The older I get, the more I watch. Maybe it’s not altogether a bad thing. After all, developing awareness and looking for elusive equanimity sounds nearly noble. The mindfulness encouraged in Buddhist practice seems a particularly good idea, especially when finding my mind these last few years presents a challenge all its own.
Sadly, it’s not so much virtuous observation that occupies my time watching. Instead, it’s the stadium-sitting, auditorium-attending, sidelines-standing spectator kind of observation that comes, inevitably, with growing kids. Surely, watching them grow is a positive byproduct of all we’ve encouraged them to do in the last few years. “Take on challenges all your own” we’ve urged. We’ll be there to lend support along the way, including an ever increasing amount of time put in — just watching. Kids, even teenagers, are quick to ask if we caught a certain shot, or heard just how they played during the last concert. The not-so-distant echo of “watch me — watch me, mommy” from when they were smaller rings in my ears. I’m sure I did not fully understand the extent I would be called upon to watch when they handed us our newborns so long ago, nor could I have imagined the delight that has come from taking it all in.
Still, the extent of my watchfulness hit home the other day when my husband returned from a shopping trip and presented me with a state-of-the-art seat cushion. It is filled with fabulously comfortable memory foam sure to ease any pain attributed to my frequent contact with hard aluminum bleachers. A piece of “memory foam” molded for my posterior seemed slightly pathetic, however, and I wondered if such an accessory was well suited for any middle-aged women. While I genuinely appreciated the gesture, the gift caused me to reflect upon the fact the time I spend seated now justifies its own special prop.
The shift from active participation to passive observation has been subtle, sneaking up in small and unexpected increments. Somewhere along the way we went from reading books together just before bed, to my daily quiz whether the girls have logged their reading hours for the day. All the while in the corner of my room stands the stack of books I have intended to read, growing ever higher, while the dust builds prodigiously. I’m often quick to reinforce the message the girls hear from various teachers and coaches that mastering any activity takes hard work and discipline. But when it comes time to get ready for a run I cringe just a bit, recognizing the time out will entail a good measure of exactly that — hard work. And so my particular double standard was born, stealthily, without specific awareness. I had to smile when my pop’s admonishment to “do as I say, and not as I do” flooded my brain from long ago summers of my own. Even though I knew pop was teasing me at the time, the present path seemed destined toward resembling his remark.
Thankfully, at the same time I ran into several role models to steer me in a different direction. A friend who shared her personal goal to shift the time she spends watching her kids to making sure she’s doing things with them this summer. Another who decided that instead of just sending her kids to a summer camp, she’d take time off to attend as a counselor. And finally, a gentleman in his 60s who I ended up watching while he prepared for a trail run just last week. Noticing his gloved hands I commented that my spouse has been on my case for a couple of years to sport gloves on race day as my propensity to stay upright has been on a steady decline. The man smiled and said that he’s sure to fall “at least once” in every trail race, but with the gloves on “it really doesn’t hurt.” I thought of my memory foam at home, built to protect me from the pitfalls of being seated. Surely gloves would be a far better accessory for the future, even if it means taking the occasional fall of my own.
Cindy Bargell is an attorney and mom who lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She welcomes your comments at Cindy@visanibargell.com.