Acceptance, Buddhism, CFS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain, Gratitude, In the moment, One Moment in Time, SEID, Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease, Understanding, Waiting, You Can't Always Get What You Want
Before I got sick in high school, I ran cross country and track. At the end of each season, there would be an awards night, invariably during which a slide show of pictures of the student athletes would be shown and Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time” would be played. I had already sat through a lot of these presentations during my older sister’s very successful running career, and I remember yearning for the day when my picture would be up there. More than that, I ached to fulfill the song’s message: to have that special moment “when I am more than I thought I could be”, so that I could “feel eternity” and “be free”. It didn’t have to be in running. It could be in whatever field I chose to pursue, but I was sure, with that silky, soaring voice egging me on, that, one day, it would happen.
I think a lot of us live this way—waiting for our lives to start. We train ourselves to do this with the stories we tell and the ones we consume. After all, how many movies or novels are there about someone living their lives from day to day as best they can? A few perhaps, but most of us find them unbearably boring. We crave adventure, love, excitement. We meet our favorite protagonists when they have been tasked with a great struggle and we leave them when they have found love or have met some elusive goal.
Don’t get me wrong, I love those stories. Heck, I’ve written those stories, but I think they, like the song, can confuse us about how we might want to live our lives. For a long time, I thought “One Moment in Time” was such a great, inspirational song—and it is. It tells us that through hard work and determination, we can become whatever we dream. And, history has borne this out. It can be true—but not for all of us. Sometimes we fail. Even when we try with all our wits and might and heart, sometimes we can’t capture the brass ring we believe will make our lives whole. And, I for one, would like to believe, that’s okay. As Mick Jagger has told us countless times: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need”. Our job, a part from trying, is to recognize what we need when it arrives. But here again, I’m talking about waiting. Living for some time in the future. For that time when I’ve lost the weight, when my body works the way I want it to, when I get this job or have that relationship. We put our attention on hold until that magical time when we feel like all our ducks will all be in a row and the euphoria induced by this knowledge will keep us sailing through life.
I’ve been frustrated again lately about my lack of outward accomplishment in this lifetime and haunted by fears that I will never have my one moment in time. And I realize that even though I am doing a lot of things to achieve my goals, a part of me is just waiting. Always waiting. And you know what? I don’t want to wait anymore. I don’t want to think of my life as unfulfilled because I haven’t won an Olympic gold medal or gotten a publishing contract. And, come to think of it, I don’t want just one moment in time—hoping and believing that that instant will carry me through the rest of my life on clouds of ecstasy. I am determined to have many moments—like when one of the little song birds comes for a visit on my window ledge, or one of my nieces gives me a hug for no reason, or noticing the crazy vivacity of acrylic paints. Or recognizing how beautiful my harp sounds even when I am struggling to learn a hard passage. Or feeling how just how soft my little, grey cat is when she comes to greet me in the morning. Or sensing the subtle trickles of honeyed relaxation that seep through my muscles whenever my mother touches me. Or remembering how grateful I am that my legs are capable of mobility, even when every step is painful. Or, or, or. The truth is I could go on for days.
When I was a kid and my family would eat something particularly delicious, my parents, both native German speakers (though different dialects), would instruct us, “You have to eat this mit verstand.” I instinctively knew that this meant it was so good, it would be criminal not to savor it, but the literal translation for the German is “with understanding”. We were supposed to eat with understanding, with gratitude, and with an attentive curiosity about what it was all about—every facet of it. That is how I would like to experience my many one moments in time. I don’t always do it—a lot of times I forget—but, I think for me, this is where eternity and freedom truly lie—in realizing the saturation of life in any sort of time—whether it be joyful or dull or difficult. These are the moments I am living for and that I am resolved to live in now. And if I get a publishing contract or somehow jump into an alternate universe and win a gold medal, I will endeavor to meet those moments with understanding, too.
Thanks for reading. 🙂