I’m watching Squish or Manchild jump off the couch for the 15th time in a row. It’s the same thing every time. A small bounce, a small jump, a thud on the floor. For variety’s sake, Manchild will sometimes throw in a half-twist, or do a forward roll when he lands. Squish will sometimes throw a ball or car into the air as he jumps. But always the performance is followed by another, “Watch me again, Mom, watch me,” and I can’t help but think, “Oh, boy. I can’t wait until they can move on. Or actually do something worth watching fifteen times in one sitting.” And yet I smile, I clap, I cheer them on. I have no idea if they can detect the waning excitement in my voice as I tire and my mind wanders to the many tasks that also need my attention.
I am guilty, at times, of pegging my happiness on hopes. I’ll think that if this one thing would just happen, life would be good. Or if we could just move past this annoying stage and act like normal people already, I could get something done around here and it would be so much easier. I think a certain amount of hopefulness is healthy. It makes it easier to get up and going when there is hope that I will get closer to achieving my grand ambitions.But there are times when dwelling on those hopes, which sometimes seem so far away and unattainable, or out of my control, can be unhelpful and damaging.
I was reminded of that as I watched Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf speak, a few weeks ago, about some important things not to forget, and I was reminded again as I re-watched it on Monday night. Elder Uchtdorf is in the presidency of my church, and he was speaking to the women of the church, but his message is applicable far and wide. The part of his message that keeps running through my head is, “Forget not to be happy now.”
It is so easy for our minds to be drawn to the empty spaces, the places where mystery lies, where we feel that something should be, but isn’t. Whether that be a job, money, spare time, children, a spouse . . . whatever. It’s easy to dwell there and try to imagine what life would be like if that space were filled. But the more we dwell on the emptiness, the less we are able to see the plenty that we have. Elder Uchtdorf talks about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and how the simple pleasure of a bar of chocolate was lost when there was no golden ticket to accompany it. Likewise, Harry Potter sits and gazes at the Mirror of Erised night after night, pining for his lost parents. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” Dumbledore counsels.
And I sometimes forget what a privilege it is to have two little boys who clamor for my attention, who want me to share their every success, who come running to me with their failures and their hurts. Best enjoy that while I can because I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss it when it’s gone. But if I remember to be happy now, with what I have, then perhaps I will have no regrets and nothing to distract me from other things that need my attention ten years from now.
ps My friend Mara writes about this topic here.