Patterico's Pontifications

12/3/2006

Putting Things in Perspective

Filed under: General,Real Life — Patterico @ 10:08 am

I’ve discovered a way to bring a new perspective to your life.

To explain it, I have to tell a little story.

Driving home Friday night, I was remembering a time years ago, when my daughter Lauren (now six years old) was in her first year. An old friend of mine was coming to town, and we went with my wife to see a Glen Phillips solo acoustic concert down near San Diego.

We were very excited to see the show. But for some reason, we couldn’t get a babysitter. So we decided to take Lauren. Since it was just an acoustic show, we hoped that she’d sleep peacefully on my lap. If, during the show, she got upset, I would take her out to the car. Thereafter, my wife and I would take turns watching her in the car.

Lauren was asleep when the concert began — but she awoke, crying, five seconds into the first song. It was louder than we had thought it would be. I hurriedly took her to the car, which was parked on the street about half a block away.

Once I had her out there, I never brought her back inside the club. Although part of me wanted to be back inside watching the concert, I was also having fun being with my daughter — at times talking to her when she was awake, and at times watching her sleep. Plus, I wanted to let my wife see the whole concert. I figured there was no reason to interrupt her enjoyment if I was having a perfectly good time.

It wasn’t so much that I preferred to be with my daughter than to watch a concert. I just didn’t mind staying out with her in the car.

Thinking about this the other night, I asked myself: Patrick, if you could go back to that night, right now, and either stay out in the car with Lauren, or be inside and watch the concert — which would you do?

And of course the answer was obvious.

The night it happened, I didn’t mind being in the car with my daughter. But if I could go back now, there’s no question that I would want to be there.

Not only would I stay in the car with her — I would make the most of the experience, realizing that I had a precious chance to see her at that age again. I would try to commit every moment to memory.

And then I realized: some day, years in the future, I might be asking the same question about my life today — this very minute. If you could have this moment back to live over again, what would you do?

The rest of that evening, I pictured myself as having been sent into my body from the future, to relive the moments I was experiencing. And I saw everything differently. I sat on the couch and watched television with my arm around my wife — all the while imagining myself as an old man, transported back in time to relive that moment. And all of a sudden, what otherwise might have seemed like a mundane moment seemed like a privilege. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world, just sitting there with my wife.

I’ve tried the trick all weekend, and it really changes your outlook. Just sitting around with a sleepy child in your arms is great any way you look at it. But if you picture yourself as someone whose child has grown up — if you imagine yourself as an older man, who would give the world to be back in that chair with that child in his arms — it makes you realize how important the moment is. And you appreciate it more.

Like any epiphany, I know that this will pass, to be remembered only from time to time. I hope I remember it often, when routine is wearing on me.

But there are times I actively need to forget it, because this outlook promotes a sort of hedonism. For example, right now, I need to clean the house — but that’s not really what I would choose to do if I were sent here from the future.

Oh, well. I’m going to clean up anyway. I think the guy from the future would understand — sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do. I can hear my future self in my head right now. He says to make a nice cup of coffee and put on some music while I do it, and take some breaks to play with the kids. Enjoy the chores as well as the easy and fun moments, I hear him saying. Some day, you’ll miss even the chores. Some day, you’ll miss almost everything about your life the way it is right now.

61 Responses to “Putting Things in Perspective”

  1. [...] He closes with: Some day, you’ll miss even the chores. Some day, you’ll miss almost everything about your life the way it is right now. [...]

    “Okie” on the Lam » Patterico Puts Things In Perspective (e2cef7)

  2. Savor the moments… and the memories.

    gbear (c22f1c)

  3. What a beautiful story, and perspective. I will take heed.

    RJN (e12f22)

  4. Your insights are existential. Ya hippy.

    I resent that we work so much. After work and the day-to-day chores, there’s not much left to give at the end of the day.

    Psyberian (6f5816)

  5. Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how this outlook fares during the work week.

    I have a feeling my positive attitude is going to take a hit. But you never know.

    Patterico (de0616)

  6. I don’t know Patterico, you’re outlook is probably going to be fine. It’s just important to remember that it’s all about balance. Chores are important to do, even with the little ones around because you are instilling in them responsibility and other good character traits. If you constantly put aside your responsibilities to spend time with the little ones alone, your kids will learn a life of leisure with little responsibility. It is in the balance that you find the right mix. Chores must be done, but you must also spend time to find with the children.

