*DO* Carpe Diem (& *Do* Hug Your Children & Spouse More, and *Do* Begin Much More Often with the End in Mind)
“The way to begin loving anything is to realize that it might be lost.” ……
– G. K. Chesterton ….
For almost one year now, Glennon, through her blog, has been one of the go-to voices of mothers everywhere—she’s been able to say what so many of her readers feel and want to say but are not able to articulate nearly as well as she can.
Glennon Melton has a gift. There can be no debate about that. She most certainly can write. That’s never been the question.
The question has been her message.
She has a gift—a way with words—that can be used for either good or ill. It can be used for the betterment and enlightenment of herself and her readers (which I’d guess she thinks she’s been doing the vast majority of the time; but I would disagree. I think she has been very hit or miss when it comes to her message. I’ll write more about that below.)
Her “Vigil” post is an example of a post that is on-point.
But her gift, her voice, her platform (because that’s what she has now), can also be used self-indulgently—in the sense of indulging and reinforcing what’s (arguably) worst in herself and her readers.
And I would argue that she has unwittingly done the latter more often than she thinks she has, or more often that she has ever been willing to pause to consider that she possibly has.
And the most obvious instance of this isn’t her recent “Celebrate Your Inner Fool” post (“To All the Fools I’ve Loved Before”— http://momastery.com/blog/2012/12/12/to-all-the-confounders/ ).
Rather, it’s the post that got her the audience (and the platform) that she now has—the post that got her her book deal, the post that went viral, the post that led to 50,000 new “Monkees.”
And the post is “Don’t Carpe Diem.”
Remember that post?
“My favorite part of each day is when the kids are put to sleep (to bed) and Craig and I sink into the couch to watch some quality TV, like Celebrity Wife Swap, and congratulate each other on a job well done. Or a job done, at least.”
I wonder what the favorite part of Glennon’s day is now, or was last Friday, or yesterday?
“[A]t the end of the day, I don’t remember exactly what my kairos moments were, but I remember I had them. And that makes the pain of the daily parenting climb worth it. If I had a couple Kairos moments during the day, I call it a success. Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day. Good enough for me.”
Probably not anymore.
One December 14th 2012 everything changed. In the wake of the unimaginable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown Connecticut, parents all across America and all over the globe were given a harsh reality check slap in the face.
What really matters to you?
“[L]ast week, a woman approached me in the Target line and said the following: ‘Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second of parenting my two girls. *Every single moment.* These days go by so fast.’ . . . At that particular moment, Amma had swiped a bra from the cart and arranged it over her sweater, while sucking a lollipop undoubtedly found on the ground. She also had three shop-lifted clip-on neon feathers stuck in her hair. She looked exactly like a contestant from Toddlers and Tiaras. A losing contestant. I couldn’t find Chase anywhere, and Tish was sucking the pen from the credit card machine WHILE the woman in front of me was trying to use it. And so I just looked at the woman, smiled and said, ‘Thank you. Yes. Me too. I am enjoying every single moment. Especially this one. Yes. Thank you.’ . . . That’s not exactly what I wanted to say, though.”
Not on that day.
But what about now?
What would you or anyone say today to such advice—“Enjoy every single moment. These days go by so fast. Life can turn on a dime. Be thankful for your health and theirs. Cherish them. Hug them. Love them. Be grateful.”
I saw that post (“Don’t Carpe Diem”) precisely for what it was when it first came out. I had no problem reading between the lines and seeing it for what it was: Some really bad advice. The type of advice that I hoped NO ONE would ever follow or act on. To me, it was THE WORST POSSIBLE ADVICE IMAGINABLE. It screamed sweat the small stuff, indulge your own weaknesses and lack of perspective, take others and life for granted, and take out your foul moods on them.
And I wrote as much back then. (See comment no. 71 on the following page – http://momastery.com/blog/2012/01/04/2011-lesson-2-dont-carpe-diem/comment-page-6/#comments)
But no one cared. No one got it. People everywhere were coming out of the woodwork and chiming “me too!” “I feel this way too about parenting—Calgon, take me away!” in response to Glennon’s post. Everyone—the vast majority of commenters—were living in la-la-land. They were pissed off, overwhelmed, angry, bitter, sweating the small stuff, and living and loving and parenting without perspective, and Glennon had tapped into their angst and unhappiness and given expression to it.
