We are in the playroom once more. And just like yesterday, the Little Ones are pulling at baskets with dress up clothes littered around their feet. I tie a cloak around someone’s neck, help another into a tiger costume. But where yesterday there was magic, today is only tears. The cloak is too long and the Middlest keeps tripping on it. The velcro is scratching and uncomfortable. Frustration bubbles up, and the disappointment is written on their faces. Mine, too. What went wrong? The same props, the same bodies, the same imaginations. But today, it just isn’t adding up right. Try as we may, we are unable to recreate the joy of yesterday.
Somedays it comes easy, the glimpse of heaven, the party full of ordinary and breathtaking all at once. The brilliance is there to be recognized. It is easily grasped. The feet are infused with a beat, and the whole body flows in coordinated movement. I’m not talking about anything glamorous, but just the small moments that seem big. The moments when I seem to be watching myself from above, transcendent from the daily moments of living. Yesterday in the playroom, it came easy. There was a snowstorm, and a tiger chase, and something to do with back packs and elephants. Oh, and smiles, theirs and mine.
I know what they are after, today in that same playroom, with those same costumes. They are trying to do it over again, have that same feeling. It seems like it should be that easy, right? But just because we found our way through the back of the wardrobe into a new world yesterday doesn’t mean that it’s won’t be full of old coats with a finite end tomorrow.
Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones says this: “When we live in a place for too long, we grow dull. We don’t notice what is around us.” I think that this is what happens in our magic moments, too. That’s when those moments that were breathtaking return to just being ordinary.
In physiology there this concept called adaptation. This is “the decrease in the response of sensory receptor-organs, as those of vision, touch, temperature, olfaction, audition, and pain, to changed, constantly applied, environmental conditions.” In other words, our bodies get used to things, and we can’t sense them anymore. Did you know that your eye makes teeny tiny movements constantly, even when you are staring at just one thing? This makes it so that your eyes can still see things, because without those movements your eye would just get used to whatever image it is taking in. That is adaptation. The same thing happens when you get used to a smell, even one that was pungent and strong just moments before. Your nose has dulled to the sharpness; it is now familiar. I can recall a funny incident in which a friend of mine just dropped a glass of orange juice from her hand as she was watching TV. She had been holding it so long without moving, she just forgot it was there! Her hand couldn’t feel the glass any more.
I think that this concept of adaptation plays out in other areas of my life, too. Too much of any thing becomes ordinary and I grow dull to the beauty. Sometimes I need to get a different view. It’s nice to have old favorites, but even those can wear thin and become ordinary. I stop noticing what is around me. It can be frustrating trying to recreate the fun of a memory. Maybe we’re better letting a memory be just that. Last week instead of wanting to play in the splash pool all afternoon, the Eldest pulled out his bike instead. Still beautiful in it’s simplicity, we created different kinds of breathtaking moments. We’ll return to the pool. We’ll have wild adventures in the playroom with costumes and fantastical story lines. But with the different view that we’ll get on this side of things, we’ll begin noticing the magic again. We’ll awake from the dullness, and again say “yes” to the party.