I woke up this morning feeling pressure, both literally and figuratively. My allergies are in full swing and I woke to the pressure a flair up brings: I had a headache and my ears hurt. The pressure was in my neck and back, and all I could think about was my desire to sleep. Luckily, my husband was home today and he had taken the kids down ahead of me, and so I slowly got up and joined them. As I descended the stairs, my mind was racing much faster than my body could move, as I chronicled the long list of to-dos. As I walked down the stairs, the pressure seemed to build with each step. Summer is over, and now, I’m back to work as a teacher.
My husband greeted me with a cup of coffee and we all sat in our living room. As I was sipping my coffee and holding my daughter, my mind was completely on the list of things I needed to complete today.I was thinking of what I could fit in during the “quiet time” we have in the afternoon while the baby naps.I could write; I should clean and write lesson plans; I needed rest….While I was lost in the pressure of all that I could, should, or needed to do, my son looked at my husband and me and said, “Hey, do you want to go fishing?” My husband immediately said “yes,” but I hesitated. I rattled off the long list of things that needed to be done.It was decided that I would stay behind to do some work with my writing and do a little cleaning. And so, my family left without me on the fishing trip.
Alone in a quiet house, I moved quickly to complete a few tasks.But, after about thirty minutes, I decided to go join my family.My tasks could wait.I found them at a local state park, fishing rods propped up with sticks.My son and husband had on matching, green fishing vests and the baby, who really isn’t a baby anymore, was playing right next to my husband, water side.Their images were reflected in the water and despite the holiday weekend, no one else was around.They seemed to be glowing in the water’s reflection—a beaming message in the sunlight, reminding me to remember what matters.The breeze was light and the trees were moving very gently.The word this was the song in my head, set to song by the breeze.
I walked towards my family and the pressure I felt dissipated.Peace met me there in the woods today, as it has so many times over the years, and this repeated over and over in my head. This (not my to-do list) is all that matters, I thought, on this beautiful morning.The people I love most are here.We are safe, healthy, and happy.For this, we should give thanks.
My son and husband fished while I walked the baby on the wooded trails through the park.At one point, I was just slightly behind her and I watched her on her first little trek through the woods. Her chubby, little legs confidently navigated the rocky path, stopping to look at a leaf or some other object she discovered.She turned to me saying “this?” and I told her about the object she picked.After giving her an explanation, she said, “hmm,” satisfied with my descriptions.She went on and on saying “this,” as if to remind me to stay in the moment.Had I stayed home, I would have missed all of this.This and this and this.
We walked back to my husband and son, and we packed up to head back home for lunch.My son commented to my husband that they hadn’t caught any fish and my husband said, “Well, that’s why you call it fishing, not catching.”My son giggled, rod over his shoulder.He skipped down the path.The fishing was good enough for him.
As I walked back on the trail to our cars, baby in tow, I thought carefully about my husband’s simple words.On some days, we will fish and we won’t catch a thing, but on other days, we will fish and we will catch many fish.Today, I woke up so worried about my to-do list—of all the things I needed to “catch,” when really, I just needed to enjoy the fishing of life—these simple moments spent with my family.This and this and this.
This essay also appeared on the Today Show site.