But not anymore. Everyone gets it now. Everyone can see now why that post and that advice sucked. Everyone knows. After last Friday, everyone knows—as in KNOWS—as in *KNOWS.*
“Hi Friends. In an hour, the kids and I are heading to the airport. Back to Virginia to be with my people. I just booked the flights yesterday. I couldn’t spend another day without my Sister and my (her) baby. Can you blame me? Bubba and Tisha will pick us up at the airport. I just want my mom and my dad. Don’t you? I want my friends. And more than I want my friends, I want their kids. I need to hold and smell and pray for each one of them. I need to check in to make sure the things I love are real.
“I’m at ground zero. For the first time in my life, I know that I don’t know ANYTHING. . . . These are serious times and they call for serious people. I think if never before, now is the time to admit that the problems we have are very, very complicated and multi-layered and desperate. And to solve them, it’s going to take all of us. Right now, we . . . need everybody’s very best, very highest self to step forward. . . And I just know I want my mom and dad and Bobby and Sister and Brother in law and I want to hold my friends’ babies. That will have to be okay for now. I’m going home. To love and be loved.”
Sounds a lot like Carpe Diem to me.
“Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc. . . . I know that this message is right and good. But as 2011 closes, I have finally allowed myself to admit that [CARPE DIEM] just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. “
What about now? Is Carpe Diem working for you now?
Do you “get” it? Does everyone get it? Do you get NOW that life *IS* short? That it IS capricious? That we are ALL soooo soooo very fragile? That sweating the small stuff IS a FOOLISH regret-filled way to live? And that sweating small stuff is also a foolish way to *love,* because ultimately we are trading in moments where we could be more loving and grateful and attentive and present for self-indulgent moments where we are sweating the small stuff and indulging our own neurosis and negative moods?
We can’t simultaneously be really loving and kind and present to others while being lost, resentful, grumpy, cranky, bitchy, ornery, and lacking perspective.
If you want to truly love others—truly cherish them and appreciate them and be kind and good to them—then you have to keep this awareness that you, we, all have now close and not let it die off. This is what “beginning with the end in mind” is all about.
“If You Knew” – Ellen Bass
What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line’s crease.
When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.
A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked a half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.
How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?
I hope nobody in Newtown read that insipid foolish (yes, foolish, as in hideously foolish) “Don’t Carpe Diem” post. I hope none of the parents who just lost their children—and let me broaden that—as 2012 draws to a close, I hope that no one who has lost someone this year, who has tragically and unexpectedly lost someone near and dear to them—a parent, partner, spouse, a friend, a child—read that foolish post. Or if they did, I hope they didn’t put any stock in it. I hope and pray that they had the good sense to see it for what it was—dreck, a woman who was overwhelmed and frazzled venting and using her gift not for good but for ill. I hope and pray that people everywhere who read that post saw it then as the worst kind of advice imaginable, advice that was not based on clarity and wisdom and perspective but on the lack of these.
If this—what happened in Newtown—is what it takes for many of us to wake up and actually begin appreciating our own children and not taking them for granted, then that is definitely one way that we can learn from this heinous tragedy and honor its victims.
Because right now, what so many people are experiencing—is called PERSPECTIVE. Not that “don’t carpe diem” advice. That misguided, well-written dreck lacked perspective. That was someone letting her inner-Fool out of its cage and have a little too much unsupervised computer time. That was what was worst in someone venting herself. And giving advice to others on how to also lack perspective, take the foolish parts of themselves a little too seriously, sweat the small stuff, and most of all take others and life for granted.
“Every time I’m out with my kids – this seems to happen: An older woman stops us, puts her hand over her heart and says something like, ‘Oh- Enjoy every moment. This time goes by so fast.’ Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc. I know that this message is right and good. But as 2011 closes, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life – while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.”
You are. Many of us have been. If it has taken this tragedy to get us to appreciate our children and spouse and friends and parents more, then we’ve been missing boat, living blind—living and loving without any real sense or perspective. We’ve been sleep-walking through our recent lives, maybe our entire lives.
And it’s events like this—the massacre of the innocents in Newtown—that unfortunately wake us up; that reorient us, that remind us of how badly and blindly and foolishly we’ve been living and that point us once again back to True North.
And almost equally as unfortunately is the certainty that this reorientation will likely be very short-lived.
You can set your watches by it. In a few weeks or months, the wear and tear of daily life will begin accumulating and intruding once again. And once again people will begin sweating the small stuff and begin taking themselves and their children and friends for granted once more.
Life will go back to normal.
It happened after September 11th.
And it will happen once again after this.
Unless—*unless*—*UNLESS*—more and more people light a candle not outside of themselves but in their heart. And do the inner work to keep it lit.
