One of the best things that improv teaches us is to be present. To live in the moment. That’s become a buzz phrase lately for every self-help guru and social media influencer. “Just live in the moment.” Yeah, okay. The difference with improv is that it allows for practice. It’s not just a cute meme spewing platitudes. You actually practice the benefits of being in the moment. We often say in improv that nothing exists but the present. That is to say, you can only create in the now. You cannot create in the past or in the future. There is only the present moment, slowly evolving into the next present moment and the next and the next. The gift of this practice is that even when you fail when you are unable to be present, you’ve built the skills to recognize that and to adjust. You have a toolbox, not just a tweet.
This picture is the summation of my life right now. A gliding bassinet to my left, a used burp cloth, a baby monitor, and a cup of coffee. The only thing missing is the clock on the wall showing 4 am. It’s been a week since we brought our newborn home from the hospital and I find myself (much like I did with our oldest) smack in the middle of a dichotomy.
I’ve grown to adore the early morning hours. It has become a precious time. The world is asleep. There is a quiet peace that reverberates through the air and off the walls of our living room. It’s just me and my newborn daughter, together with my thoughts and her innocence. It’s a special time that will always be ours and no one else’s. And while she will not remember these moments or the vulnerable things I whisper to her on these mornings, nonetheless they will always connect us. In a way, we have found each other in the dim, amber glow of our mornings.
I felt the same way with my oldest when she was born. Being our first, those mornings were more often filled with tears; both glorious tears of emotion and cathartic tears of being overwhelmed. I would find myself suddenly weeping as I danced with her to Broadway ballads and dreamt of all the things I wanted to teach her. The majesty of morning allows that and it’s something for which I’ve become increasingly grateful. Those moments do not exist in mid-afternoon or evening. They are reserved for the unfiltered sacredness of the moments before dawn.
But man am I tired! As a teacher, I will return to the classroom this week. My wife has an amazingly generous maternity leave but she’s going to have two kids on her own. Because of the pandemic, we’ve been able to do so much parenting together and now I need to prepare to leave her. In anticipation, I’m doing everything I can now to make the transition easier. That includes sacrificing sleep. When I get up for my poetic early mornings, everything comes with me: the baby, the monitor for the toddler, the chihuahua, everything. This allows her to get somewhere between 2 and 5 hours of real sleep. The kind of sleep where you aren’t listening for weird sounds (we call them dinosaur noises) or checking every twenty minutes for breathing. The kind of sleep where your body finally relaxes because you know your partner is “on.” This is a difference-maker for my wife and it’s one of the few things I can do to help out. And man am I tired!
And so here I am, living within this beautiful dichotomy. Floating somewhere between enlightenment and deprivation, between holiness and delirium, between (literally and figuratively) night and day. And the thing is, in a few months I’ll return to an old routine or, at the very least, a new version of the old routine. I’ll forget about these early morning moments of consolation. I’ll live up to a parenting cliche and blog about the rare morning to sleep in. Such is life. The point isn’t to hold onto things forever, the point is to live in them in such a way that we are shaped forever. The moments pass. The minute we try to seize them they’ve gone—like fireflies in the summer night—escaping our grasps by millimeters. So we do our best to just be, trusting that these special moments will return in ways we cannot fathom. One day, perhaps while watching my girls in the school musical or perhaps after their first broken heart, these early morning moments will come back and remind me that in that amber glow of dawn, my daughters and I first found each other and none of us were ever the same again.
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