Stuff or Experience

Not sure whether it was the Memorial Day holiday or lots of alone time or what it was, but I’ve been feeling fairly introspective lately. Maybe it’s just what happens when you get over 40, you consider that you’re on the “back 9” and you start to reflect more often about what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and what you still need to do.

Somehow, in the midst of these introspective moments, I somehow manage to find my way to Mark Batterson. Might be a question of the chicken and the egg, you know, am I introspective because I’m reading Batterson or I’m reading Batterson and that makes me introspective. Regardless of cause and effect, here I am, in the middle of introspection.

As I read through Batterson’s latest book, the focus is mainly on what you collect. Do you collect stuff or do you collect experiences? Do you approach life living from adventure to adventure or do you avoid risks at all costs?

Growing up the son of a pastor, I felt like there were a lot of moments that my father missed. It may account for why I felt a closeness to my mom that I didn’t share to the same extent with my dad. She braved miles, bad weather, and a whole lot of inconveniences to show me how much she cared and loved me. There was never any question in my mind that she cared for and loved me, she showed it with every action that she took.

My dad was fairly risk averse as well, a character trait that did not serve him well in his later years. I see that same character trait rising to the surface when faced with uncertainty in my own life. Trying to embrace the need to take care of what is necessary while also leaving things free and open enough to keep it interesting is a challenge.

As my kids grow more comfortable in their own skin, their personalities are all being cultivated and formed. It’s great to watch and observe, to see how they become individuals and how their personalities shine through in every circumstance. I am doing my best to remember to find time for each of them individually and Batterson’s reminder to collect experiences rather than stuff has been resonating a lot lately.

I’ve already determined that when my boys turn 13, we will do some kind of trip to usher them into their teen years. My wife will take care of the same trip with my daughter. I certainly don’t want those days to get here more quickly than they need to, but I don’t want to be caught off guard when they finally do arrive.

My middle child has taken to asking my wife and I to tell him childhood stories as we lie in bed with him at night. It’s really forced me to excavate the recesses of my mind to remember the most significant stories of my childhood. Of course, those stories all revolve around people and places rather than things. I’m not recounting stories of what I got for Christmas or my birthday, but moments that burned their existence on my memory, moments that significantly impacted me in some way, shape, or form.

My kids are going to remember the moments of throwing around the baseball or playing hide and seek well before they remember what I gave them for their birthdays. With that being said, I am trying to train myself into thinking about moments and experiences, creating the memorable from the ordinary.

The funny thing is, as intentional as I try to be with this, it ends up being way more spontaneous and spur of the moment. It’s closing my laptop and heading to the pool for an hour with my youngest. It’s putting down that book and grabbing my baseball glove to throw with my middle child. It’s trading my guitar for a Wii controller to join my oldest in vanquishing some fantastic opponent.

I’m learning to take myself less seriously. I’m learning to embrace the chaos as it comes at me and try not to let structure suffocate spontaneity.

I’ve heard it a thousand times from everyone who’s older and whose children have grown, these moments are fleeting. One day, I will wake up and be walking my daughter down the aisle and I will wonder how I got there.

In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to suck out all the marrow of life, to soak in every moment and make it count, not because of what I have, but because of what I’m doing.

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