I had been wondering why. Why my heart feels heavy sometimes. Why I act the way I do other times. Why we hurt one other in such infuriating ways all the time. Why things aren’t just the way they should be.
As a kid I loved a book called “The Way Things Work.” It was all about random doodads in the world. The intricate technology behind gears and how they seamlessly connect to one another. The artistry it takes to get a whole boat inside a tiny glass bottle. The way a fountain is able to make water do acrobatic things. I adored this book and took it with me everywhere.
One day, after a business trip, my dad came home with a huge box under his arm. We aren’t the type of family that buys gifts for one another “just because,” no, we’re the type of family that needs a real substantial reason to do such an audacious thing. And if we have found a reason for said audaciousness, it’s quite likely the reason has a bit of our own selfish fulfillment baked in there somewhere as well. We like to tell people that we show our love in less obvious ways of course.
So, back to Pops. Here he is with this massive box and a big goofy smile on his face. “Open it!” he screams. So I do.
Inside I find the most beautiful, colorful, confusing array of objects in tiny plastic bags with no clear purpose whatsoever. I was probably six.
I looked at my dad and back at the set and back at my dad and back at the set.
We spent the next week organizing, categorizing, and getting everything in its appropriate compartment.
And then we started building. We built and built and built. Together we built the most incredible masterpieces. People would come over and Pops would show off the latest gadget that “Bubs built,” even though I secretly knew he did most of the heavy lifting.
The most rewarding part of this whole ordeal wasn’t the applause at the end, it wasn’t the organizing of pieces at the start, it wasn’t even the time spent with my pops, as one more sentimental being may have guessed. It was the act of completion.
It was the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment that came with a goal achieved.
I believe deeply in the theory that once we fulfill a life goal, we no longer strive to do better in that area. We feel we have achieved the highest level of effort in that area.
At the same time, I believe there was real value in the small wins of our little lego factory. The underlining theme being that we were allowed to gloat, to high five, to stare in amazement at something we made, just for a little while, before we took it apart again and started all over.
I rarely let myself gloat over small wins anymore. I feel the weight of the life goals that persist at arm’s length, affecting my actions towards myself and the way I treat the people I love. I continue to expect the world to open her heart everyday and let me in, even on days when I haven’t reciprocated.
And when she doesn’t, when she simply cannot, it hurts me. And I forget to gloat about my little wins. And I realize, in a moment, that she forgets to applaud too.