I met my best friend Katie in fifth grade and one of our most favorite games to play was MASH. Our future fates would be decided by one "magic number" where one of us counted the rings on a spiral circle after the other screamed STOP as loud as humanly possible. "Future Husband" and "Number of Children" were clearly our two favorite categories. I remember my "magic combination," and it was marrying Mel Gibson plus having four kids.
And my plan was to do all of this by the time I reached 27. Getting married and having children would be the ultimate climax of life. At the age of nine, the pressure was on to best prepare for the long climb to the top.
I am now 34 and approaching my five-year wedding anniversary. My husband Josh and I have two girls, ages one and two. While I didn't marry Mel Gibson, I have definitely won in the partner category. My husband is my perfect teammate and we have learned so many beautiful lessons while building our family together.
My two girls are healthy, smart and thriving. We are staying constantly busy with all that comes along with nurturing a strong marriage and two kids under two. But what about Category Two: "Number of Children"? Four was the winning number, so how could I possibly be simply happy with "just" two?
By reflecting on growing my family, I have come to realize that my true fear of being done having children is the end of my own life's climax. My thinking has been that continuing to have children with my husband would slow down the climax.
The truth is that meeting my husband, planning our wedding, and creating new life has been my life's greatest joy. It seems perfectly healthy and rational to not want this chapter to come to a close. My husband also reminds me that he sometimes he pictures a son to go golfing with or to take on his guys trip every summer (and also probably to counteract the abundance of estrogen in our home).
So how could I ever accept that my family is complete?
During my most recent fourth trimester, I found the practice of mindfulness to be extremely helpful. Slowly, I am beginning to understand and accept that there is no "life climax." It has taken focus and practice to retrain myself to live in the present and not make every decision based on how it will impact me in the future.
For example, in grade school, the main reason I studied was to get good grades so that I would be accepted into top universities. My intention for studying wasn't to learn but was to better my chances of succeeding in the future.
Once in college, my goal was then to get great grades so I could get a great job. Securing a great job would make me attractive to the perfect mate, who I then would make beautiful perfect children with, therefore completing my life's climax.
I am now humbly accepting that this way of living life is not what I want to pass down to my daughters. Instead, I want them to know that sometimes constantly competing at life can leave you feeling depleted and drained. Embracing your limitations and learning when to be content with having enough is much more fulfilling.
The idea of "more," making more money, obtaining more things—and in my case, creating more life—is not necessarily the ticket to a happier life. Being truly grateful for what I have and enjoying simple interactions with things and people I love trumps my anxiety about what the future may or may not hold.
Each day, each minute and every second of being alive is a blessing. Enjoying the present moment and breathing in the smell of my daughter's beautiful hair is a blessing. I have become less concerned with what is still to come and more interested in what is happening right now.
By letting go of pursuing the climax, I am much more appreciative of my everyday happenstances. I continue to dream about what the future will bring, but now I find myself less exhausted because of it. The ordinary moments of each day have become more exciting and alive for me.
I can't help but think back to playing MASH in Katie's bed late at night when her mom thought we were sleeping. Should my daughters do the same with their best friends, I hope they will hear my whisper that it is okay to dream, but wherever they find themselves, I hope they are happy and know they are enough.