Why I Carpe Diem

A while back I read an article written by a mother who chafed at the presumptuous (albeit well-intentioned) platitude carpe diem in regard to parenting. She catalogued disastrous grocery store trips and bad behaviors, and lamented the fact that sometimes it’s difficult to enjoy every single moment in the midst of day-to-day chaos. And oh, I get it. I really, really get it.

I got it this morning when my one-year-old discovered my favorite tube of Clinique lipstick in the open pocket of my purse and proceeded to smear it all over himself. I got it last night when my eight-year-old pitched a fit of epic proportions over a little ketchup on his hamburger. And I’m sure I’ll nod my head in solidarity with her sentiments a dozen times over before the week is up.

It is hard to carpe diem when you are the parent of small children (or large children, I imagine!). But although the author of this particular article is beautiful and brilliant and fabulous in every single way, and although there is real truth in her words, after weeks of stewing on that article I’ve come to the conclusion that something about it doesn’t sit quite right with me. She encourages her readers to find grace in small moments — seconds at a time where we can step outside of the hustle and bustle of life and brush up against something divine. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

And yet, I want more.

I know. I’m greedy.

Moments aren’t enough for me. Even long minutes, the odd hour or two of fully grasping how incredible it is that I get to do what I’m doing in the place where I’m doing it with the people that have been strewn across my life like blessings, isn’t enough. I want to live in the very heart of understanding, of deep-seated gratitude for what I have been given. Even when it’s hard. Even when I feel like crying instead of laughing. Even when it doesn’t make sense. I want to walk into the kitchen to find my beautiful black-skinned son turned white from the half inch of flour that coats everything from cupboard top to brown baby toes, and instead of throwing up my hands in frustration, laugh. I want to look at the fierce light in my big boy’s eyes and realize (although he’s making my blood boil) that even as he rants and rails at me, he is growing into a strong young man full of integrity and passion and soul. I want to change dirty diapers, and know that even this stinky, messy, lowly job is a grace so sweet I could never do enough to deserve it.

I’m weird that way.

Maybe it’s because my motherhood was hard won. Peppered with four miscarriages, countless doctors, nine months of daily injections, appointments, sleepless nights, and an epic journey across the world, my childbearing years have been anything but peaceful.

Maybe it’s because my children are spread out — I’ve never had two in diapers like many of my friends. I didn’t plan it that way, in fact, I wanted four kids bam-bam-bam-bam. But life didn’t turn out quite how I planned, and I enjoyed three and a half years between my first two and then four years between my middle angel and his baby brother. Who knew that was exactly what I needed? Precious alone time with each of my boys.

Maybe I’m greedy for a life outstanding, a motherhood outstanding, because I can’t help being optimistic… I believe that life is about so much more than simply survival. I don’t want to endure my days or struggle to get through one hard season only to enter another season laced with just as many trials and hardships as the one I journeyed through before.

In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp writes: “Do not disdain the small.” And what are our days if not a collection of the small? A strand of extraordinary moments strung together like pearls on a necklace? I want to count each little gem as it passes through my fingers — or, at least, number as many as I can catch while the days spin by so fast they leave me dizzy and breathless. I want to find grace in all that appears to be graceless, hope in the hopeless, joy in the midst of the exhaustion and frustration and fear. And when someone tells me, “Seize these days for they pass so quickly,” I want to be able to tell them, “I am. Heart and soul. With blood and bone and every fiber of my being. I am drinking in these days.”

How could I do anything less?

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