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The smell of rain-kissed earth fills my senses as I sit in my living room, typing out this post. It’s a gentle reminder of how life is beautiful, even in the smallest of ways.
Our home’s balcony overlooks the road, the same road that Gy walks down every single day to board her school bus. It’s a bit patchy in places and has more dust than I’d feel comfortable about, but none of this fazes her. She strolls down this path, a friend by her side, occasionally throwing back her head in a hearty laugh at something the other child said.
I wait and watch till the kids reach the bus stop, about 300 meteres away and when they begin to resemble tiny ants in the distance, I heave a sigh, draw the window shut and stand there, musing on a number of things floating through my head.
A friend of mine may need surgery this week and she was speaking with me last night. In her voice, I could sense that underlying fear that grips anyone when the word ‘surgery’ is used. She brushed it off saying that it’s just a minor procedure and that she’d be out the same day but I knew what was really worrying her. The dreaded, ‘What if’, that accompanies anything to do with ill health.
A year and a half ago, I lost a friend to a freak illness. She was hale, hearty, fighting fit and a familiar fixture in our community as she used to walk every single day. Her smile would light up her face and she always had a moment to spare for everyone. And she, literally, dropped dead in her home one morning in August.
She had no warning, no inkling that this would happen and neither did her family. Her kids and grieving husband were left behind, picking up the pieces. I always raged at the forces of Nature, asking how this was fair. What sense did it make to take away a mom and a wife in the prime of her life? To this day, I have no answers.
So I could empathise when my friend felt that palpable fear. What if she wasn’t around to see her child grow up? What if the outcome of the surgery is something that she isn’t ready for? What if she has her days numbered?
Yet, beyond the customary assurances of ‘Don’t worry. Everything will be fine’, I had no solid answers to give her. We never do. It’s not as if saying it out loud will actually change a future outcome, but the one thing we can do is offer hope.
What this did bring home to me, personally, was that I needed to look at how things were playing out in my own life. How was I dealing with the people in my life? Did I value them enough? Did I make sure that I appreciated their being around?
This is especially true of me, as a parent. I’ve virtually stopped yelling at Gy but it’s not easy being a mom or a child. She’s almost eleven and is in that awkward phase between childhood and adolescence and is busy testing her boundaries.
Every morning is a bit of a challenge thanks to my obsession with doing things on time and her dreamy, relaxed way of approaching life. Invariably, I’d be snapping at her as she walked out the door, half-lecturing her on the value of punctuality while giving her a hurried hug and kiss. Being the kind soul that she is, she ends up feeling guilty at annoying me and tries to make up for it with a lingering hug instead.
Last night’s conversation triggered a change in my outlook. Here I was, blessed with the most amazing child in the world, and I was spending minutes of my life on being annoyed with her tardiness. As it hit me, I looked at every little piece of her that fills my heart with gratitude.
She always asks for a hug every night before bed.
She loves it when I tell her a bed time story, as ridiculously made up and nonsensical as it can be.
She helps out everyday with chores around the home.
She honestly tries to better herself where she thinks she can improve.
She never says No to a game of UNO.
She willingly gives away clothes that don’t fit her anymore or toys and books that she has outgrown.
She turns back to wave goodbye as she walks down the street to reach her school bus.
And these reminders are important, for they teach me all the things that really matter. This morning, filled with a renewed sense of purpose, I woke her up from bed not the way I usually do but by sitting next to her stroking her hair and whispering her name. As her eyes flew open, I planted a kiss on her cheek and savoured the warmth that the pillow had left on her form.
When she grinned sleepily, I playfully punched her on the arm and said I had ‘won’ since I’d woken up before she had. Her dormant competitive streak rose to the fore and she stuck her tongue out, saying she’d make it up by getting ready on time. In mock horror, I challenged her to a ‘time-duel’ where we’d each try to be ready by 7 am. The winner would get riches, fame and glory, in the confines of our household.
She zipped around, one eye on the clock and another on my light-hearted barbs as we each tackled our tasks. The enthusiasm was infectious and we found ourselves laughing, cheering and enjoying every second of the morning.
And just like that, the narrative had shifted. From a harried mom, I became the hilarious mom. From the stormy kid, she’d transformed into a smiling one. A part of me wants to call that friend and explain that this is the secret to joy. This moment, this present package of seconds right here and right now, is all we have. Worrying about a potential future where things may not be okay, is not only harmful, but robs you of the joy you could be enjoying right now.
But I know this is a lesson best learned on one’s own, through our respective missteps and individual setbacks. For it is then that the lesson lasts forever.
Today’s hug, as she left home, was a lingering one and the kiss we exchanged was filled with love and the silent acknowledgement that life is, indeed, beautiful.
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