I had been simultaneously sweeping the floor, boiling potatoes, and returning a text message to a friend when I heard the truck coming up the driveway. We have a gate and a long driveway, so it is rare that a car other than our family’s pulls up unexpectedly. It was already 6:00 PM, but this was the FedEx man, delivering a package for my son.
But wait, let me back up: Moments (ok seconds) before the truck drove up, I confess I was in a bad mood. I was feeling irritated. Irritated with the daily clutter and messes that come with raising (and homeschooling) four boys. Four beach-loving, active boys. I prefer things to be tidy and orderly, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask. But even when everyone is pitching in, it’s hard to keep up. And yes I’m thankful to have healthy, busy kids, and happy that my kids are around so much, but sometimes I wish they didn’t leave so much “evidence” of their presence.
So I stepped out to greet the FedEx man, who smiled widely and reached out to pet our dog. I had the urge to apologize for the dirty dog (he was touching her) but stopped myself short. It’s a dog, we live in the country. It’s ok. I signed for the package, said thank you, and turned to walk up our front porch steps when I actually noticed the front porch!! and: Forget the dog, the whole place was a mess! Wet suits hanging from the rails, coffee mugs on the table…kids’ surf and diving gear strew about, even a pair of little boy underwear literally draped over the back of a chair.
And of course shoes (slippers around here) piled up in front of the door.
Wondering if the FedEx man had noticed, (hoping he hadn’t) I looked over my shoulder to see that indeed, he was still standing there tall, in the big open sliding door to his FedEx truck, looking right over me at the entire scene. I stopped and looked at him and he just looked out, like he was surveying our home or something…Not in a creepy way, but with a smile and a satisfied sort look on his face, like he was taking a mental snapshot because something about it made him happy.
And though just a second before I was about to apologize for the mess, or explain that I have four boys, and “it really doesn’t usually look like this” (lie) instead I just kept quiet then because (it’s hard to explain moments like these but) something crazy happened inside of me. Three words flooded my mind in that instant, and stole all of my apologies right away…
Signs of life.
I realized in that moment that everything before me…all of the stuff that I was embarrassed about and wanted to apologize for…they were the most awesome and precious and wonderful signs of a life being lived now. In the present. Not yesterday or next year. Not a memory, but today. Now! And right then and there — as if someone had switched out my frustrated-mom-brain with a wise-older-lady-whose-been-there-before-brain, I felt completely content and even proud that this was my home. My mess. My signs of life!
Suddenly then I wondered if the FedEx man had a family or a dog or someone to drink coffee with on the deck. (I also can’t explain why I have thoughts like these but) Do his kids leave messes and does it stress out he and his wife? I thought that maybe he knows how blessed we are when we have kids and messes, and maybe that’s why he smiled the way he did.
(I’m pretty sure.)
I actually choked back a tear then (please know me well enough to know that I don’t write this stuff to be sappy or emotional but this is really the truth) because I remembered that saying — the one that the older, wiser women tell us moms who are in the thick of it…”These are the days” they say. And I’ve heard it a million times but I knew it was true then. These are the ones…the very, exact days that we will one day sit and close our eyes and try to remember — the way we try to remember the taste of a favorite meal, or the smell of our babies. This! This here and now and sandy and messy and the underwear on the chair — it’s the stuff that one day I’ll only dream of having the chance to revisit. Even just one more time.
I turned back to the house as I heard the truck slowly pulling out of my driveway. Making my way back inside, I felt like a completely different person than the one who had walked out. Grabbing the coffee cups and the little boy underwear (stiff from having been in salt water and then dried) I headed inside to finish tidying up and preparing dinner. It all still needed to be done.
But now my feet were light on the floor and my heart soared because for at least that moment I knew that these really are the days. These are the loud and the messy and sometimes the hectic, but these are the days that say LIFE! so loud and clear. And I don’t want to wait to be old to be wise. I want to live today well. Even as I keep trying to create order out of the disorder, and find peace in the noise, (because I’ll never quit trying!) I want to know that these are all beautiful signs of life.
And somehow knowing that changes everything.
Friends, I’m sure that you have a few signs of life in your own world today. Maybe it’s in the car, or maybe in your place of work (thank God for work!) or maybe it’s in your home. But today I encourage you…No, more — I challenge you! — to see things through a different lens. To recognize the privilege of having people and pets and work that are all shouting, “LIFE!”
And before you apologize to your friends or guests, (or the FedEx man!) be reminded that a life well-lived will always be a bit of a beautiful mess…and welcoming others into it is sharing life in the most authentic way.
Have an amazing week, friends!
I’d love to hear about your current signs of life, so feel free to leave a comment below. And if this post has encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your people by using the social share buttons below!
Monica and her crew 😉
PS All of the (yay–brand new!!) family photos were taken by my friend, and super talented photographer, Laura Aguon.
PPS Another post to challenge and inspire your perspective: “On Expanding.”
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