LIFE LESSONS CONTINUED • Keep Your Focus

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It sometimes amazes me that, at 58 years old, I still have so many lessons to learn. I also many times find the manner in which God presents this information to me amusing. Today's light-bulb moment was "focus on what's in front of you." 

We all obviously keep our eyes to the front at times: driving a car, riding a bike, making your way through a haunted-house attraction. Although we have to pay attention to things in our peripheral vision, like a zombie jumping through a wall, the path right in front of us is the most important to stay safe. 

Conversely, many of us tend to get distracted by the activity around us, losing sight of where our concentration should be. In my head right now are the voices of past teachers saying "keep your eyes on your paper," when clearly the most fascinating entertainment was going on in the hallway or outside the classroom window. Instead of teachers, now it's my husband asking, "Did you hear what I said?" Well, of course not. I'm in the middle of paying bills, scratching the dog's ear and watching a full episode of "Hoarders" on my phone. I can multitask but I'm not Superwoman.

Unfortunately, much of my adult life after high school graduation was spent focused on the future instead of the here and now. I couldn't wait to get married and did so at the ridiculously young age of 18. I would never recommend this to anyone, even though Randy and I have been blessed with almost 40 years of marriage. I credit that to him looking past how young and immature I was for many years and the tenacity to hang on like a pitbull.

When friends and family members started or continued having children, I thought we should also. Everything would be awesome with a cute, little baby! So, we got pregnant and had our first child when I was 20 years old. A couple of years later, I reasoned that our lives weren't as happy as they should be because we needed another baby. That pregnancy ended in miscarriage but thankfully our second son did come along that next year. 

Evidently I'm not always the quickest learner because two years later, along came our third and final baby, another boy. At that point we gave up on ever having a girl in the household and called it quits. I was 28 years old with three kids, and still trying to figure out what next step would make me feel content with my life. Hey, let's go back to college, get educated and make lots of money! Sounded like a reasonable plan to me.

Instead of enjoying the time with our sons while they were younger and trying to become a better mother, I kept looking in the distance, trying to locate the exact career, hobby or volunteer position guaranteed to make me complete. My elusive happiness always seemed to hinge on a better paying job or a size smaller pants. Meanwhile, the boys were growing up and I missed the best parts while I was earning a degree, changing jobs numerous times and trying every diet under the sun. The satisfaction I so desperately sought was always prefaced with "when," such as in "when I lose ten more pounds" or "when I have a job making XXX per year." I didn't know how to enjoy the moment I was in.

I finally started changing after Bryce, the youngest of our three kids, died in 2007. His sudden death at the beginning of his 19th year forced me to realize we don't always have a "when" coming. I began turning my attention to the present more often than before instead of waiting to live in the future. When two new grandchildren, Anthony and Bella, arrived in September and November that same year, I tried to spend lots of time just rocking and holding them, savoring each minute of them cuddled up on my chest or shoulder. In 2015, when baby Harmony was born, I had no greater joy than rocking her to sleep and holding her the entire time she snoozed, kissing her little head and telling her how much I loved her. 

It's taken me a long time to adjust my way of thinking. I have pretty well given up dwelling on the past, and though I look forward to the future, my days are spent treasuring my jewels of the present, such as my great husband, wonderful work family and precious grandchildren. I take time to appreciate the clouds in the sky, flowers in bloom and the peeps of the frogs at night.I thank God for allowing me to see and hear the beauty that is nature.

If you're wondering about my inspiration for this column, it happened while I was out in my yard doing a weekly clean-up of doggie deposits. As I was keeping my eyes peeled in front of my feet, the phrase "keep your eyes on what's right in front of you" popped into my head. Good advice. It can be useful to keep you out of deep doggie doo-doo in more ways than one.

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