I’ve always thought of “living in the moment” in terms of savoring life and all its vivid but easily overlooked beauty. The weight of “now” needed to be measured and felt when a new baby who would soon transform into a lanky, little girl was in my arms. Being fully present during the happy or just everyday moments was important because it made me more grateful and forced me to not be so distracted that I missed out on all of the little things. And life is really just a hodgepodge compilation of little things. Little moments that when strung together make a life of consequence.
Yes, I have enjoyed being fully present while I read a treasured storybook aloud to my children or when Thomas stops nursing just to look up at me and beam, his bright, brown eyes shining. It’s good to sink into the now of those sepia-toned moments.
But what about when you walk into a bedroom and discover that your baby boy dug in to a dirty diaper and decided to use his poop as finger paint? Do you really want to savor that moment, especially when your dear, dear babysitter who really deserves a raise, says, “Well, now we know he eats everything,” because your innocent, little boy had his poop-encrusted fingers in his mouth?
I had a rough day. Today I really earned the title I jokingly give myself as an expert in hazardous waste removal.
Later in the afternoon after the home no longer reeked of sewage I asked my 3-year-old to please use the potty before climbing into my bed for some quiet time. I was busy tidying up the kitchen when I heard her calling for me in a high-pitched voice. “Mommmmmeeeeeeee.” Never a good sign.
As soon as I approached the bathroom, I smelled poop. More stinkin’ poop. Be still my weary, grossed out heart.
“Sowry,” she said, “but I pooped on the floor.” She neglected to mention that she pooped on the floor and then tried to clean up after herself, which resulted in several stained towels and a trail of poopy footprints on the bathroom floor.
And I kid you not when I sat down to write this post earlier today, she came up to me and said, “Sowry, but I pooped in my panties.” Then when I finally was squeezing in a much-needed shower just before dinner, my oldest ran in and announced that the 3-year-old had pooped in her panties again. Although she has had plenty of pee-pee accidents as my most recalcitrant potty trainer, the sweet girl has never pooped in her panties. She made up for lost time today.
How much stink can a mama take? (This is authenticity – the real, raw, and sometimes fetid version of motherhood.)
I was on the verge of crumbling and was having trouble holding it together. I was so tired and stressed about other things that had nothing to do with poop and were completely out of my control. Not that my kids’ bowel movements and where they end up were completely in my control either. My mind was reeling. Would there be more poop? Please no. But then it hit me. I wasn’t living in the moment. I wasn’t accepting the now. I was dwelling on what ifs and what would happen if and when, and it struck me that while it might seem counterintuitive to want to be fully present and focused on a crappy day like this, doing so actually will help me get through – or in the very least accept – the miasma of discouragement.
In Fr. Jacques Philippe’s Interior Freedom, he writes, “What really hurts is not so much suffering itself as the fear of suffering.”
The fear of thinking there will be more poop, less sleep, more heartache, more suffering can break a person. I think of my mom, whose chronic pain burns quite literally at an intensity I’m not sure I could endure. How can she go on like this? We don’t know. We can’t look ahead. She’s had to learn to accept her pain – just as we ought to welcome and savor our joys – one day at a time. She cannot fear what lies ahead. I can’t either.
I’ll take poop over chronic pain, and it will be easier to endure any of the less-than-ideal moments of life if I remain in the now. The moment will pass. There may be another calamitous diaper incident. There may be no relief to my sweet mama’s pain tomorrow. Or things will get better. Either way, I’ll survive. I’ll make it through. So will my mom. It doesn’t matter what happens tomorrow or even an hour from now. It’s what I do with what hand is dealt to me this very second.
Today was gross. Tomorrow when my mom undergoes more surgery will be hard for her and for all those who love her. Instead of wishing away the moments or fearing the future, we have to accept life as it is. We can’t dream of a cleaner, brighter, less stinky, less painful life. We have to accept the now, live in it, learn from it. Life is what it is, and it can be good and beautiful even in the midst of suffering if only we let it be.