I’m the type of person who saves the cherry on his sundae for the end.
I’ve always been able to save the best for last. The best bite, the biggest present, the activity I’m looking forward to most. My youngest daughter is like me in this regard. My wife, not so much.
Unfortunately, sometimes I’m so good at saving the best for last that I accidentally save the best for never.
Last weekend, I sat on the swing at the edge of our backyard and had a staring contest with Lake Michigan. I read a book and sipped hot apple cider and let the sun warm me before Old Man Winter starts running the show. It was bliss.
I was reminded of touring the property for the first time and encountering a swing the previous owners had in the same spot. Theirs was dilapidated, its bones brittle and covered in moss and barely strong enough to hold a person. But it was enough for me to cast a vision of myself spending hours and hours in that spot, sketching, writing, dreaming, and sipping hot cider.
My last time was over four months ago, before the storm in June. The morning after it destroyed our backyard by uprooting 150 trees, I surveyed the damage. It appeared that the swing had been blown off its perch into the mighty lake, which would have been a real kick to the pinecones. Fortunately, it was merely buried under pine trees, broken but fixable, thanks to a few new support bars and the know-how of my father.
Since then, between professional loggers making a clean slate, dump trucks depositing fifty-three loads of topsoil, and a period of time when we waited for grass seed to sprout, the swing was inaccessible. But there were several weeks before this one when I could have enjoyed the swing and its special brand of medicine. And even before the storm, I didn’t spend as much time as I thought I would when we were in the process of buying this house.
I pause to wonder why.
Obviously, some of it could be chalked up to the reality and speed of life, in which there are bills to pay, obligations to fulfill, and dinners to prepare. And it’s probably a little like buying a new piece of exercise equipment expecting it will usher in an unstoppable string of daily workouts, only to end up as an overpriced clothes rack. In other words, unrealistic expectations.
Maybe a little.
But deep down, I know it’s not just that.
First, there’s the romantic side of me that does not want its specialness to become stale. And so I withhold it from myself. For special occasions, which, as it turns out, seem to be few and far between.
Secondly, I sometimes feel unworthy of this property, and as such, unworthy to take full advantage of its gifts. I convince myself that I must earn them, and so I meter them out like Ebeneezer Scrooge, treating swing time as a reward for getting the work done.
Which would be fine except for the annoying coincidence that the work is never done. And so days and weeks and seasons go by without ever savoring the gift as if I will have centuries to enjoy this place, even though my graying hair and achy joints speak to the contrary.
Perhaps you’re a better person than I am. Maybe you already do a good job of not just counting your blessings, but savoring them as well. Maybe you don’t waste good years waiting for this or that to be finished before you can finally slow down and spend time on the pursuits and with the people that matter.
Maybe you, unlike me, really do have another hundred years to live.
If so, I applaud you.
If not, well, maybe this is a good reminder to eat the cherry.