Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tools of the Trade

Just the other day, I realized I had to do some studying for the first time in a while. Not just passive reading, mind you, but actual studying complete with highlighters, pens, and notebook paper. I was actually looking forward to working out my brain. I went upstairs to get some lined paper but when I set foot in our office I quickly realized that I had no idea where to look for it.

And I was stunned by that realization.

The surprise was in no small part because as wife and mother of our home I am expected to know the location, state of repair, time until replacement, and approximate remaining battery life (if applicable) of roughly one million objects on demand, so I was floored that I could be so easily stymied. The main portion of the shock I experienced, however, was that it was only a few short years ago that I was never more than an arm's length from college lined notebook paper. I was once utterly surrounded by office supplies, five subject notebooks, both full and empty, reams upon reams of note paper, and quite possibly 100 pens. If I was away from home, I carried paper on my back, along with several books. I was at the bookstore buying paper at least every couple of months. You could argue that for most of my life, I was quite literally defined by my proximity to notebook paper. I was a hard core student, and my collection of office supplies was a testament to that fact. It was a physical testimony of what made up the majority of my personality, and where I spent my time.
Fast forward to Monday afternoon, and I was digging through my home office on some sort of deranged quest to find that one pack of paper I was absolutely positive I had seen floating around when we moved in. When I finally unearthed it, it wasn't even open. I found myself shocked all over again, and actually a little bit sad. Never had it hit me so hard that a major portion of my life was unequivocally over. I was saddened because apparently I hadn't even really noticed until a few years later.
Perhaps I never noticed that what had once been an object so central to my very being was now gone because I wasn't all that sad to see it leave. By the time college graduation finally came due, I was so thrilled to be finished with the years of slavery I didn't care if I never saw another notebook again. I guess I took what I thought at the time was a flippant joke truly to heart. Maybe it took me nearly five years to notice the absence because if I'd realized it any sooner, I would simply have felt continued relief. I'm not at all sorry to not be in school anymore, mind you--I wouldn't go back and trade what I have now if you paid me--but after all these years, I guess what I'm sorry about is that I could be so oblivious to the sweeping changes I've made.

This got me thinking about what objects have defined me since I left behind the lined paper days. When I was working full-time, it was always nasty microwaveable lunches at my beck and call, I suppose. When I was pregnant, it was baggies full of dry cereal to stem the desire to heave. And now, I'm never more than a few steps away from a size 3 Luvs diaper. I suppose diapers have become my new paper, a physical testament to what my life is really about and how I spend my time. Not that my daughter brings nothing to my life but poop, but that diapers represent what I always have at the ready, what I am in constant need of, that my time and energy is not directed at me, but a very small person who still pees her pants. I'm happy with that, but if you had told me in the lined paper days that I wasn't that far away from trading it all for diapers, I'm not sure what I would have thought about that.

I've also been thinking about my brother in context of all of this "defining myself by the objects that surround me" thing. He is now home after spending two years as a missionary in Mongolia. Virtually overnight, the objects that defined him, and how he spent his time, and where is priorities are, have to change. There are so many things that are part of your everyday life in the countryside of the third world that simply don't apply to the everyday in the good old US. But it's not just that. No more does he always have several copies of the Book of Mormon with him, strapped to his back, ready to share. Sure, he might plan to carry some around, but the day will come when his textbooks will outpace his back strength and he will have to take them out of his backpack to make room for what he needs right then. That doesn't mean he has traded something great for something so-so, it just means his immediate needs have changed. I don't know what his new objects will be, all I know is that he is in a state of confusing limbo right now. It's hard to let go of what you always had at hand, and it's even harder to realize that they have let go of you. That's what life is about, evolving and changing from what was important right then, to what is important now. And I want him to know that it's okay. It's okay to let your definitions change, or you might never find what brings you the most joy. You won't find the objects you want to keep if you don't collect new ones.

Today, while I was laying on the floor doing ab exercises, Samantha decided she needed attention right that very second, so of course, she came and sat on my face. It was at this point, I realized she had a diaper completely full of poop. Now, there was a time in my life, in fact any other time in my life but right now, that I would have been completely undone by another person sitting on my face with poop in their pants (diapers or no, it's gross). At this stage in my life though, I just got her off my face, explained that it's rude to sit on Mommy's face, and went to snag a clean diaper. After so many experiences like this one, I can honestly say I won't be sad to see the diaper stage of my life go either. But if my experience this week has taught me anything, years from now I just might be moving furniture and find a long lost size 3 Luvs, and while I won't want that time back per se, I'll certainly wonder where in the world it all went, and feel just a little sad.


Natalie said...

Can you write anything that I won't LOVE??? Nope, don't think so.

I've missed you! :)

Blake & Alyssa said...

What a fantastic post. I mean really.

Kym said...

Hee, hee, hee...she let you know she needed a change. How thoughtful of her. The items that define me right now are my car keys, my glasses, my ipod and my debit card.