    I don’t know if you had a job before you worked for the LA County DA’s office, but if you did, and it was anything like mine, you quickly would come to appreciate that much more the job that you have. For it allows you that very same balance, to provide, but also to have time for your family. So look on the bright side, you probably have an excellent job you greatly enjoy, and you also get to spend a lot of time with the family for a very reasonable pay. It’s the best of all worlds.

    Joel B. (955208)

  7. That’s a nice story.

    Maybe someday you will look back at the tenor of your blogging posts, what with you calling people douchebags and the like, and realize what a prick your were back then. Maybe you’ll stop being such a prick in the present if you start taking your own advice.

    King Christian X (cab708)

  8. Does KCX know a prick when he see’s one, or does he need to look in the mirror?

    Rovin (317330)

  9. Hey now! Patterico’s no prick. There may be evidence that he’s a jerk, but he’s prickless not a prick.

    Psyberian (6f5816)

  10. I am honestly impressed. Being the father of two daughters (and a son), this struck home.

    I had to link it.

    prairiemain

    prairiemain (6ea671)

  11. Keeping your eye on the prize is all well and good.

    Understanding when to avert your glance is key.

    Ed (2b0094)

  12. another comment thread…

    I first reacted with anger to this act of callous rudeness, but then I realized that I should let it go because I don’t want to live in a world like his, so full of spite that even the sweet is made bitter. Now I just feel regret that anyone has to l….

    Doc Rampage (59ce3a)

  13. I was told during a performance evaluation that I “…placed too much emphasis on your children, putting your job second…” Well, right after that I left that job.
    It had occured to me that I had it right. And now that the boys are all but grown (17,18,25 and 27) and the grandkids are here, Patterico reminds me that I had it right. I was lucky, I wanted to be there the first time.

    paul from fl (967602)

  14. Well said, my friend. I look forward to the day when I too can enjoy spending time with my yet-to-be-born kids.

    Mike Lief (e9d57e)

  15. One In A While It Doesn’t Hurt…

    …to keep what’s important in perspective.

    The Moderate Voice (fa8fba)

  16. Congratulations Patterico! I had the same epiphany in my mid thirties. That’s why I gave up my oft envied job at a terrific company to be a stay-at-home mom. I’ve been asked from time to time if I regret my decision. My answer is always the same — the only thing I regret is not starting my family sooner and having more children. I will never wish I spent less time with my family and more time building my career.

    SheriJo (1eb82a)

  17. It’s a wonderful sentiment, Patterico. My husband and I decided to “simplify” our lives about six months or so ago. That included me quitting my job (which was fun, but not the best use of my time) so I could be here for the kidlets (almost 15, 8, and almost 7) plus take care of my father. At times, the money is tight, but I don’t regret the decision for a moment. And you won’t either.

    sharon (dfeb10)

  18. “Maybe someday you will look back at the tenor of your blogging posts, what with you calling people douchebags and the like, and realize what a prick your were back then. Maybe you’ll stop being such a prick in the present if you start taking your own advice.”

    -King Christian X

    There’s a time and a place, my liege.

    Besides, disagreement makes neither party a prick. While we all drift into prickery once in a while, Patterico (whom I find myself disagreeing with more and more) keeps things polite and on topic. He should be commended for that.

    Finally, I’ll tell you the same thing I tell P every time he starts whining about the LA Times: If you don’t like the product, don’t buy it. If the LA Times sucks, don’t read it. If Patterico’s site sucks, don’t frequent it.

    But either way, don’t whine about it.

    Leviticus (43095b)

  19. One of your best “personal” posts IMO. Funny how you have that leap of perspective/clarity, and it lingers as something you can keep recalling it, like a magic trick. I’ve “done” that. And then, even as it fades, all I really hope for is that I will retain some consciousness of the ordinary moments with my kids and family. Like, to retain 2% of it all would get me through whatever the future holds. But to even get there hinges on having life in perspective now.

