Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lessons of the Snow Day

Today we had a snow day.

As a kid snow days had a magic all their own. In the New Jersey town I grew up in, there was a town-wide alert for snow days. When there was questionable weather, we would listen at 7:05 to hear whether the alert whistle would blow to inform us that a snow day had been declared. For kids poised between their PJs and getting dressed for the day, that sound was a signal to offer up our own whistle of glee. Mother Nature had dumped a gift of a day into our laps. At that age, there really was no connection to the long-term issue of having to give back that day in June. All that mattered was that suddenly our vision of the day had changed. Instead of dressing for school and flustering out the door into our regimented day, we could lazily stretch into an unexplored day. We could bundle into jackets and layers, find sleds and friends and create a winter wonderland. Or we could watch cartoons all day. There might be a play-date with friends or baking cookies with grandmothers. The magic of a snow day was the big promising stretch of the unknown. The magic was the opportunity to not know what was next and to enjoy whatever it turned out to be.

Snow days now are still magical. My partner is a teacher and I have a flexible work place so a snow day usually means a bonus day off together that we hadn’t expected. Although there are always chores to do and usually mountains of ice or snow to move around, the day is still a special treat. And even though a day off in February will mean an extra day of work in June, the day we get to have is a chance to be very present in life, and remind ourselves to just be here now.

Trying to learn to embrace the moment is something I have struggled with for years. I am one of those people who would prefer to be in control of every moment. I don’t exactly overplan but I do like to plan very thoroughly. But I have tried to change that about myself. After losing Mary Kay to breast cancer, I recognized that I needed to learn to appreciate the moments I was having rather than planning for the moments I was going to have. Life really is too short to be thinking about the next moment instead of living in the current one. What if something comes along and takes away your next moment? Maybe it’ll be breast cancer that steals away your next moment. Or maybe it’ll be a bus. Or maybe you’ll miss a bus and simply miss the next thing on your schedule. Missing the next big moment or the next small one is frustrating if you are dedicated to the plan instead of the moments. I want to try to fully embrace the moments as they happen.

One of the things that I appreciate most about The3Day Walks is the way that the event forces me to live in the moment. I confess that, even 9 years into it, I do spend weeks planning what to pack, how to pack, how we’ll get there and so on. And that is after months of planning our fundraisers and letter-writing. And that is after totally planning which city to walk in and which city to crew in. After all, I didn’t say that I have totally conquered the “In The Moment” concept, just that I am working on it!
But on the walk itself, there I really can Be Here Now. Walking 20 miles a day, I really don’t have time or energy for anything other than the path directly in front of me. I have the time to focus on and really talk to the person walking next to me. Hopefully, I will talk to her or him for hours because they have a story to tell and something to teach me. When the day gets long and my feet are worn out, I am simply there in that moment. And when I walk into camp at the end of that long day and am greeted by enthusiastic cheering crew and fellow walkers, I am right there, in that one moment. Where else could I possibly want to be?

This morning, when the cyber snow day whistle sounded its alarm announcing a bonus day off, I could have startled into a planning frenzy. I could have worried about whether the laundry would get done and what this winter day off was going to do to our summer plans. Instead, I rolled over and lazily stretched into an unknown day of being with and celebrating my family. Right here, in this moment. Thank you, 3Day, for that lesson.

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