Friday, September 23, 2011

Mortal Coil

Last week, PJ tried to wrestle an iguana away from a boa constrictor. Well, he entertained the thought, with a sledgehammer and fruitpicker in hand. As dumbstruck teachers and a smattering of bug-eyed 6th graders looked on, PJ and another kind-hearted soul watched the boa squeeze the stunned iguana, wondering how the hell one wrests anything from a snake, let alone its lunch.

That's when Giancarlo, whom I can only describe as an existentialist Italian yogi, happened by and cried out, "No! Stop! Let nature take its course! Death is natural!!" To which PJ replied, "Well, Giancarlo, I'm not calling you if I'm ever neck-deep in a snake." Giancarlo laughed as only an existentialist Italian yogi can and drove away. Apparently, death may be natural but even an existentialist doesn't want to look at it.

Then PJ and everyone else realized they couldn't help the iguana even if they tried. It got very quiet and everyone turned and walked away. The sight playing out in the middle of the dusty road was a private one. Maybe even a sacred one.

But I couldn't help pondering the troubling questions -- from way across the road in the cheap seats, of course. Free the iguana and it dies anyway? Free it and the boa goes hungry or goes after something cute and fluffy instead?

Who decides? Not us. We're not up to that challenge, I'm afraid.

Well, isn't this a cheerful way to restart my blog?!

Sorry. It's just that we've been back in Costa Rica for a month and I've been futzing around, waiting for the perfect idea to materialize (actually, to write itself) and the perfect moment to start again. Then I realized the perfect moment has presented itself a bunch of times.

Like when we packed up the girls and boarded the plane to take another swing at Costa Rica. When we were welcomed back by so many familiar faces. When we discovered new tide pools to swim in and secret beaches to have all to ourselves. Or when our neighbor's horses grazed in our yard. Or the time a woman saw how much the girls loved her horse and gave them a ride on the beach then and there without asking for anything in return. (Those smiles lasted for hours.)

The perfect moment could have been the girls' first day of school, or watching them make new friends. Or maybe it was watching them ride off in a school bus for the first time and trying, unsuccessfully, not to bawl my eyes out.

It could have been the time PJ and I were awoken by the sound of monkeys having sex. At least I think that's what they were doing because it sounded, well, er, vigorous.

Turns out there have been more moments than I can count. Truth is life is full of them. They're not all perfect, to be sure. Then again, what makes one moment more perfect or more important than the other? Granted, the day your child is born blows all the others out of the water, and the day they discover a cure for cancer will rank at the top of everyone's list. But chalking up the moment we get that job, while letting all the times we did stuff like eat cereal for dinner or talk to a friend until 2 in the morning slip by the wayside -- well, that feels like we're cheating ourselves. After all, if you sum up your life – that is, add up only the moments you'd call important, they'd probably total a week and a half. If you're lucky.

Life is short. But it's not that short.

That doesn't mean anybody wants to read a tweet about anybody else eating cereal for dinner. Somewhere in between ignoring everyday moments and sharing them with the whole world lies the truth: Most important moments are private. The most important moments in your life are probably only important to you and one or two other people. Some are momentous. Some are sacred. Most are ordinary. Most happen unexpectedly.

When you take all THOSE moments and add them up, you get a real life. At the end of the line -- and if that scene on the dusty road tells us anything it's that the end will come -- I don't think any of us will wish for another promotion, award or big win. We'll want one more simple, everyday, ordinary moment.

So stop waiting. Stop holding your breath for the perfect moment.

It's here.