Moment to Moment

This weekend, I attended a funeral for a college student who left us entirely too early. We’re close friends with the family, so it was a weekend (and, indeed, a week) fraught with a myriad of emotions and events that, while healthy and necessary to experience, leave one exhausted at their conclusion.

Something said during the service was a tribute to the deceased young man’s love of life, how he lived every day that he had to its fullest, and how he lived it to the good of those around him whenever he could.

When confronted so harshly with our own mortality, it is normal to question the application of these words to our own lives, to consider what sort of imprint one would leave behind. There’s a natural tendency as a parent, I think, to understand the often experimental nature of raising your first child. That’s to say, it’s not a question of if you’ll make a mistake, but a question of minimizing the seriousness of your mistakes as you guide your child into adulthood. A tendency of mine has been to shrug off the moments when I haven’t handled a situation well…when I’ve minimized my daughter’s feelings, or been inconsiderate of her emotions, or raised my voice in frustration when I could just as easily have taken another deep breath and reasoned things through. I’ve assumed that these moments would be lost to her young memory as she grew, and that I would just get better at what was happening as I gained experience.

I’m not sure that these events are, in fact, lost to her memory though, and, as she’s now four, they’re not currently even if they once were.

Her quality of life, and the kind of person that she grows into, depends very largely on my actions and reactions during these years, and, while this is something that I understood in theory, the weight of it in practice is something entirely unanticipated.

Added to the fact that I’ve been unable to forge any depth of connection with our youngest daughter, this means that I’m leaving much to be desired in each moment that passes. Those moments are no longer just mine, if they ever were. They are impacting two other young lives in ways the depth of which I may never understand.

As I sat in the warm glow of stained glass windows this weekend paying tribute to another life lived, I considered the love of life and the importance of making it count in each moment. And while, yes, I understand how cliché that may sound, I think what strikes me here is redeeming the time…redeeming each moment…not for my own sake, but the sake of my daughters. To expect to handle every event, incident, and interaction perfectly is a superhuman expectation that I couldn’t hope to keep any more than anyone else can. What I can do, though, is do better. I can be more conscious of each moment, and how those moments carry repercussions into the lives of others.

If I do that, perhaps it won’t make any difference on my own life, but that isn’t the point. The point is the impact that will make on my daughters’ lives, and, perhaps, on others as well.

Quote

On Faith and Politics

“When the church aligns itself politically, it gives priority to the compromises and temporal successes of the political world rather than its rightful Christian confession of eternal truth. And when the church gives up its rightful place as the conscience of the culture, the consequences for society can be horrific.”

-Chuck Colson

Motion

There’s an old adage, I’m certain you’ve heard it, that a “body in motion stays in motion.” I believe that its meant as a physical truth, encouraging one to remain active and fit. I remember, though, a conversation that I had with a young colleague in a Boston office building years ago, while he worked his way, as we all do, through relationships and life. I reminded him that none of us are static. That we change. That the people whom we know change.

On an emotional, psychological and spiritual level, we are always bodies in motion. We’re always moving forward or backward, but I don’t for a moment think that we’re ever stagnant. If we are, we don’t stay that way for long.

I’m thinking of this because I remember a teacher with whom I worked many years ago during my first career. She was struggling when I knew her, both personally and professionally. She wasn’t received well by her peers, and, whatever the details of her battle, the fact that she would not be returning after that semester became increasingly obvious. I remember respecting her strength as she worked to hold life together during the final few months of that academic year. She didn’t return the following year, and I have no idea what happened to her. If I remember her, though, I remember a person struggling through a difficult season of life, wearing all of the frustration and insecurities that go with that on her face, displaying it with her eyes and averted gaze.

Not so long ago, I was beginning a new career, and had taken a position with a company which surrounded me with people much better than I was at what I do. I had viewed this role as a learning experience…and it ultimately was exactly that…but I was a source of frustration to my more-experienced colleagues as they had to stop and explain things to me that were, for them, elementary concepts. When one has to meet tight deadlines in an environment where communication is not a priority, mentoring someone less experienced in one’s field is a burden, not a privilege.

I’m much more experienced at what I do now, and I’ve grown into an expert in my  niche. I have a skill set now that I wish I had possessed in that job, for the sake of my colleagues, because I could have been so much more productive and helpful to them. I occasionally encounter one of them on LinkedIn, congratulating them on a new role or something similar, and I wonder how they remember me. I think that, in their minds, I am still the inexperienced and troublesome novice whom they believed would have no success in this new career.

The teacher that I knew all those years ago, whatever happened to her, is likely in a much better place in life, now. I imagine that she no longer carries the stress that she did when I knew her. I no longer carry the stress of being inexperienced and needing to ask constant questions now, because I have learned and grown. I no longer carry the burdens that I did when my colleagues from two years ago knew me.

We are not static people. We stay in motion.

We all know people like me, or like that teacher. We’ve helped someone through a difficult time in their life, and, whenever we see them now that they are doing better, we begin our approach with a practiced empathy that is no longer warranted or even helpful (perhaps even the opposite), yet engrained with a sort of emotional muscle memory when encountering that person. I’ve been on the receiving end of that, and it’s not fun.

Just as our children will not be the same next year as they are now, neither will the people that we know. I think that recognizing the growth that someone has experienced…actively seeking all the ways in which they are better…is the sort of unconditional positive regard that has an enormous influence on all of us, something that helps us to live our lives that much better.

Because we are in motion. Always in motion. And that is a frightening, as well as a really cool, thing.