Don’t Know What You Got

I leaned over to help my old comrade, unaware the sniper crept closer. My elderly Mastiff’s feet were sliding out from under him on the wood floor, so I bent over to steady his back end. The sniper–a 7-month old Bulldog female–spied the open target of my face.

Forty pounds of front-loaded springing muscle, genetically-engineered solid forehead (or was it forward-thrust jaw and snaggle tooth?) and all the puppy energy of every being in her body smacked my front tooth. And chipped it.

The old adage is so cliche it’s a 70’s song: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” I’ve always had great, no-braces, dentist-complimented teeth. Now I was ready for Halloween as a backwoods redneck. Or a hockey player.

Funny, eh? We don’t even realize how much we treasure things until we are whining and crying over losing them. I dread exercise until my back seizes and I wish I could just walk. I long for 10 minutes minus pawing kids, until they suddenly outgrow Mom-hugs. I think nothing of sleeping in my bed until I go camping. The list goes on…

Is it even possible to be aware of all the blessings of the moment?

Last year, we went to a favorite restaurant to celebrate our twin boys’ 18th birthday. Asking for a table for 5 stung my throat a moment. My husband was about to deploy, the boys about to graduate and leave for a summer job and then college. We wouldn’t be a table of 5 for awhile, and even then, it would be different.

I’m sure the meal was good, though maybe salty from swallowed tears. The conversation skirted the storm on the horizon. I remember laughter. I remember gratitude. I remember being aware; stepping out of self as if in an outer-body experience and most of all…just not wanting it to end. I wanted to never push away from that table.

Annie Dillard writes of the self-awareness she learned to recognize as a child: “How much noticing could I permit myself without driving myself round the bend? Too much noticing and I was too self-conscious to live; I trapped and paralyzed myself, and dragged my friends down with me, so we couldn’t meet each other’s eyes, my own loud awareness damning us both. Too little noticing, though–I would risk much to avoid this–and I would miss the whole show. I would wake on my deathbed and say, What was that?”

I suppose we’re not made to live in that consciousness. Like not having multi-faceted eyes, we can’t possibly realize all the miracles we can be grateful for just to breathe this breath right now. Most of us would probably be incapacitated by seeing Elisha’s angel army.

But some moments seize you, pull you into God’s-eye view. You hold your breath, afraid the scene will pop like a bubble. Time doesn’t stop but it doesn’t matter because for that glimpse you are outside of time. You enter a holy place.

I pray for more of those moments.

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