Let me tell you about my week.

Sunday was filled with joy, as my family watched my youngest son graduate from the University of Portland. The joy wasn’t about the accomplishment…my pride was about that, but not my joy. My joy was about watching my baby be a confident man, fully present in his moment. He was proud of himself. He was happy. He embraced the attention, which is usually uncomfortable for him. He hugged and took pictures with a professor. He joked with his brothers. He wore a huge smile all day. He even made a bit of a speech honoring his dad and giving him a special gift.

The joy was also about being together with the four men who mean the most to me in this world…my husband and three amazing offspring, who I can no longer refer to as my children, since they are all fully formed adults. The joy in witnessing the culmination of their shared journey to adulthood. The joy of the older two going out of their way to show up for their brother because they matter that much to each other. So much joy in that. And of course joy in simply being in their presence, being surrounded by all the love we have for each other. (And my dad, was there too—the first man in my life!)

And then Monday morning, back at work. And not just work, but a long, hard day of work. Monday night I said to my husband that I wished I had taken the day off, just so I could have relished the moment a little longer, soaked it in, called people to share how wonderful it all was and relive it a few times in the telling. I’d like to say ‘live and learn,’ but I seem to continually not learn this lesson of slowing down and giving myself time to savor things before moving on to the next thing. Maybe I’ll learn this time. We’ll see.

Then Tuesday. One son tested positive for COVID. My dad and his wife (who were both there) tested positive for COVID. On Wednesday, my oldest tested positive. So four out of the seven of us taken down by this lingering pain-in-the-ass pandemic. And me spending the past three days wondering when my test will come back positive. Rescheduling my week to be virtual. Hypervigilant to my body…am I sick? Is my throat sore? Does my head hurt? Is that a fever or a hot flash? Is my dad okay? Are my kids who aren’t kids okay?

Let’s just say the joy was sucked out pretty quick.

And then today I did a meditation called “Our Call to Presence” (Sarah Blondin on the Insight Timer app—check it out!) and I am revived. I am called back to myself. My happiness resides in me being right here and now. That joy is still here. It is still alive because it is in me. And it is also gone. It is impermanent, just like everything else. Just like the worry and the frustration and the sickness. It is gone and it isn’t gone. The moment is over, and I wish it wasn’t, but I also wouldn’t wish anything to be different. It was amazing. The thirty-six hours or so leading up to and including the graduation is an experience I will hold in my heart forever.

As I write this, I am reminded of scene from a recent movie I saw, Everything Everywhere All at Once. (spoiler alert—you may want to skip the rest of this paragraph) The protagonist mother in the film experiences a multiverse filled with versions of her life, lives she would have led if she had made different choices; tempting, shiny, new lives. Yet in the end, she chooses to be present where she started, with her daughter, who asks why she would choose this messy, boring, imperfect version, where all they get is a few specks of time where anything makes any sense. The mother answers that she will cherish their few specks of time.

I choose to cherish these few specks of time, these moments of joy when they arrive, landing on me like a butterfly then fluttering away. Like the cherry blossoms that were raining down on us as we took photos on the UP campus. Knowing they won’t last, yet also knowing that their brevity makes them no less meaningful or beautiful or joyful, and perhaps even more so.