Friday, October 11, 2013

An Air of Satisfaction

Her straggly blond hair streamed behind her and pointed towards the blue sky and perfectly placed clouds. But it was her wide eyes and growing smile that highlighted the exhilaration she felt as she came back to earth. Mid-70's, slight breeze, sun, a few clouds and a beautiful two year old who laughed more enthusiastically every time I threw her in the air. The swallows swooping around us accompanied our joy like a beautiful melody on the 12-string. This is it, I said to myself.

This is the moment you dream of before you become a parent. These are the memories you long for after they grow up. And already there are times my heart groans when I realize that these days won't last long. Maybe that's how I justified the offensive thought that came into my head the next time I threw her.

Is there a way I can toss her, grab my smartphone and quickly take a picture while she's in the air?

Of course, the danger of such an attempt, especially in light of the growing distance between me and her on every throw, was enough to make me think twice before I reached towards my pocket. But still, what did this initial thought say about who I am, what I think about and how I live my life?

We could talk about how access to cameras, internet and facebook all from one handheld device have changed the way we live our lives. Or we could discuss the concept of sharing - is sharing always good? Are there times not to share pictures, videos and memories? But these kind of conversations, as necessary and relevant as they are, already exist.

For me, the problem was my dissatisfaction. During those few minutes, everything was as it should be. All four of our kids are healthy. We have everything we need and are surrounded by friends and family. Circumstances allowed for me to take a walk alone with Emily while the other three were being well taken care of. This was the first time since she's learned to walk that we've walked together without her siblings or mom with us.

And for a few short minutes there was nothing else in the world she wanted to do more than be with her father. She pointed out the possible danger of falling in the ditch - "fall down!". She invited me to run with her, quickly asking to "wait me!" when I got a couple steps ahead of her. Then she pleaded with me to throw her "up high". My daughter was completely taken by her father, but her father wanted something more. He wanted to capture the moment, share it and have the chance to relive it again.

Even as I write, this incident seems trivial. Yet I'm convinced that this momentary temptation to want more than the perfection I already had is indicative of the human tendency to be dissatisfied. And technology hasn't made it any easier on us. Sometimes we forfeit some of our freedom to enjoy life when we buy into artificial opportunities to enjoy it more.

Of course, technology isn't the only tool in the shed of dissatisfaction. Emily quickly pointed that out after we began our walk home. She wanted to walk on the street when I told her she had to stay on the sidewalk. She wanted to chase the cat when I told her she couldn't go in someone else's yard. She wanted to enter the house from the front door when I took her in through the garage. Dissatisfaction knows no age.

As a Christian I believe that I am called be content in all things until that day when it will no longer be a struggle. But our culture operates under the assumption that there is a way to be completely satisfied in this lifetime. This is a strong theme in both countries I've lived in. In America it's about achieving satisfaction through money and hard work. In Croatia, I've found that a search for satisfaction usually involves completely strapping oneself to tradition, or totally fighting against it in one way or another.

Regardless of where one lives though, dissatisfaction is a human condition that affects all of us. The cure isn't easy. But I think it begins by practicing thankfulness. Unlike dissatisfaction, thankfulness most often does not come naturally. It's a discipline we have to cultivate - often at those times when it is most difficult. Thankfully, I was reminded of my tendency towards dissatisfaction at a time when I wasn't struggling. It won't always be this way though. There will be more obvious and drastic moments of dissatisfaction in the future.

In the meantime, the best thing I can do is remember this moment in hopes that my mind is more quickly drawn towards thankfulness rather than technology when I'm tempted to want more than that which I've been graciously given.

1 comment:

Stan Bohall's Blog said...

This is golden, Jeremy: Beautiful writing about a beautiful situation and a beautiful little girl.