Sunday, April 4, 2010
Last weekend was full of sunshine, candles, Easter eggs, and family. And I had one of those moments where a 21 month old reminded me what was true and right--what I, as one of those silly adults had completely forgotten.
I set up an Easter egg hunt in the backyard for little Maddie--which meant it wasn't so much as an egg hunt as an egg collection. But she immediately started picking up the eggs, and didn't want to put them down. For a while, she had a marshmallow peep in one little hand and a pink egg in the other little hand and couldn't figure out how to then pick up another. Thanks to the 6 adults, her basket was soon full of plastic eggs.
Once we had settled onto the porch in the sunshine, Maddie and I started a game. She would choose an egg, and I would open it, revealing either a marshmallow Peep or an empty inside. With each reveal, we would say PEEP! or EMPTY! I should mention that there were about 5 Peeps hidden among 35 plastic eggs. So most of the time I was saying, EMPTY! But here's the thing: Maddie got so crazy excited about the empty eggs. As soon as I popped the plastic apart and said EMPTY! She would giggle and bounce like a jellybean, like I had just showed her the best thing she'd seen all day. Over and over and over again. EMPTY!
And why shouldn't she be excited?! Why shouldn't we all be? I think as we grow up and as life becomes full of choices and responsibilities and schedules, we somehow learn that the quiet moments, the unscheduled time, the gift of a quiet mind--the EMPTY--is second-best, not as important. We are trained and required to be busy and productive, and, more often than not, are doing fourteen things at once.
During the winter of 2008-2009, I usually couldn't sleep at night due to a nerve disorder. Pain would wake me up and lying in bed was so frustrating that I would just get out of bed and come down to my quiet living room to sit on the couch. I would read, or even just lie in the silver early-morning light, thinking about all of those difficult things that chronic pain forces you to face every day. And every time, when the first pinks and yellows began to hit the ceiling, the birds would arrive. They would find their breakfast in the bush outside our living room window, snap the berries off the branches and twitter at each other as if it were funny. I loved watching them, I loved how they arrived together, enjoyed each other, entertained me. I loved how, watching them, I could forget the pain for a few minutes, and truly lose myself in the stillness, in the moment, in the commonplace and ordinary act of the birds going about their morning. Many times it was being able to watch those birds that then gave me the strength to face the day.
I'm not sure I ever would have made my birdie friends if I hadn't been forced to find them, downstairs, in the quiet light of morning. Those moments, they were EMPTY. I wasn't working on the computer, I wasn't researching Neurosurgeons, I wasn't watching TV, or cleaning, or worrying about the future. I was just sitting, just breathing, just watching. I was sitting in the empty. And it's sad that it took pain to lead me there. But it's also a blessing, because, like Maddie and her eggs, I began to love those empty moments. And I actually began to need them.I never want to forget how important it is to appreciate the empty as much as the full. I never want to forget how sometimes it is the empty that fills you the most.