I know it's March now, and I'm talking about January, but bear with me. I needed to let these words grow on me a little before I was ready to share them.
Besides, being on time isn't one of my strengths.
Once we figure out the words, we write them in the sand. Last year, we had this fabulous sunset and it was all very inspiring. This year, the fog blew in dense and cold. But we persevered, Emry in the Ergo on my back chewing on beach rocks and then making a game of throwing them at Mikhail.
Love. Because there's really no other good reason to have children in this day and age. I realize for a handful of families in this country, and for many families in other countries, kids are still a labor force. But it's not like Elan's going to be taking our herd of goats out to pasture anytime soon.
Kids cost a bunch of money, they take up all your time, and they throw food all over the carpet. But in my house, they also increase the love exponentially. Both Mikhail and I have found that when we focus on the love, it makes the craziness feel more manageable -- and less important.
Light. It just felt like a good word to me. I was looking ahead to Elan's surgery and imagining that it could be a difficult winter. So as much as the literal definition sounded good on this chilly winter afternoon -- light, warmth, coziness -- the figurative image of a guiding light, something to focus on as you're making your way through dark times, appealed to me too.
Speaking of light, it was getting quite dark by this time. Emry was fussing, we were all cold, but we still had a ways to walk back to the car, and we were hammering away at this next idea. Mikhail finally got it.
Taking the next step. Wow, does this phrase sound confronting to me. I don't know exactly why, but it really triggered me that afternoon on the beach. It sounded HARD. Like it would require a lot of courage and determination and hard work. Not that those are bad things, I just wondered - Am I ready to take the next step? Sometimes I think I am still in new baby survival mode, sleepless and with the mental fuzziness my mother-in-law calls "milk brain." And sometimes I am (though the sleeplessness is often not caused by the baby - I'm talking about you now, 5-year-old who hasn't slept through the night in 10 nights). But this is an exercise about reaching for something, so I went with it.
And it's interesting - I've already seen taking the next step play out in my life these last few months. Jumping into an opportunity to substantially increase my grantwriting workload, which increases our family's chaos level but also increases the money I bring into the family? Taking the next step. Deciding we're feeling adventurous enough to take on traveling internationally for the first time with our kids? Taking the next step. It even has a literal meaning to me these days, as I watch Emry string together his steps - 3, 5, 10 at a time.
Sometimes you have to challenge yourself.
And sometimes you have to eat Girl Scout cookies with a cold glass of milk and go to bed early.
Deciding when you're going to push yourself and when you're going to hunker down with the cookies? I believe that's called being a grown-up.