This extraordinary ordinary life
“If I could time travel, I’d go back in time and watch that movie again,” I told my husband as About Time‘s credits began rolling.
I hadn’t really wanted to watch the movie this particular evening. As always, I had voted horror for date night; it’s been that way since Anthony and I began dating. Though willing to oblige, he had cast a quiet vote for what he described as a romantic comedy. It seemed only fair to watch something romantic for at least one date night, so I agree to forego horror for once.
What a choice that was!
There is romance in About Time, but it’s not really a romantic comedy. Rather than any one person, the main object of the protagonist’s frustrated, loving attention is life. All of it.
The single most captivating relationship in the film was the one between time traveling father and son. Their mutual affection was neither over nor understated, with love flowing between them through their every interaction. It was easy to see my own son and his father in these exchanges, and to marvel at the opportunities I will have to see their love grow as time goes on.
I cried through most of the movie’s final minutes. This was in part because of the movie itself, but in greater part for how the movie fit together with the theme of my weekend’s thoughts on time given freely and frequently to those we love. I’d begun the weekend receiving my advanced reading copy of Hands Free Mama, a “guide to putting down the phone, burning the to-do list and letting go of perfection to grasp what really matters.” The idea is that by devoting less attention to devices, we’re better able to appreciate and return the gifts of love in our daily lives.
I’ve written about The Hands Free Revolution here once before, in “Becoming a superhero,” but my intentional hands free living had long since fallen by the wayside. Knowing a book would be released soon, I’d yearned for an opportunity to revisit the revolution in depth.
I read the first fifty pages Friday evening. Falling asleep a couple of hours later, I asked my husband if we couldn’t set aside some regular electronics-free times. He agreed immediately.
I read more on Saturday. When my family and I went to Disneyland that evening, I thought of the book and tucked away my phone. For once, I did not so much as glance at it, opting instead to keep my eyes and heart focused on the people most important to me. I know this is something I should do every trip, but the truth is that I don’t. It’s common for me to sneak a peek at my phone to make sure I’m not missing a text, phone call, or the next life-changing comment on Facebook.
What I learned Saturday evening is that I’m not missing anything by ignoring my phone. In fact, I miss a lot less–hand-holding, silly dances, and smiles–that way.
On Sunday morning, I watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with my son instead of using his watching time to get other things done. Shockingly, it turns out even ninja turtles are good fun in the company of a four-year-old! I learned more about him by really listening to the questions he asked me.
I ignored my urge to check my phone in the grocery store checkout line a few hours later. Not only did I not miss my phone one bit, but the world continued to spin on its axis. The anxious sensation that my world would fall apart if I’m not constantly checking in online proved to be a just that: a feeling, not a truth.
When my son asked me to drop my chores and play with him that evening, I bit off the words “I’m busy” forming on my tongue. I played with him until his aunt arrived to watch him some minutes later. I discovered that, like ninja turtles, dump trucks can be fascinating in the right company.
By the time my husband and I watched About Time, I’d had two days to soak in thoughts about how best to spend my minutes on this earth. I was primed to see the wonder in every extraordinary ordinary moment shared between various family members. From this place of wonder, I cried as the son shared his final reflections on life and how to avoid time travel. As I listened, I thought how it’s about time:
- To set down my phone and see the people I love
- To savor each laugh and tear I share with friends and family
- To cherish each moment my son asks me a question, understanding there will be a time he won’t be so interested in listening to my answers
- To decide actively those moments when using technology will benefit me, rather than letting technology guide my life
- To live each moment aware that I might not have other moments not to tell people I love them, but to show them
- To watch a romantic comedy with my husband once in a while
Minutes after the movie ended, Anthony and I walked hand in hand into a nearby market. I burst into laughter when I heard what song was playing. Even the grocery store music was coaxing me:
It’s a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
“I get it,” I told Anthony and the universe, laughing as I spoke. “I do. I’m not gonna let it get away!”
I don’t have a lot of answers. What I do have is intention: to both see and honor what is sweetest in my life. This intention is coupled with faith that pursuing it will lead me where I’m happiest being, whether or not I have any particular answers. Answers might just be overrated. Moments are not. There aren’t enough of them for me to let them keep falling away without my having noticed them.
From now on, I intend to seize every precious moment of this extraordinary ordinary life, and to lovingly guide myself back to this intention as often as I forget it. Because, let’s face it, I will forget. My advanced degree is in law, but it might as well be in forgetting.
Luckily for me, there will be ample reminders: in short calls with my sister, in my son’s smile, in my husband’s sweetly admonishing gaze. Thanks to these and so many more, I’m not too concerned with forgetting for long. For what’s seen can’t be unseen, and what I’ve seen already is this:
There is too much love to find to keep wasting time not seeking it.