    And the choice of staying in the car with your daughter or going into the much-anticipated, culturally elevating concert is really a great way to make the point. A somewhat inverse (?) situation is: I want to see my (also 6 y.o.) daughter “thrive” with ballet/skating/music/gymnastics/music lessons, but when I realize what time really is, and separate what’s real from my mental projections of what how things “ought” to be, there we end up, on the couch, cutting colored paper into “confetti”, making pancakes in every shape and size, blowing (snot) bubbles, etc. And it’s the same realization: this is that place and that time where I belong – what a thing! If I remember that such a phenomenon lasts only as long as it lasts, that is a good guiding principle for everything I do.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  20. I’m wondering though, do you ever hear the complaint, “Dad, why are you always on the computer!”

    biwah (2dcf66)

  21. After I read this last night I stopped surfing the internet and I went upstairs to read a book with my five-year old. We ended up singing

    One, two, buckle my shoe
    Three, four, shut the door
    Five, six, pick up sticks
    Seven, eight, lay them straight,
    Nine, ten, a big fat hen.

    But I kept changing the last line to “a big fat horse” or “cow” or “pig.” Which she thought was hilarious. We both came up with more outrageous and ridiculous examples (big fat grandma, teacher, etc), and it all ended up with us both bursting out in hysterical laughter.

    None of that would have happened if I hadn’t read this post.

    aunursa (1b5bad)

  22. Well, to be honest under the scenario of going back in time: I would jam the controls backward – go to about 1890 or there about, and murder William Mulholland. Sure, maybe it wouldn’t halt the rise of modern Los Angeles, but it would extend the life of old Los Angeles – my familial home. Ah, if only time travel were possible.

    Californio (6e7055)

  23. P-

    Good for you to realize this now.

    I still have pictures in my office of my kids from 4 & 5 years ago that remind me every day how quickly time passes. I know I will never feel guilty about spending time with them, instead of doing something “more important”.

    TakeFive (8f1d11)

  24. Heh heh, this is on Michelle Malkin’s site now.

    AndrewGurn (c37ea2)

  25. What a great reminder. I always think of this when asked to do a favor for someone – how lucky I am to have two legs, two hands, a strong back, and a fair-to-middling mind. :-) I know I am priviliged to be able to reach, fetch, and carry. I know one day that will all change. And you are right — I’ll never regret a minute I spent holding my daughter — missing concerts, movies, and parties. And although I raised my daughter all alone after being abandoned by her father at the age of 23, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it and I’m sad for those who have never known my joy.

    Laurie (066ae5)

  26. “Today is tomrrow’s good old days.” Don’t know who to give credit for that quote. I heard it years ago, and remember it often.

    Greg (7845af)

  27. A friend told me that sometimes a whole book is written to make it possible for one sentence to be put on paper. As it happens, I just finished “A Spot of Bother” by Mark Haddon, which, on pp 330-332, has the father of the bride toasting the couple in these words.

    “I would like to propose a toast. To my wonderful daughter, Katie. And to her fine husband, Ray.”

    He went to sit down again, then paused. It struck him that he was making a kind of farewell performance, that he would never again have sixty or seventy people hanging on his every word. And not to seize this opportunity seemed an admission of defeat. He straightened up again.

    “We spend most of our time on the planet thinking we are going to live forever …”

    “As some of you know, I have not been well recently …”

    “We all look forward to retiring. Doing the garden properly. Reading those birthday and Christmas books we never got round to reading.”

    “Shortly after I retired, I discovered a small tumor on my hip.”

    “I realized that I was going to die.”

    “Me. Jean. Alan. Barbara. Katie. Ray. We’re all going to die.”

    “But we don’t want to admit it.”

    “We don’t realize how important it is. This … this place. Trees. People. Cakes. Then it’s taken away. And we realize our mistake. But it’s too late.”

    “My lovely daughter. My lovely, lovely daughter.”

    “You and Ray and Jacob. Never. Never take one another for granted.”

    You have to read the previous 329 pages for the author to bring you to the point where this is simultaneously hilariously funny and poignant, not at all trite or sentimental BS.

    Ken

    Ken Lyon (31357d)

  28. That was expressed very well.

    pigilito (0be124)

  29. Well said Patterico. Thanks.

    compos mentis (fee24b)

  30. Patterico,
    I wanted to tell you to keep a sharp eye for those moments when they get older.
    Having all boys, you can imagine the time I’ve spent on Soccer fields, Baseball diamonds etc.
    But the most magic time came from each one of my boys over the past 15 years.
    A cool florida night (a rarity right there) Campfire in Boy Scout camp. My 15-16 year-old, too-cool-for-words walks up to me and hugs me. We both stood there quietly, not wanting the magic to stop.
    Finally, the fire pops loudly or someone walks by. I tousle their hair and they go back to the tumult of teenagerhood.
    That happened with each and every one of my sons.
    talk about lucky.

    paul from fl (001f65)

  31. Fantastic, fantastic post. I’m a stay-at-home Dad and this really hits home with me, having a 5 and a 2 year old running around. Great advice.

