The winter issue of Magnolia Journal has officially hit newsstands! This year, each of our four issues explore the overarching theme of identity. First up was our spring theme of authenticity, then freedom for summer, wholeness for fall, and now we’re finishing the year with resolve.
Here you can read Jo’s thoughts about her resolve to “look up” as a way to savor each present moment and see the richness of life that’s unfolding all around.
IT’S ABOUT TIME
My mind often replays moments and milestones that have shaped our years as a family. Some of these “most watched” memories have taken shape as a sort of mental highlight reel that I can play whenever I’m feeling nostalgic. Somehow, though, traveling back to the past always makes me curious to jump ahead to the future. I imagine what our lives might look like in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years. In an instant, I’m watching the rest of my life play out, but already in hindsight, instead of living it in real time.
I doubt that I’m alone in this. Perhaps you also have found yourself keeping time in past and future tense. I think the frantic pace of our world makes it all too easy to do this. Many of us live in a culture that keeps us on a treadmill, always hustling toward what’s next before we ever have a chance to enjoy what’s present. And then, all too quickly, it becomes what’s past. I think if we let it, the world and its steady stream of noise could consume us till the day we die.
I genuinely enjoy having a full schedule. It’s not uncommon for me to choose the prospect of a new project over a power nap. I don’t believe I was made to sit still for long, but I also know that there have been many times when I’ve overcommitted my capacity—when I’ve let busyness blur who knows how many small joys that can be noticed only in quiet.
Last January, I decided that enough was enough, and I challenged myself to spend this year living in the present. To quiet the voice inside my head that tells me the good ol’ days have passed me by or that the best is yet to come. To choose instead only the moment that’s unfolding right in front of me. To breathe in every sight and every sound. To hold it all dearly.
I came up with this mantra of sorts that I’d whisper to myself or repeat in my head whenever I felt that invariable tug to disengage from the present. Just two simple words: Look up. And because I believe there is power in asking our body to act on our heart’s behalf, no matter where I was or what task may have been in front of me, if I sensed myself drifting, I’d do my best to pause and look up.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a work in progress. This shift in perspective was not perfected overnight, or at any point this year, and I don’t think it can be. But here’s what I’m finding when I do choose to look up: This way of living is so sweet, so full, and so beautiful, and now that I’ve experienced it, I never want to live any other way. Of course not every moment has been worthy of the attention—but for the most part, the ones I’ve caught I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. And it’s made me wonder how many quiet miracles are happening all around us on a daily basis, and how many of them we fail to experience when we’re busy looking down.
Part of this goes back to how we track time. It’s easy for me to want to give a lot of my energy and attention to celebrating milestones. Birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, first and last days of school—these moments always get the best of my time and presence, which isn’t a negative thing. Milestones help us gauge our place in the world; they clue us in to how far we’ve come and how much growing we’ve got left to do. But what I’ve found to be far worthier is all there is to see in the in-between. In morning routines and daily commutes. And at mealtimes two or three times a day. In car rides to baseball practice and car rides home from gymnastics. In bedtime rituals that become a rhythm of three books before lights out. The promise of a sunrise and the beauty of a slow sunset.
Who we become is shaped more in the mundane than by the milestones. Rather than how their birthdays get celebrated, my kids are more likely to absorb the conversations we shared during car rides, the moments that I said yes to them and no to a distraction, how safe they felt when I tucked them into bed at night.
I was wrong to blame time for so many years, to call it a thief for moving too fast. I’ve found that the real thieves are distractions and our willingness to give in to them, to allow our thoughts and energy to fuel their journey toward some lesser thing. In the end, they are what will steal our moments and rob our days. But time—the here and now—is our most precious gift. And I’m determined to hold it carefully with outstretched and grateful hands.
The end of the year is a natural time to reflect on the past or look ahead to the future. Some of us are sad another year is ending, and others can’t wait for it to be over already. But for now, for today, we can resolve to see our lives as richer than any past or future things. Right now, this very second, this is the gift. These are the days. These are the moments. This season, let’s look up and behold the beauty of the here and now.
Magnolia Journal is a quarterly lifestyle publication that promises fresh inspiration for your life and home in each new season.