Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Week Eaters

I’m sure it’s still 1976 somewhere in time.  I clearly recall celebrating the 200th Anniversary of our country’s independence.  Bright shiny coins with the 1776 – 1976 date stamped on the front of each coin strike.  And I, myself, declared my own independence having hit double digits with my birthday, reaching the lofty age of 10.  It was at that ceremonious time that the week eaters first descended into my life.

We all have week eaters.  Although not always evident, they are present in every minute of every day we spend waiting for something else to happen.  My little week eaters sprouted up every spring and preyed upon the simple fact that my birthday was in August…the end of summer!  And each year, I found myself wishing away my summer in anticipation of my special day.  Ironically, one year I waited for a new bike, which I was only able to ride a few months before the week eaters swept it away along with the first snow.

As we get older, our week eaters become hungrier and begin to devour months and even years at a time.  After I tamed those pesky weak eaters from my childhood summers, I met the more carnivorous species – distant cousins to the meek counterparts from my youth.  These creatures arrived silently in the night sometime in the middle of high school.  They helped me dream away my teen years, while I longed for a different place and time where someone or something more wonderful than my life as I knew it then was waiting for me.  Waiting somewhere beyond long hallways lined with lockers, blurred memories of faces and names I can no longer recall.

I leapt into college without letting my feet hit the ground, and was surrounded by new faces, with names not yet discovered.  My goal…my purpose…was to achieve greater heights than I was suspended from at that point in time.  The week eaters are relentless and unforgiving.  They signal a challenge and we each set our own pace at which we choose to race and meet a goal, knowing that a new one will appear the second we surpass the first.

For me, I failed to meet the challenge of my youth in a timely manner, with my direct route to passing go and collecting a college degree being detoured by an early marriage at 19.  Marriage!  One of the most potent ingredients in the recipe our week eaters use to brew their magic spell.  They administer their potion in increments of five…denoting special anniversary milestones.  And the time in between is melted into one huge conglomeration of emotions, memories, and struggles.  Some of us manage to elude the week eaters inside a magical greenhouse that is sheltered by the simple knowledge that our timeline is intertwined and shared with someone we trust and love.  That simple knowledge permits us to live for the moment in the day we are born and not fast forward into imagined struggled to come and worries that are waiting far beyond the immediate horizon.  But this greenhouse, this garden we till and sow, reap and harvest, is only as much or as little as we, ourselves, put into it.  And the absence of marriage does not preclude us from enjoying that same garden.  We all try, from day to day, to rip out the countless numbers of week eaters sprouting up here and there, reminding us of our mortality…yet still pushing us forward closer to its end.

My protected garden, once well insulated by marriage, has been uprooted once again.  My fresh start began with the new millennium, an interesting contrast of something bigger than life to people just like me experiencing the entrance into a new century...and ironic in an obscure way for my own personal journey.  Renewed faith and in keeping the weak eaters at bay, once again secure in the confines of a marriage.  As I look back on that span of time, I see many gardens started here and there, uprooted and abandoned.  Most recently, the one I uprooted to let the soil lie fallow, having disintegrated into barren dirt...that would be my second marriage.  

These tell tale signs reinforce my belief that the week eaters are everywhere.  But there is one garden that dwells in the four walls of my house, encapsulating myself, and my two youngest sons.  It has grown over the years and strengthened my resolve to cultivate and nurture…protect and defend.  It’s the garden I tend to as a mother.  Almost daily, I tell myself how lucky I am to have my boys and recognize and appreciate their childhoods as they are now.  At the same time, I find myself guilty of wondering what life will be like when they grow up, already having raised a son, who is now 26.  

Somehow those nasty creatures have crept back into my life.  One found its way in while I was out for the evening and I began to think about how nice it would be when I no longer need a sitter.  Another crept in when I was contemplating summer day care.  Yet still another blatantly walked through my front door in the guise of one of my sons, making demands and talking to me in a way that made me re-think my entire philosophy on child rearing.  It’s a difficult struggle when you realize that your children, once beautiful and expressive in every way, suddenly become possessed with the desire to be different and independent and anyone but someone like you.  And that the only remedy is to allow the week eaters to invade your space and press fast forward past those challenging teen years.

Maybe we succumb to this way of thinking in our weakest moments.  It doesn't matter how we fall prey...the overall picture will unfold as planned.  We don’t count our life in a measurement of weak moments or stolen pockets of time.  We count our life by the very best it brings to us.  And the very best is often cloaked and disguised as some of our darkest moments.  The week eaters try to send us soaring past the trials and tribulations that each of us must face over the course of a lifetime.  But we must stop this passage of time, if only long enough to pause and reflect on what we have in the here and now, and not venture forward into what we want and don’t have…and I would go even further to say don’t need.  The entire objective from start to finish is to learn from everything we experience.  If we avoid, reject, or ignore the truly painful life lessons requiring patience and time, we will miss out on some of the most important mile markers in the lives of ordinary people trying to achieve extraordinary goals.  And we too will face defeat at the hands of these little creatures that whisper in our ears and tell us not to listen to things that make us uncomfortable.

Every time we feel uncomfortable with our lives, instead of running as fast as we can to anything that will help us get past that feeling on uneasiness, we should stop dead in our tracks and think about the hidden message we are receiving in that moment and feelings of inadequacy.  Do we all fall to middle age craziness or is the reality closer to something akin to a race we have been running so long that we have to stop to see where we finished?  And if we run out and buy a new sports car or take up a life threatening sport, are we really crazy or have we achieved a new level of awareness in finding the strength to re-visit our youth without worrying about what someone else thinks about the manner in which we are receiving it?  If a few recreational habits will get us from the beginning of a work week to the weekend without wishing everything in between away, then it is money well spent.  Even if it only amounts to a stereo with great sound to drown out the traffic, and an engine that unwinds on an open stretch of highway.  And if being guilty of a little craziness is some sort of cure for recapturing a little bit of what the week eaters have stolen along the way, then maybe a little insanity is in order.  Now don't get me wrong...I am not supporting a vision for high end car companies to tell you what you need to cure what ails you.  Music streams live from any direction and you don't need a new car or truck to open up and drive on a winding road...and feel liberated from the week eaters.

So when you grab your voice messages at the beginning of each work day, or when you curse 100 new messages in your email, consider ear buds, which are completely impervious to weak eaters.  set your own playlist, with you at the top of the chart. Then you will defeat the week eaters.  Time will still evaporate, but at its expiration, your life will remain full.

(first written 12/28/00, updated 2/13/16)

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