(I am once again struck by the overly fragmented, incredibly jumbled workings of a mind back to work. Although I felt like writing tonight, this is possibly the most long-winded, tangential ramble I have written in the three years I've kept this blog. Bear with me...)
It's taken me 28 years, but I think I finally understand alchemy. The first and most fundamental law in alchemy, or the study of matter, is called the Equivalent Exchange. It basically says that when we give something up, we gain something in return. Likewise, to obtain something new, something else must be lost. We've seen the proof in this law in many forms, specifically as we've advanced in the way we learn. In the beginning of time, people relied on their memories to tell stories and make sense of their world. And because they used it so much, their memory was vast and capable of remembering significant amounts of information. Over time, this evolved into the oral tradition; a vast and rich collection of stories remembered and told for generations upon generations with nothing to rely on but their memory.
Then, centuries later, our memories took a hit when we welcomed a little thing called the printing press, this amazing invention that allowed us to record our stories, thoughts, and research to keep a record for all time. And while this advancement is very likely one of the most monumental inventions in history, you can bet there were old men in coffee shops griping about the thing when it first came out.
"People don't talk anymore --- they all got their heads in a book."
Research has shown that as we grew accustomed to writing and reading our thoughts, our memories shrunk significantly. After all, if you don't use something as frequently as you used to, it becomes less efficient. Case in point: my body. Tonight, I tried to relieve some stress by going for a run in my neighborhood. I ran as hard as I could, for as long as I could, and found myself near death after what was probably a half-mile. In high school, I'd run for a half hour straight and not break a sweat. Let's just say my body was in a little better shape ten years ago...
Today, we live in a world full of social media, 24/7 technology, and instant access to whatever it is we're looking for. Instead of relying on a map, or a compass, or Gary from that Kwik Star off the interstate, we let Siri, or Tom Tom, or Google tell us where it is we're going. Instead of calling someone on the phone, we send a text, and instead of keeping in touch with friends by writing or visiting, we would rather sit behind a computer screen and stalk their Facebook page without them knowing. We can't even sit through a dinner date without checking our email, responding to a text, or Googling the unknown answer to a question that comes up in conversation (even if knowing Macaulay Culkin's age really could have waited until after dinner).
And while it's true that this technology can literally take us to the ends of the earth (and back again) in a matter of seconds, many believe it's come with a cost. Our writing skills have worsened, our level of focus has weakened, and our ability to think for ourselves, use our imagination, and play has went out the window with the rest of the natural world we oftentimes ignore. We've gained, we've lost, and I often wonder that if this is the case, are we ever truly advancing or are we continually stuck at zero?
Today I lost my summer break, but when I tucked Cruz in tonight, kissed his cheeks, and whispered sweet dreams in his ear, I realized I've gained something equally as special. While I may have had him here all summer, taking part in creative projects and eating lunch out of muffin tins under shade trees, I think I have a deeper appreciation, a keener sense of awareness as a working mom.
When I work all day, it seems every minute counts when I get home. From the time I leave that parking lot, I'm aching to get to Cruz's daycare, and the minute I see his face from across the playground, the stress of the day just washes away. I pay closer attention to his smile, listen and hang on every 'word' he says, and make sure I make up for the kisses and snuggles I missed throughout the day.
I picked Cruz up today and he hasn't seemed happier to see me since May. He spotted me from across the playground, and immediately came running, talking a mile a minute as I scooped him up in my arms. He was excited about his day, but even more excited to tell me about it, and he had my full attention as he jabbered all the way to the car.
Tonight, we had rhythm, we had structure, and we had fun. There's something about working again that makes me get home and feel more productive. I feel like setting the table for dinner, cooking a fresh, balanced meal, and saying our prayers before we eat. Meal plans get crossed off the list more frequently, bath-time happens more regularly, and it seems I appreciate those family walks at sunset a little more after not being outside all day.
I put Cruz to bed tonight and thanked my lucky stars for the sweet boy I get to raise. And as if he knew our life was starting a new routine, he made sure to make the most out of bedtime. Instead of our usual perch on the end of the bed while Cruz falls asleep, he pulled me close, put his little hand on my cheek, and together we lay face to face in the quiet coziness of his upstairs nook. For the longest time, he laid there quietly, blinking his eyes slowly and staring into mine with a relaxed and casual concentration. He looked so adorable staring at me that way. Then, after a a minute or so, he'd reach over and lay a soft kiss on my lips, making his little 'mmm' sound effect, before laying his head back down ready to drift to sleep. We played this little game for awhile, before I finally kissed his forehead, tucked him in, and tip-toed out of his room.
I had plenty of special moments like this this summer, moments that blended together to make this beautiful little experience I am beyond thankful for. And although I've often longed to be home with him everyday, being a working mom isn't so bad. Maybe it's alchemy. Maybe it's just perspective.
Either way, it's a good place to be.