This morning I had one of those bittersweet moments you get as a parent from time to time: you see your children transforming in front of you.
I walked downstairs and saw my ten-year old daughter sitting on the couch and the change in her took my breath away, as if she’d grown a couple of inches overnight. I could swear her face looked more mature than the little girl I’d tucked in eight hours earlier, in ways that only I was close enough to notice. She is becoming a young woman and in a photograph flash there on the stairs I saw it.
It reminded me that despite being housebound and despite so much of our ordinary routine being interrupted, and despite the current normal feeling anything but normal—life is still happening and I need to be present for it. She is still my daughter and I’m still her daddy, and we are living out our story in real time. Our family is not paused in any of the ways that matter: we’re still loving and learning and laughing and crying and sharing.
It’s easy in days like these, so filled with worries about what’s coming, to believe that we’re all in some holding pattern right now: a massive waiting room where we’re busying ourselves and biding our time, until this nightmare fog clears and we can resume living again. It’s tempting to imagine everything is on hold right now until someone gives us the all clear to move.
But if we do that, if we keep all our attention on when this crisis will end, we’ll miss our lives currently unfolding, we’ll miss a million infinitesimal holy moments that we will never get again; the place where we are being invited to live right now. We will sacrifice the present we have in our hands, on the altar of the future that we’re waiting on.
In these days we can dwell so much on what is taken away, that we miss what we’ve been given:
We’re getting time with our children that we’d never get any other way; time to sit with them and not be hurrying from task to task and quickly into the car for the next breathless drop off. We can linger with them and really see them and notice how they’re changing.
We’re getting time with our spouses and partners and siblings; days where we can stop and have a meal in the middle of the day or steal away for coffee late at night; a chance to have conversations that sink deeper than the surface small talk we often default to and into the depths of our hopes and fears.
We’re getting white space we’d never otherwise get, and we can fill that time with beautiful, joyous, life-affirming acts: we can pick up the guitar again or resume writing the book we’d shelved or break out the business we dreamed of launching. We can text friends who we’ve lost touch with, check on our neighbors, and connect with people on social media to make sure everyone feels a little less alone. We can exercise and eat well and care for ourselves and rest, in ways we might neglect when our calendars are again filled and our agendas are again bursting to overflow.
Yes, these days are disorienting and inconvenient but they aren’t uneventful days.
Life is happening all around you right now.
Your children are growing at lightning speed.
Your relationships are waiting for you to be present.
Your mind is still free to create and plan and dream.
Your gifts are still fully accessible and you can still wield them all.
You and everyone around you is getting a day older, and so there should be urgency that rises up in you to make sure you spend it well.
The terrifying reality of this season is realizing how fragile life is and how quickly it can dissolve. If there’s anything good found in seeing so many leave this place with such velocity and randomness, it can be that we make sure we don’t procrastinate living another minute more.
There will be a day when you can do all the things you normally do, and there will a trade-off: you won’t be able to do what you can do today.
You’ll have that day but you won’t ever get this one again, and it would be a tragedy if you wasted it, waiting to be released by someone else.
You are inconvenienced and redirected, but you aren’t stopped.
You are physically separated from people but you are connected in ways that transcend geography.
You are frustrated and tired and worried, but you are alive and that’s a pretty important detail to miss.
As much as you can, stay home and stay safe in this quarantine—but as much as you can, keep living while you do.
Do what you are able to do, cultivate gratitude, be present, show compassion.
This day isn’t a place to wait, it’s still a place to live.