And not just for 27 or 28 days, in honor of the victims.
And that will indeed take work. Real work. It will mean daily setting aside time to think and pray and read and reflect. To read something truly of substance. Something that centers you. Something that really encourages what is best in you—what is best in all of us. Something that nourishes not your inner-Fool, but your soul, your conscience, your core self, your highest and wisest self. Something that inspires or challenges you to be more Loving—not loving, but Loving—and not just for a few minutes and to strangers as part of a Love Flash Mob—but that challenges and inspires and pushes you to be more loving to those closest to you, to those nearest and dearest to you, to those who if you lost them it would wreck you emotionally for years and years.
That is what we—each of us looking to really make a change—need to do if we really want to keep our vigil. Become more genuinely Loving. Become more Loving in a way that actually looks like it, that walks and talks like it. A way that forces us to confront and face our own smallness, pettiness, erraticness, immaturity, character faults, and even our own mortality; and then actually do something noble and good and heroic about all of this. That is love. That is love actually *winning.* That is doing the truly *HARD THING.*
And we must do this every day. Every single day, without exception.
Because the first day you miss, the first day you skip class and miss your inner vigil, your light begins to go out. Or maybe it’s already gone out and missing your vigil is just the outward show of that. Either way, you’re back to losing perspective, back to taking yourself and those around you for granted, back to sweating the small stuff.
Back to normal.
It’s been said that a successful marriage means falling in love over and over again, but always with the same person.
Waking up and growing up spiritually and psychologically is like that. It means choosing again and again to do those things that seem likely to cause and inspire greater wakefulness and perspective and maturity and wisdom (—& don’t be afraid of that word, especially not because of Glennon’s post; it would be foolish to be leery of that word because of Glennon’s post).
Waking up means doing those things over and over again consistently that will help us become more kind, compassionate, center, stable, Loving. And doing those things again and again and again until like water against the rock of our egoism they become so deeply engrained in us that we seemingly can’t help but Love our children and our spouse and our friends and be grateful and appreciative around them, and be kind to strangers, and manage our anger and boredom and restlessness and irritability in a much more mature and centered way.
“Moral truth can be conceived in thought. One can have feelings about it. One can will to live it. But moral truth may have been penetrated and possessed in all these ways, and escape us still. Deeper even than consciousness there is our being itself—our very substance, our nature. Only those truths which have entered into this last region, which have become ourselves, become spontaneous and involuntary as well as voluntary, unconscious as well as conscious, are really our life—that is to say, something more than property. So long as we are able to distinguish any space whatever between Truth and us we remain outside it.” – Henri-Frédéric Amiel
So read Pema Chodron. Read M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled,” watch “Shadowlands” or “Fearless” (the one by Peter Weir and starring Jeff Bridges), watch “The Notebook,” watch “Dead Poets Society,” “Field of Dreams,” “The Descendants,” “The Sessions,” “50-50.” Read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Mere Christianity,” “The Four Loves,” “Passionate Marriage,” “The Prophet,” “A Return to Love,” “A Little Book on Love,” “Man’s Search for Meaning,” “The Art of Loving.” Read Jim Rohn’s “The Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle.” And, yes, read The Bible; read the Buddha’s sutras, read the world’s holy books, read The Dalai Lama.
Because this is part of what waking up means: choosing every day to read something of substance and reflect on it, and then trying to apply it and walk it and live up to it. Every day. Every day without ceasing. Without exception. Like water working on rock.
This tragedy has certainly sparked something in many of us. And we each have a choice—and must make a choice, and over and over again—what to do with this spark. To loosely paraphrase Liz Gilbert of “Eat, Pray Love” fame (and someone who I imagine in some respects to be similar to Glennon and in some respects to be a forerunner of Glennon), in regards to this spark, we can cup it in our hands and gently blow on it and kindle it, protecting it from the sheering winds of those forces around us urging us to go faster, to multitask, to live self-indulgently, to try this, consume that, buy this, travel here, et cetera, as well as from those forces within us—our own neuroticness and discursiveness.
Or we can let this spark burn for a few days or weeks, not nurture and guard it, and let it be blown out by this or that, and we can go back to normal and to the mindset of taking life and others for granted, sweating the small stuff, and “Don’t Carpe Diem.”
That is our choice: keep our Vigil, or “Don’t Carpe Diem.” Live with Christmas and Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day deeply engrained year-round in our hearts and internalized in our way of thinking and looking at the world. Or pack up our Christmas decorations on Jan 2nd or 6th and go back to life as Normal.