I am sitting next to her in the front seat of our metallic blue Chevy Monte Carlo, my bare feet dangling above the floorboards, the backs of my skinny legs sticking to the vinyl seat. My mother is at the wheel, also barefoot, her toes eternally painted bright pink, navigating the winding back roads to my grandparents’ farm, her long, bare legs working the mysterious pedals that somehow get us to Grandma’s house. The windows are rolled down and the smell of fresh manure wafts through the car, making me pinch my nose between my fingers as my mother smiles and says the same thing she will repeat hundreds of times throughout my childhood,”That’s fresh, country air.” I distinctly remember the non whipping of my white blond hair. Dubbed a tomboy at birth, I will sport a shagged pixie, cut by my mother, until puberty hits a few years from now. In an hour, I will be plucking freshly killed chickens at my grandmother’s kitchen table, but for now we are cruising past blurred rows of corn in companionable silence.

The memory is so clear, so intact, and what stands out about it is not how easily I recall it, but what is missing from it.

I wasn’t thinking about the future.

car ride age

I was in the car with my beautiful, young, barefoot-car-driving mother, admiring the way her golden legs glowed from the lotion she put on them, comparing them to my own shorter legs as I slowly lifted one, then the other, unpeeling them from the hot seat, experimenting with holding my nose, realizing if I plugged only one nostril, the manure still filled all of my tiny smelling self.

My mom circa 1970’s. I want that outfit

Flash forward to now.

I’m worried about finishing a video project at work, about my son dealing with mean kids at school, about the car we need to buy but I don’t want a car payment, about my parents getting older, about predators who might hurt my children, about how my daughter will fare at sleep away camp because of  her fear of water, about bad drivers on the highway, about my husband whose lingering head cold whisks me to the future where his senior citizen body won’t rebound at all, about if my friend’s daughter/husband/father will survive that cancer/stroke/illness.

‘Little me’ didn’t worry about the future. I guess that was what parents were for. I was wherever I was, good and bad. That time I found out that boy in Miss Kuenzler’s first grade class liked me, too. That time the kids made fun of me for the surgery that made me miss school for months.

My children are much the same way. “I’m bored. I’m miserable. This is cool!” They’re in the moment and I’m in the room with them, thinking ahead — to homework, to dinner, to baths, to the end of our lives. See how quickly it devolves?

I don’t know when it happened. High school? I don’t remember worrying, even about college. I knew I would go. After college? Maybe that was the beginning. I began to worry about making it in the competitive business of broadcast journalism. I think the living forward boulder dropped on me when I became a mother and suddenly I was the mouse dropped into a maze, my babies on my back, and it was all up to me to get them to the other side (adulthood), which meant anticipating any and all road blocks/sneak attacks/detours.

I know I’m lucky, dear God in Heaven, I know. And just as soon as I finish feeling grateful, I switch back to future mode, fretting over my chess pieces on the board of life, trying to dodge the pitfalls that remain unseen until you’re hurtling head first into them.

I live by ‘When.’

When the kids are older, when we pay that off, when I get that job, when I finish that project, when the week is over,  when we’re not so busy, when school starts again, when summer is over, when it’s Christmas break, when we have more time…

Funny how when when shows up, I’m already past it, onto the next when.

I’m chasing a future no human being has ever caught.

Maybe I think my constant mental motion will help me outrun the random things that befall others.

I’m trying to figure out (and I’ve thought about this a lot which is why I’m finally resorting to writing about it), is it possible to contend with the emotional complications and weighty responsibilities of adulthood/parenthood and to not be looking and living ahead?

In the spirit of transparency, I love to have fun. It’s everyday life I’m talking about

In polite conversation with people who love me, it manifests in conversations, like when one of my best friends and I wondered, “Will we regret we didn’t enjoy this time in our lives more?”

What to do? Meditate, read ‘The Power of Now,’ work on being present. Tried it, read it, failed at it.

The sexist me believes men are better at this than women. My husband can eat a sandwich, and while he’s eating that sandwich, guess what? He’s eating a sandwich. He’s not remembering that he forgot to empty the book bags or move yesterday’s laundry to the dryer, or that we still don’t have a sitter for that Saturday workday.

I have older friends who tell me to enjoy life because ‘before I know it, this will all be behind me.’ To me, that’s like saying humans walk upright. No offense, but I know that.  Invariably, when we keep talking, I discover that these friends were like me at my age, frantic and split in two, juggling and careening, trying to keep up, and it’s only in life’s rearview mirror mode that they see the mistake in not being in the moment. Their own regret is then delivered to me as an edict of Don’t do what I did. 

