Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reveling in the Journey

My family loves weekends. Partly because we don't have to get up early, run out the door and work all day, but partly because most of the time, we don't plan anything for weekends. They're our downtime days, an opportunity to be together and do something spur of the moment if we feel like it, or not.

Sometimes I worry that we are wasting these opportunities. Friends post pictures of ski trips, Broadway shows they've gone to see, art museum jaunts and the like. And usually all we do is sit around and read, draw, play board games, watch movies or football and maybe go out to eat.

In this goal-obsessed world, where my kids are under constant pressure in school and sports, I really want them to have down time. Yes, it's important to set goals and have dreams. But we also need time to dream them. I'm a writer, which means my family will often find me staring off into space, thinking about a character or possible plot for a story, maybe working out a tricky scene in my mind. All they see is that glazed, half-tired look on my face, but it is in these moments, or in the quiet minutes after waking up, just before everything gets going for the day, that I do a lot of my most important work.

After two years of working on a novel, I finally got it polished enough that I felt ready to send out query letters to agents today. It is both exciting and nerve-wracking, this process, even as I take the next step in the journey of bringing my book to the rest of the world. I have a dear friend who has been supporting me in this project since I began, and when I told her about the query letters going out, she wanted to celebrate.

"Not yet," I told her. "I have friends who got agents but were never able to sell their books. Let's wait a bit."

She was having none of it.

"NO! That's not the point! The point is the journey--we need to celebrate this part of the journey. We don't know where it will go, but we do know where you have been. And that, my friend, is what we need to celebrate!"

She is right, of course. And it got me thinking about my kids, toiling away on their journey toward college and whatever will come after. I am always harping on about how they need to study hard, keep their grades up if they want to stay in this club or on that team, how much those things will help them when they are looking at colleges in a couple of years. They need to be planning for the future. But now I wonder if I am taking away their joy of being in those clubs and having those team experiences because I am focusing on the goal of the journey rather than the journey itself.

In the big scheme of things, it's all a journey. When my boys look back on these short years at home, in proportion to how many more years they'll live away from us, will they feel deprived when they think of all the shows, trips or events we didn't plan or take or see? Or will they remember these mundane days of lounging happily? Will they breathe a little more deeply at the memory of relaxing in pajamas at home with their family, cooking up the dreams they will hopefully achieve once they do leave home and head out on their own?

I can't really say, but I hope they'll recall these do-nothing days with a smile, that they'll one day appreciate the importance of resting in the midst of all the rushing. And I hope they'll continue to give themselves down time to think about their journeys, and maybe play a game of Monopoly with their own kids when they do. Yes, it's important to make the most of our time. But sometimes, that means leaving time empty so life can seep into it, filling us with the wonder and pleasure of now.

1 comment:

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

First of all YES to your friend that said you MUST still celebrate. It is a milestone, regardless!

Also, I am always glad to find another family who does not feel the need to go and do everything all the time. We are (most of us in our family, anyway) content to appreciate the downtime, too. Some might say it's called living in the moment, for today, no? :D