Tuesday, June 1, 2010


there's this scene from the movie garden state, where zach braff's character says something like, "maybe that's all family really is.  a group of people who miss the same imaginary place."  the quote resonated with me the first time i saw the movie back in 2004.  i was in the beginning of my junior year of college, and i had reached that point where going home was wonderful and something i looked forward to, but also awkward because so many things had changed.  my little brothers and sisters were all growing up, and had their own lives and schedules, and during each visit, i seemed to reach a point where i would long for the "way things had been."  i think it was harder for me because i was the oldest, and i had this idea of my family and what was important, and selfishly, i guess, i thought that even though i was growing up and changing and becoming a new person, everyone else was going to stay exactly the same.  i believed i'd come home and share my exciting stories and adventures and a captive audience of younger siblings would hang on my every word.  it was something to take in when i realized they had their own adventures to share. 

since then i've always thought about this quote when i am struck by a big change or a conversation that leaves me wondering, "whooooo is this big, tall man discussing the stanley cup?  this cannot  be my baby brother, the little boy whose hand i held at the grocery store, this tiny baby whose diaper i remember changing."  when my sister got engaged on christmas eve, and my other sister and i danced joyfully around my kitchen, screaming and shouting and toasting with champagne, i remember a split second where i thought back to this time in grade school.  my sister and i would pretend to be vacationing at some exclusive resort with our "husbands."  we'd be in the "lounge" of the resort (aka, my parents' living room) and we'd have this conversation complaining about our make believe husbands and how we deserved a night out while they watched our babies (dolls) upstairs.  and i thought whoooaaaa... how everything comes full circle.

it's a beautiful, sometimes slightly painful, but really wonderful process to watch these little people become bigger people with dreams and goals and personalities and buttons that get pushed.  i guess i'm speaking about my siblings like they're my own children.  and to an extent, i always think of them that way.  the oldest of six kids, i was made to be responsible for my brothers and sisters at a young age, and, as i remind them from time to time, i can't just turn that off. 

it's unbelievable how fast times goes by.  i look at pictures of my youngest brother from his birthday last august, and in the span of another school year, he seems to have become someone new.  he now towers over me (but at 5'2", most people do) and he has opinions and goals and decisions to make.  yesterday, while we were sitting around enjoying a cook-out at my parents' house, i thought, i wish this could all slow down.  my siblings are eager for their next big adventures and are anxious for all the wonderful things the future holds.  cathy is planning her wedding, chris just moved into a new house with his friends and got a new dog, marty is off to ames tonight with my husband for his orientation at iowa state, jessica is settling into her own with a bustling social life and college decisions looming on the horizon, and clayton is gearing up for summer hockey and the thought that soon he won't be a freshman in high school anymore.  as i watch them confront all these new changes and challenges, part of me wishes time could stand still, just for a little while, so we could all enjoy more of those family walks on sundays that we complained about when we were younger.  maybe a few more family dinners where dad made us eat ridiculous portions of spinach and beets.  maybe just one more family vacation to canada, where there seemed to be endless fighting, but later we'd treasure the trip as a favorite childhood memory.  maybe just one more afternoon spent wading in the creek south of our house, pretending we're enjoying the amenities at some private beach.  between everyone's work schedules, sporting events and social obligations, it's rare that we all get to spend a day or weekend together. 

i find the little one in utero makes me a little emotional these days, so maybe this reflecting is related to that, but i already feel slightly overwhelmed about losing precious moments.  i feel like i wasn't careful enough to treasure all these special moments and times that i was given growing up in a wonderful family with two parents who loved and supported me and five siblings who were my closest confidantes.  i find myself searching for ways to slow things down when my baby arrives in november.  i'm so busy now, with weddings and birthdays and graduations and firm obligations that weeks and months pass by in the blink of an eye.  all of the sudden, i am coming up on my one year anniversary with the firm.  i'm a practicing lawyer, licensed in two states, and i am often struck with this thought... where did this all come from?  i am truly blessed and lucky to have the husband, family and friends i do, but sometimes i wish i had more time to appreciate them.

i am a litigator.  i work in a fast-paced environment where there are always briefs to be drafted and motions to be filed.  more and more, i find myself waking up in the night thinking about x, y and z that have to be accomplished the next day.  i'm so focused on the tasks at hand that i feel like i'm missing special moments that i should be treasuring.  i feel like so much of my life is controlled by this never-ending to-do list.

maybe it's enough that i pause long enough to type this blog entry, to think about the people who have supported me and loved me and helped me get to where i am today.  maybe just recognizing that i am blessed and that i need to prioritize these moments of reflection is enough.  or maybe it's not.  i don't know.  there is the fear that i'll wake up in 30 years, maybe on the day of my son or daughter's wedding and think, "ooohhhh shiiiit.  i wish i would have stopped to smell the roses more."  the whole career vs. family thing is a constant mental struggle that i don't think will ever go away.  it's about working at the balance over and over, and it's not an exact science.  i struggle with it now.  i know it won't be easier after my maternity leave ends.  and i can't help but feel anxious about it, but then wasting time feeling anxious is so unproductive.  this summer i am working really hard to treasure the special moments that come along, no matter how busy and hectic my calendar gets.  i'm not great at relaxing.  i'm used to deadlines and events and schedules, and when i stop to sit quietly for awhile, i often feel uncomfortable, as if taking time to breathe, to pause is "cheating."  i'm trying to be better with this.  i really am.  i hope that everyone takes the time to treasure the beautiful moments of wonder that we all experience.  maybe this blog will help me to do just that.   

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