This morning, my son set off for his first day of 9th grade. Last night, he set out all of his new clothes, photographing them so a friend could help him choose what to wear to school. He was anxious to arrive at school early to spend time with his friends. In fact, he organized a carpool so that he could arrive extra early every day. Suddenly, I had a quiet sliver of time to spend by myself, accompanied by our dog, Ruby.
I began to imagine what my life would be like once my son goes off to college. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the noise and chaos, the life and sheer creative force that fills our home when he is there. The wonderful notes and drawings he leaves for me or around the house. The crazy rushing around the house, chasing Ruby, holding her snout to see what sounds she makes. The sounds of an oboe being practiced at 3 o’clock in the morning. A sense of loss engulfed me as I projected myself into that future four short years from now. I also sensed how little my son realizes just how wonderful, important, and unique he is. And so, I try my best to enjoy each moment of boisterousness…even the yelling and contentiousness. My life will become very quiet one day, but for now, it is full of buzzing.
Reflecting on the philosophy that the only reality and creative potential of life exist in the present moment, I wonder about the urge to hold on to memories. Contemporary life pushes us to document on Facebook, Instagram, to photograph and record on video each of our experiences and impulses… Does this desire to connect through what immediately becomes a dead relic of time make our experiences more or less precious? I find myself feeling anxious and weighed down by the increasing burden of precious stuff.
When I was young and childless, I had no responsibilities other than caring for myself. I had very little “stuff” – no furniture, little clothing, books, or photographs. My “burden” that I carried when I moved consisted mostly of my artwork and art supplies. When I became a parent, something shifted inside of me. Suddenly, I felt the need to provide a “home” for my son, and I not only became much more materialistic, but also much more afraid. Suddenly, I had something very precious in my care. I did not want to lose him, and this is what made me afraid. Before his birth, I was never afraid about losing my own life. Again, for the very same reasons, my life became precious because my son needed me for his survival and for his happiness.
Becoming a parent introduced the feature of time for me. Having a child made me mortal, fragile, and bearer of responsibilities. And yet, the creative potential of life still hovers in each instant, tugging at my sleeve, reminding me that we are all whispers in the wind. Don’t worry, let go, sigh the soft voices. It will happen anyway, no matter how hard you try to grasp onto melting cheesecloth of your memories. Nothing is gained or lost in time…And yet, and yet…in each moment, you are immortal. Life is beautiful and fragile, devastatingly violent, and when I step outside of fear, incredibly fraught with possibilities.