My Dearest Daughter,
Have you ever wondered why I sit in bed with you every night until you fall asleep? You may think it’s because I love you, and yes, that has something to do with it. But there is another, more accurate, reason for our nighttime ritual. Here it is.
Life – yours, mine, your daddy’s, the homeless guy’s on the corner – is nothing more than a long string of mostly repetitious, often random, occasionally profound moments held together by the insistent narrative of mind.
A vague, probably pretentious reason, I know. But bear with me. It’ll get better.
Most of us like to think of life as a web of significant occurrences related to each other through some grand, usually divine plan, whose ultimate purpose we may or may not see, but exists nonetheless. It’s a tantalizingly happy thought. I like it a lot. But it’s a fact proven only by faith, which means it’s not really a fact at all. It is, at best, a postulate, something we assume is true, because hey, do you have a better idea?
Whether we like it or not, what in reality transforms our parade of experiences into a life with meaning is the story that we compose from it in our minds. Has your life been a tragic tale of loss and disappointment? Has it been a heroic journey fraught with challenges you have overcome? Has it been a fairy tale? A horror story? A comedy? That all depends on how you choose to weave it together, on the plot you write for it.
Most of us write our narratives with our large moments in mind, the big events, like first loves, births of children, new jobs, exotic trips, even illnesses, divorces, and deaths. These are the things that become etched in our memory. They undeniably shape the course of our lives and in turn, our very selves. But they are not the whole of life. Big events are merely punctuation, a question mark, an exclamation point, a dot. In actuality, the real story is everything in between.
In between lies the grand monotony of everyday, that daily parade of repetitive actions we must engage in to get ourselves from rise and shine to nighty-night. In between we bathe ourselves, we cook our food, we decide to exercise (or not), we take our kids to school, we go to work. Maybe we watch TV or stream a movie, have a drink or just go straight to bed. In between is also when we build up our relationships or tear them down. It’s when we tend to our health or we take it for granted, when we develop our skills and earn our promotions or stagnate in our growth. In between we build toward the big events with the decisions we make in this moment. In other words, in between is when we author who we are.
That means every moment counts. So we should make sure every moment counts.
And that, my dear sweet child, is why I will, for as long as you’ll let me, sit next to you in bed and stay with you until I hear the quiet rhythm of your soft, child breath telling me you’ve found sleep, because in my mind, that moment is the greatest story ever told.