My weekly writing deadline happens to be the 15th anniversary of the day I became a freelance writer — the day after I quit my perfectly good magazine job and went to work for myself. I told myself I would try freelancing for two years, and if it didn’t work out, I’d find another full-time job somewhere.
My last day was a Friday in 2003, and to mark the start of this new chapter in my career, the very next morning I stepped onto a sailing yacht and raced up Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island, through sunny days, and nights so dark, clear and filled with stars that the sky looked like the ceiling of a planetarium. I could not have been more present during those two or three days and nights, especially considering that I had very few work prospects waiting for me when I got home.
Out on that boat, being whisked up that inland sea, or barely making forward progress through a maddening stretch of doldrums, whatever was in front of me was all there was: other boats coming in and out of sight, monotonous expanses of open water, islands appearing ahead of us and then disappearing behind us, and the breathtaking Northern Lights, swaying in the endless space above and flashing silver, green and purple.
For several years, on or around this July anniversary, I went to visit my parents, to open a bottle of wine with them and clink classes in their backyard. It was meant to be both a thank-you and a reminder that I was doing fine — that there was nothing to worry about. I had made it through another year of self-employment. After my dad passed, I carried on the tradition with my mom.
They’re both gone now, and I have fond and clear memories of those July toasts, even though I never intended them to be something I would look back on. I was never that present or aware. I was just doing what seemed natural — just living my life. But at a recent going-away party, the concept of “having a moment” came up. Sometimes the moment goes by without your even realizing it had been a moment. You quiet down to hear a speech or watch someone open a gift, and just as you’ve done 300 times before, you clap and return to the conversation with the person next to you. You often need to be looking for a moment to “have one.”
That deadline of mine also marks exactly two years and 51 weeks of wine columns — one week shy of three years’ worth. We love those round numbers because they are neat and tidy. But every milestone, however it is measured, can have gravitas as long as you pause to recognize it. As long as you realize that you are having a moment.
People will tell you that your life goes by in a blur, and as you age, you might start to believe them. But you can also remind yourself that life occurs in billions of tiny moments, many of which glide by slowly, unnoticed, and to get to “there,” you have to start “here.” Grape growers and winemakers know this concept as well as anyone, and they address it with patience and keen awareness.
Recognize the moments of your life. Fill wine glasses. Say a few words. Celebrate. Take a photo. Or take three, but make them good ones, and take them with different people. Or don’t take any photos at all, but at least be sure to pause and consider what is happening in that moment.
Since those tidy, round-number anniversaries of mine are seven days apart, I’ll be having moments two weeks in a row. Of course, I wish my parents could be there to have those moments with me — so I could say thank you once again, and let them know that I’m doing fine and there’s nothing to worry about. But as the old saying goes, you can’t stop time. You can sort of pause it, though. Look at your calendar, and find a reason to pop a cork and pour some wine. You have an accomplishment or anniversary to celebrate just like the rest of us. It’s only a matter of allowing yourself to do it.
Drink some wine, and have a moment. Look to the left on the timeline of your life, and smile about what you’ve been through to get here. No sense spending too much effort looking to the right, though. You can have those moments later, when you get there.
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