.
Listen to the podcast episode that accompanies this post here.