I am many things, a member of a lovely tight messy extended family, an restless explorer, a driven achiever, ocean lover in all seasons, a creative, and all of these personalities present external forces on me, and manifest from within.
And I have tried to live in the present in these personae, and I find that many push me to do so. It can be too easy to fall into the slippery slope of “when I graduation, when I get my big paycheck, when I get married, when I am on my next trip, When I - whatever,” and miss it all, the whole big messy journey.
This is a very “first world problem,” this phrase which is so often apt, though no less worth reflection. I know I have only dabbled in the third and second world in my habitations, but the words have a bit more meaning to me; knowing what it was like being chased by wild dogs, host bed bugs, wondering about when we would have fresh food, holding off on hospital visits due to a hepatitis outbreaks, and heavier things that do not deserve to be in a litany. So while the phrase both makes me pause and chuckle, it has a depth for me. I think for other people they mean it as a dismissal, I see it as simply a difference-different lives mean different blessings and different challenges.
In western India, as mid May’s almost visible desert heat permeated the city's market and pushed the temp to 125F, heat stroke’s clammy fingers grappling at my neck, the importance of the immediate moment almost took my breath away.
The crowd swirled around me, crushing in even as the roaring in my ears blocked them out. My vision narrowed into a black tunnel for a third time that day as I felt the world spin. It all reaffirmed what I had recognized in Indian on a deeply instinctive animal level, the understanding of why one might believe in many lives. Might need to in order to get through with the frailty of daily life. I was so breakable, I felt like a desiccated leaf that might simply collapse and be flattened in the crowd. All could be lost in one ill-advised choice or moment, or just bad luck.
India was merciless with life’s hard lessons. I was a human, but I was not especially valuable, however much I had been told it in America, or wanted to believe it. However much “value” I could create, in first world terms, it could all be gone in a flash.
In India I don’t think anyone, at least of a middle-lower cast, would ever have the First World expectation of 80 or 90 year life, planning out how they would live their entire life. People there seemed to grab every moment and live them, sweet, bright, aggressive and loud, often to my shock. There is no guarantee or time assurance on our wrapper, it is only this moment that we have. We might as well have sweet bright and loud.
When I chose to adopt Mia, I actively accepted this outlook, in a way, although I didn’t see it that way at the time. I didn’t know how old she was, with an absurd spread in ages from the vets. Her constant ailments leading her to be dubbed the "Lovable Lemon" three years later by one vet, because she was always so sweet in spite of ongoing illnesses. I knew she was a senior rescue, my "foster failure," although with love and care she has gotten healthier, and younger by all estimates. My answer to the daily age question is “8…for 3 years ;)”
Perhaps, just perhaps, she’s mellowing a bit, although she seems better than ever after surgery from blowing out her knee this past winter while gleefully snow diving when all her winter snow dreams came true as we humans sank into the depths of despair. But Mia teaches me so much, both her ridiculously joyful outlook in spite of a bad start in life, her love for everyone, but more, to live in the present with her because I truly do not know her age or her health. And there can be a gift in that when you bring gratitude for what is, rather than focus on what isn’t.
I think these emotions are a bit like that of New England August summer evenings. They cause your heart to ache, and you want the perfect pinks, oranges, purples and deep blue glow radiating off the ocean and the green of the land to last forever. It is all simply too beautiful for words, but a great part of this want and this ache, is because you know the moment is fleeting. June and July are gone, and you grab at August with both hands as summer will soon come to an end. You slow yourself down to absorb every emotion and sense; walking barefoot, inhaling coppertone, cut grass and salt sea, listening to the sounds of laughter around BBQs, skipping across lawns like a child, enjoying the ice cream, corn on the cobb and watermelon, and catching lightning bugs dancing out of the corners of your vision as the sky goes to a deep purplish blue. Everything is sweet and painful, precious because summer winding down. And also because there is still some summer, maybe even the best parts, for a few precious more days or weeks, and not a moment will be wasted.
I often have wondered if truly living, with awareness of the moments beauty and frailty is like an August twilight, so beautiful it almost hurts in the emotional depth and complexity, the experienced perfection and acceptance of loss, all in one moment.
And now again I find myself confronted with the emotionally challenging imperative of really living life in the now. Of giving love to someone, as they are here only now, and the timer has been set. Saying what is important now and simply being in that moment with those you are with, because that particular moment, will never come back again. Life never is perfect, but if we wait for the perfect moment we will wake up one day and whatever we hoped for, whomever we hoped for, it will all be gone. This can either be sad, and yes there is a sadness in really living admitting you only have today, just as it was terrifying in the market in India to realize I might collapse and simply disappear, but there can be a beauty in admitting the truth that all things are fleeting and to be grateful. To live like Mia, with wild joy and love in this present moment, for whatever time and whom, you have in your life. That is beautiful.
So Mia and I walk with her, strive to see the beauty, to pause and share those lovely imperfect moment with Her.