When I was dancing, one of my favorite compliments from a teacher or another dancer was "you were really taking up space!" or "you tore that space up!". It meant that I seemed larger than myself, my limbs extending past their earthly bounds. I ached to move across the floor as if I had an extra inch or three of thigh bone.

Being somewhat shy and passive, and also quite short-limbed, I coveted this compliment above all others. I printed out the word "ROBUST" and taped it on my mirror. I tried attacking every movement as if desperately drowning.

I wanted to be robust, to dance BIG, to matter on a stage or a class, in life. I wanted to matter and I thought mattering meant big tricks and big moments.

Then I began to study the dancers who captured my eye. I noticed that not only could they "dance big" but they had perfect control over the small, subtle moments too. Even standing still, they could tell a whole story, evoking sadness or exhaustion or exhilaration with every muscle fiber. Calibrating effort as carefully as a surgeon, they could send shockwaves through an audience with the tilt of their head, the flick of their wrist. The older I got, the more I realized the importance of the smallest moments, the transitions, the moments of stillness or seeming inconsequence that could convey volumes when delivered with purpose and intention. During the last years of my dancing, it seemed I finally started to find that nuance myself. The power of the small moments became my obsession and I found the big moments, the big tricks, rather boring.

I think about this a lot these days, these seemingly small, inconsequential days. As a stay-at-home mother at the moment, my world, my life can feel so small, so inconsequential. The days spent wiping and tidying and stacking and hand-holding can go by in a blur as if I'm just biding time and wishing I could rush toward the BIG TRICK.

This last week, we've all been sick and my world feels like it has contracted inward even further. I've got bronchitis after the flu, E has an ear infection after having a cold, Z has a low grade fever and a cold and .... a bad case of the threes. I try not to yearn for some BIG moment in the future. I am searching for meaningful impact in the small moments. How much it means that I am here with Z, stroking her forehead while she watches Kipper. How each moment holding E as she whimpers at night, groggy and uncomfortable, is a gift of love.

So when I find myself wishing these days away, I try to stop myself and imagine what power each small moment in our lives can have. I may not be on a stage anymore but I can imbue this moment, with this audience, with extraordinary, big, ROBUST love.


artemisia said...

You live so ... thoughtfully. You are such an inspiration and mentor. Those are some lucky girls.

Hope you all feel better soon.

Marie Green said...

Yes, I agree. You are very thoughtful. And what is "small moments" to us is often the "big moments" to our children. This concept is especially hard for me to remember.

Also, those girls of yours are absolutely STUNNING.

I have one sick (probs h1n1) and who knows how long until someone(s) else gets sick. My strategy is going to include going for long walks when David get home in the evening.

Hope you all get better soon!

desperate housewife said...

So true about little moments being big to kids. I keep trying to remember that Addy is getting to an age where she may very well start remembering things from our daily life, whether big or small. Maybe she won't remember her awesome b-day party, but maybe she WILL remember if I answered her question with patience or with frustration.
Sending healthy vibes your way!

Hillary said...

Love this post. This is why I read you. You're so good at remembering and capturing those little moments and pleasures and responsibilities that make parenting worth all the mess.

Hope everyone feels better soon.

Joanna said...

I love that you wrote this. We are on day 5 of flu quarantine and I am so exhausted and stir crazy, but I was telling my husband last night that I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be here for my kids right now and take the time to let them fully recover. I agree that the small moments are so very important.

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

Wow! As always you captured it so well. I have a lot of days where I count the minutes til Kevin comes home. I am trying to embrace those days and be present and FUN with the girls. Because you are right, these moments will be gone so fast. T reminds me everyday how much of M's life is already a memory. I can't believe it sometimes. Feel better soon!

Good Enough Mom said...

Thanks for writing this! I love how talented you are at linking up these kind of ideas...it's all just so completely true. I try to embrace the mundane actions of daily life with kids, too, especially since my youngest son is growing up so fast. I can almost imagine myself as an old lady, trying to recapture these days...

And you were such a great dancer...I still remember your "baseball" piece at VC...so beautiful!

Michelle said...

Beautiful and thoughtful. Hope you all feel better soon.

parkingathome said...

I'm pretty sure that you've passed on the ability to fill the room with joy by just simply looking at the camera to those kids

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