Is ‘being in the moment’ a crock? Are people who live in the moment better at their faith than me? Have they learned some Jedi mind trick that eludes me? How can you be a mother and not worry all the time?

I’m told most often to ‘give it over to God.’ Arrogantly, I’m certain God needs help steering my bus full of crap. I know.

I have moments. I will be struck by the beauty of my daughter’s face when she is deep in concentration, coloring the 15th doggie she has drawn this week. My growing son will roar with laughter, understanding the adult, sarcastic remark I make to my husband. I’ll put my head on my husband’s chest and his arms will encircle me like a warm cocoon.

A friend told me my children would be my greatest teachers. I’ve come to believe that me as a child has much to teach me as an adult. It begins by going back to a ride in the country with my young mama on a summer day. It’s a truth filled with sticky legs, short hair and and an innocent, full heart that already knew, but would grow to forget, all of life is in this moment.




Posted in Off the Air
17 comments on “When…
  1. Lila Munchak Cooperider says:

    “When” is absolutely beautiful! Thank you! Just what I needed since I woke up FRANTIC at 5 AM to begin the mad race to get everyone out of the house on time (including me) so we can begin the week. I am exhausted from worrying about “what’s next” and I am guilty of living my life saying, “Once I get through this (insert anything!) deadline, THEN I can relax”. It never happens. So, today’s piece, “When” has hit home with me. I think we all need to take a breathe, take a step back, and savor the moment….NOW. Thank you, Jaye Watson! You are wonderful! Keep ‘me coming. I look forward to the next one!

  2. Helen Casey-Smith Glover says:

    Extremely appropriate for those of us with kids ….
    You’re lucky to still be able to work your field ..
    After 20 years in news broadcasting I chose to stay home with my son. I was 40.
    Regrets? Yes. Problems with living in the moment ?
    And about to become an empty Nester with chapter 3 staring me down

  3. bubbles says:

    “when” doesnt matter as long as you fill it with THE BIG LOVE you’ve got❗️

    thanx for my childhood memories on your page..


  4. Mike Skalski says:

    Awesome perspective. Thank you for bringing this into perfect view. It’s something I always struggle with… staying in the moment. I can do a pretty good job of it, but over time, I end up feeling irresponsible because I’m not thinking of the future. What I’ve come to, unfortunately, is I need to maintain a balance in my day to day “adulting”!

  5. Nurse Nancy says:

    I feel your worry but as you said it will all work out. With or without your help God has a plan and he will help you do what’s best. I raised 6 alone and always worried I was not capable of being Mom and Dad but you do your best and God will do the rest My children are living proof of that. I love you and your family. Hugs and kisses to all.

  6. Georgann Billetdeaux says:

    Don’t wear the day out before it’s begun!

  7. Charlie says:

    Wow. Just wow. The story is fantastic. The writing is amazing. When’s the book out? Because I’ll be first in line at Barnes and noble!!!

    • Hi Jaye,
      ‘When’ is amazing. I don’t think there is anyone breathing who cannot relate to this gem of reality. Love your way with words and your message, which is always spot on.
      Thanks for giving us reason to think about how much time we spend with thoughts of tomorrow when today is our present joy.
      If Charlie is the first person in line for any future book you write I will definitely be the second. 🙂 Always look forward to seeing your post in my inbox. Have a great day!!!

  8. Sarah Smith says:

    Beautiful as always. And I’m right there with you – on all of it.

  9. James Parker says:

    Wow…very well written and said Jaye !!! And…I can tell where you got your beauty !! Your mom was a doll !!

  10. Coleen Southern says:

    Another excellent piece of writing Jaye. Thanks again for sharing.

  11. Greg Harper says:

    Jaye: It takes a lot of guts to share with the world the things you wrote. I know everyone has some type of struggles or issues. We all can worry or be anxious about (fill in the blank) anything. I am 57, and just in the last few years learned to do my very best to focus on today, and be thankful- even though I have suffered great loss. Messy divorce many years ago, downsized several times (3 times since late 2008) loss of small 401K, loss of everything in the bank, lots of credit card debt and loans now just to pay the bills. I could go on and on- oh yeah, and 2 surgeries in 2007, 2008- in some type of leg/ankle cast for 1 year. Loss of a few close friends to cancer, my Dad died in my arms in 2011. I learned if I focus on those things, and worry about how I will survive, it puts me in a dark, ugly place. Only I can choose joy and choose to be happy- today. Today I said I am thankful for what I do have. I learned we can lose anything and everything in 1 day. I encourge you to be thankful and worry less. Enjoy your beautiful family, your husband, your friends. You are so wise, smart, pretty, and you have good health. You live in the USA. Focus on the good in your life. Only you can do this- no one will do it for you. Focusing on today has changed my life, and given me peace- even during a too-long struggle with so many trials. You can do this- it takes time, but it is worth it. I am living proof. Keep up the great work- and enjoy this day!!

