Perspectives of Peak and Valley.
Shortly before my son’s second birthday I was asked to write an article for NCT magazine with the title of ‘New beginnings’. I’ve changed the title and added a few bits, but I wanted to share more or less the same reflections on my blog too. While we’re hardly at the stage of ‘new beginnings’, the title still resonated with me because although our old life now feels like forever ago, the time has flown and we’re still just beginners. I’m a proud father with L-plates on who’s just pausing to take breath and look back. Moments of reflection like this are mountaintops on the journey through life. Look at those incredible views and cherish them. Soon you’ll be too busy again to notice. See how far you’ve come, see what things you’ve grown in those valleys; see that last peak which now seems so long ago? See how far you’ve come.
The last mountaintop was when Ethan was born. What an exhilarating time. But behind it, still further back, lies hidden the valley of our old life. We’ve lost a lot since then, but I think of it more like baggage we had to let go off in order to be fit enough for the road ahead. We’ve had to let some things go, passions we pursued, people we loved, pastimes we enjoyed. There isn’t room for everything. Even if it’s temporarily painful, if you can’t let go of things as life changes you’ll get overloaded and miss out on the new things waiting for you.
Yes we’ve lost a lot of freedom, we can no longer go where we want, drop everything and swan off. Yes we’ve lost a lot of spare time, but much of it was wasted because we didn’t know what we had when we had it. Yes we’ve lost a lot of disposable income, but did we really need a lot of those things? It is possible to steward what’s been given to you; to have less but be better off.
So some things we’ve lost, some expected, some not. But we’ve also gained much. So much. First and foremost I’ve gained the joy of meeting my son, of getting to know him and watching him grow as his personality unfolds like a flower in spring. We’ve learnt many lessons: how to be generous with less, how to manage our time and keep our priorities in balance. How to protect and nurture quality time with those who matter the most. How to be creators rather than consumers. How to make the most of what you have, and forget what you don’t. Better than all that, we’ve gained insights into how much we’re loved. The love that blossoms in you as a parent far surpasses anything you knew before. If I love him that much, then how much must I be loved by another? Best and least tangible of all, we’ve gained the hope and anticipation of this long-term goal we’ve invested in: the prospect of having produced a healthy, responsible, loving and proactive man who’ll be a blessing to those around him.
Life might be scarcely recognisable now from what it was before, but some things have stayed with us. A resolve to live by faith and a refusal to take decisions out of fear. A determination to keep adventuring, just in different ways and places, and with a third companion for the road. An on-going realisation that the best gift I can give her is a healthy me; and that the best gift we can give him is a healthy us. If we’re looking after him so much that we fail to look after ourselves then we’ll all be the worse for it.
I’ve done all I can to enjoy these first two years to the utmost, creating and storing as many wonderful memories as possible, but I will reminisce more than I will miss. The past is to be treasured not returned to. The present is to be savoured, not passed by in a rush to get somewhere else. And the future is to be hoped for and embraced with a courageous heart. Each in due measure and in its proper place.
And so I depart from this particular mountaintop. Another valley lies before me, when my perspective changes and I roll my sleeves up to work hard again. There’s more to be grown, challenges to be overcome and experiences to relish. But before I go, I’ll drink in this view just a bit longer. The beauty of these horizons will be hidden from me until I climb to the next summit. Breathe deep. Life is good. And those dark clouds obscuring the next peak? It doesn’t matter, they will pass. They always do.