    Tom Blogical (231df0)

  32. And this is why I write in a spiral notebook, three pages every day. I learned that from reading a sometimes updated journal written back in the 70s. When I write now, I try to mention details like what things cost or even sometimes current events. But mostly, I try to write what that morning is like.
    There is a poem by Mary Jean Iron that goes:

    “Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth or bury my face in the pillow or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky, and want, more than all the world, your return.”

    Teri Pittman (57ddc5)

  33. One of the most profound statements I’d ever heard: “Appreciate the little things, because someday they may be the big things.” Patterico, you just expressed that.

    blubonnet (8d9f79)

  34. Our political opinions are far apart; but I leave this note to acknowledge an excellent post.

    Calder (2dcc53)

  35. A.J.: Focus on the good times.

    Tony: Don’t be sarcastic.

    A.J.: Isn’t that what you said one time? Try to remember the times that were good?

    Tony: I did?

    A.J.: Yeah.

    Tony: Well, it’s true, I guess.

    SchnauzerLogic (319ee8)

  36. I often do this and it scares the hell out of me. I hate it and wish I could stop but I find myself doing it almost every living second and it makes me think of the future and how I will miss my friends and it makes it hard to enjoy the actual time I am spending with them to the point where I don’t always enjoy it.

    Rick (8779df)

  37. Yes, this post made an impression on me at the time that unfortunately I forgot about it.

    I’m glad I was reminded about it again. It is good.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  38. Calder,

    Thank you.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  39. Patterico’s Pontifications » Putting Things in Perspective…

    I’ve discovered a way to bring a new perspective to your life.

    To explain it, I have to tell a little story.

    Driving home Friday night, I was remembering a time years ago, when my daughter Lauren (now six years old) was in her first year. An old fr…

    zymee.com (f0f1d8)

  40. Rick, it’s a real fear and I understand. I look at my girlfriend’s picture to my left, don’t know if I’ll ever see her again (she’s in Australia now), and it scares the hell out of me.

    I don’t have any solution for that at all. I won’t pretend otherwise except love your loved ones when you can as much as you can and avoid stupid fights like the one we got in this morning that was probably my fault.

    When you’re there, be with them and forget the cares of the world.

    Forgive this stupid plug to follow, but I read a book about time management and managing work flow. It doesn’t do a thing to alleviate big fears, but it helped me no end in not worrying about work when I’m enjoying private time.

    If you ever get overwhelmed with all the things you have to do, consider giving “Getting Things Done” a read.

    It won’t change the mortality of us all, but it will help you not worry about the office or picking up the milk when you’re enjoying time with your friends. You’ll get more done with less stress and maybe you can squeeze in a few extra private moments a month.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  41. Metagg is tracking this post…

    Find out what Social News Sites are discussing this post over at metagg.com…

    Metagg (251d0a)

  42. For example, right now, I need to clean the house — but that’s not really what I would choose to do if I were sent here from the future.

    If, 10 years from now, it really doesn’t matter – can you really say you “need” to, or just that you’re in the habit?

    Some people use the “if I were going to die tomorrow” method of prioritizing, but that’s dumb because some very good things take many years to do right (like building Rome). BUT (and it’s a very important BUT) a lot of things we do every day have no pay off whatever, or a very small one. Those can usually be jettisoned.

    A good example is ironing clothes / drying-cleaning. Because those activities are either time consuming or expensive, I stopped. I haven’t ironed a shirt or taken something to the dry cleaner in several years (as a lawyer!). No one has noticed. Wrinkle-free clothes are that good; but avoiding situations where it matters is better.

    If a chore can’t be jettisoned entirely (like taking out the garbage) they can usually be reduced in overhead significantly with some hired help (maids!) or smart thinking (trash chute!), opening up time or more important stuff (story time; entrepreneurship; etc.)

    Brock (c4693e)

  43. I’m with you on the ironing, dude. But I’ll never get over my habit of polishing my black leather shoes with Kiwi polish.