  12. I thoroughly loved your piece today.

    At 65, I remember all too well the various stages of Life you’ve described and a few more you haven’t experienced yet. It is a pendulum. You start out totally “in the moment” because everything around you is new and exciting. When you get my age, you find yourself back “in the moment” because you don’t want to miss anything exciting in the now!

    In between the two,you learn to live the past, present and future of those you love around you. You get to expand your world to include theirs. It’s wonderful and terrifying at the same time.

    Every once in awhile stop. Take a deep breath and experience the love of God, family and friends.

    Be thankful and “normal” for a few minutes.

    God bless you and don’t change a thing! 🙂

  13. carol muse says:

    Heart-wrenchingly beautiful.. but then all of your writing is.
    I was never able to live in the moment until I was forced to. It’s the hardest thing in the world, but it turns out that it brings great peace.
    Thank you not only for writing this, but also for reminding me of Christiane Northrup, who gives me great comfort as well. ~cm

  14. ROCKY SCOTT says:

    Love this Jaye, It so reminds me of my childhood, riding with my best friend to his grandmothers house. Every time I was invited, when we arrived and entered the back door of the shotgun house that the breeze always blew straight through,carrying the terrific aromas of her cooking steaming from the pots that where on every burner. That wonderful home cooked smell. Thank you again Jaye for a wonderful story!

  15. Sue says:

    Jaye, pretty much everything I’ve read of yours has instantly (we’re talking less than a full paragraph in at times) triggered that exhilarating yet also deeply peaceful and comforting visceral response of “Yes! I am not alone, someone GETS me. This is exactly how I feel about it. This perfectly expresses my feelings, my thoughts, my reactions, even the ones I’ve never consciously articulated myself. It’s like she has been inside my head and written precisely, perfectly, what I think and feel about this.” First I read and reread and often re-reread the piece, both start to finish and the particular passages that really resonate. Then I feel an urgent need to respond and tell you how much I love your writing style and outlook and the scary kinship between our brains. Finally I (nearly always) squash that urge so as not to alarm you that you’ve got an excessively enthusiastic (read: crazed fangirl Internet stalker) person reading your posts. But every now and then you pull stuff out of my head and articulate it so (eerily) perfectly that I simply have to respond. And thank you once again. And be enormously grateful that our cyber paths have crossed and given me this rich, blessed feeling of…affirmation? Confirmation? Kinship? The immense relief that I am not the only one feeling/obsessing about/touched by/hurting/rejoicing over _______ ?

    Yes. That.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Sue, that may be the nicest thing anyone has ever said/written to me. Thank you. Your words come at an interesting time. I haven’t written a blog in a while — one of the reasons is that we had a very sick child this summer (and I JUST wrote a rough draft explaining that yesterday), but more than that I’ve talked myself into not writing — because it’s hard and scary and who-the-hell-do-i-think-i-am and people don’t care what i think.For most of the years I’ve been alive, there’s been a ratatat tapping at the back of my head each day of my life,like bad S.O.S., and the message is ‘Why aren’t you writing? It’s what you’re supposed to do? Good God woman, you’re a loser for not writing! Jesus Christ, would you get your ass in the chair and write?’ Then sometimes the voice changes tactics, telling me I’m a joke and fraud and that I should leave the writing to the real writers. Nasty place, the inside of one’s head.

      So between parental angst (new territory and material, sadly) and my mental soundtrack, I have pulled back. I just told my husband yesterday that I was unhappy not writing (I am working on my 2nd book, but that’s in fits and starts and it’s also where I make up people who aren’t me so that doesn’t count in a weird way).

      Thank you again. Truly,your lovely note is an answered flare shot up from my life raft. Thank you for reading my stuff. I hope to start putting out essays more often. Man, that’s the scariest thing I’ve typed all summer. Now I’m accountable. Shit.

      I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. I think we’re all struggling/half crazed/terrified. We all want more peace/laughter/time. I’m glad to know you see yourself in my words. That’s reassuring to me as I half ass my way through this miraculous life I’ve been given.


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