    It brings back memories of being confined to barracks. Oh those were the days.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  44. You might like to read Stumbling On Happiness by Dan Gilbert. On second thoughts don’t… it’ll spoil eveything :)

    surfer (8dd02a)

  45. Some day, you’ll miss almost everything about your life the way it is right now….

    I’ve discovered a way to bring a new perspective to your life.

    To explain it, I have to tell a little story.

    Driving home Friday night, I was remembering a time years ago, when my daughter Lauren (now six years old) was in her first year. An old fr…

    pligg.com (e0f191)

  46. That article resonates distinctly. My daughter is almost 4 and I’ve had similar thoughts once or twice, so yeah, this hits home alright. Well said.

    Colin (5d15f6)

  47. My buddy sent me this story. I understand the philosophy clearly, however, I think the author is full of s–t. Your warm and fuzzy thoughts will last, I predict, about as long as it takes you to drink that coffee. Pussy.

    Chris (630d58)

  48. Chris, you are an asshole. However, I didn’t have to write that. That was redundant.

    Your own words say it better than I ever could.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  49. There’s nothing tougher than a guy callin’ another guy a pussy on the Internet.

    I love it.

    Patterico (2a65a5)

  50. Well, Patterico, I think warm and fuzzy will change depending on the circumstances, but I predict those positive feelings and stronger will last for over half a century and that only during this lifetime.

    I also predict that you will enter these positive and enjoyable states far more often than Chris.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  51. Blimey,

    Awesome post.

    I’m going home to spent time with my kid. If they fire me, they can go and f***ing swivel!

    Ramz (8f8fe0)

  52. I pretty much masturbate all the time. Should I look at this from the future-me perspective?

    Bob (4033c7)

  53. [...] Patterico | Continue reading [...]

    the new shelton wet/dry (668274)

  54. [...] a new dad, this one got me pretty good. All the more reason not to let life’s trivialities get the best of [...]

    Friday File - 10 August, 2007 (d4a779)

  55. With regard to your message about what life is all about, I find it truly fascinating that you came to this epiphany! I mean, I know you that you have the best intentions for writing your article but as a mother who is a professional musician, I would much rather be doing pursing my craft and I know Glen personally. Nice guy but I am not a big fan yet if it was Patty Griffin or Vince Gill believe me, I would have hired a BABYSITTER!!!!! I understand why you stayed in the car, I would have too!

    I am sure you are a great father and provider but understand taking on the MOTHER ROLE is so much harder than you could ever conceive! A father has his duties but could never fully comprehend the complexity or gravity of how much your life changes.. PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, SPIRITUALLY..’s a matter of the human condition and until a MAN could have a baby the mentality will never change..

    Thanks

    kat (2b366f)

  56. [...] not spoiled Jump to Comments A little while back, I read a blog post about appreciating the moment.  The key line was: “Some day, you’ll miss almost [...]

    Dinner not spoiled « Lillian Liu van Gelder (41a182)

  57. I liked patricks story/experience it reminds me of a similar experience I had with my 4 year old daughter we went to see a movie and i only get her on visits so that makes my time with her even more precious. so we were in the theatre and she didnt like the move so she started being noisey and playing up and running up and down the aisles sqealing with delight a si tried to catch her. so i took her into the foyer and spent the next hour chasing her around she loved it and so did i theres nothing like the squeals of happyness of a child as they play. I will never forget those precious moments I had a very difficult divorce and after spendinga fortune on legal fee’s i won 50% custody of my daughter I never saw her again… due to a legal system that does not support fathers rights at all and a mother who was hell bent on alienating me… so treasure those special moments you just dont know…

    ian (29bb1e)

  58. I would like to see more reminders like this and comments from people it reminds us how precious our life force is and to make every moment count by doing something special I too have been alienated from my child the mother has successfully alienated both her children from thier fathers. I had one visitation with my son and after a leagl nightmare at the hands of unethical lawyers I know I will never see him again. many people have said to me how can this happen its impossible surely… Until it happened to me I would have said the same… So to special memoreis cherish them

    bryn (29bb1e)

  59. … Here here so true… Many of us need to remember to make each moment count and count each moment.

    SC (29bb1e)

  60. [...] “Some day, you’ll miss almost everything about your life the way it is right now.” [...]

    Best thing I’ve ever read about thankfulness for small things | Les Jones (401fcb)


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